PhD student Nerissa Aksamit has spent this summer at the Goethe-Institut in Hamburg studying the German language. This experience was funded through a scholarship from Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). Nerissa was granted a DAAD scholarship last summer as well, but had to turn it down to participate in the Global Humanitarian Research Academy at the University of Exeter and International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.
This year, however, the scholarship has allowed her to improve her skills with the German language and with German culture. She began her summer taking the A1 level course, and is taking the A2 in later half of her summer at the Goeth-Institut.
“The daily courses begin at 8:30 am and end at 1:00 pm, with a focus on learning to read, write, speak and listen - similar to a language course one might take at an American university. The courses, however, are very intensive and fast paced,” she said.
Even though Nerissa came to the Insitut with some prior training in German, including classes at the University of Wyoming and West Virginia University, the courses have been challenging.
“However, now I am feeling more confident about language than ever! I think this has to do in part with the intensity of the course, but also living in Hamburg and speaking on a daily basis - shopping at the supermarket, exploring the city and public transport, or even something simple as ordering a coffee (Ich hätte gern einen Milchkaffee.) - has been the most beneficial to learning German,” she said.
One of her favorite aspects of the Institut is the free cultural programs offered. She has visited the Internationales Maritime Museum, St. Michaelis-Kirche, and the Deutsches Zollmuseum with her cohorts.
“Hamburg has such a rich history, so having the opportunity to explore the museums here has been amazing! I am definitely excited to incorporate some of the interesting aspects of Hamburg, and even German, history into my Western Civilization I and II courses back at WVU!”
A better handle on German will enable Nerissa to better research as an historian. One of her goals as a PhD candidate is to become confident working with German archival materials for her dissertation project and these classes are helping her reach these goals.
“My time in Hamburg studying at the Institut will certainly put me on track to reach that goal. Once I am home, however, I will have to continue studying and interacting with the language - I have learned here that practice, dedication, and (of course!) patience are key ingredients to learning a foreign language.”
During the last month of the summer, Nerissa will be in the Hamburg Staatsarchiv to begin research for her dissertation. She hopes to find materials that she can bring home to translate and integrate into her dissertation.