Beyond the Books: An Immersive Learning Experience in Germany
Picture this: you and a group of your classmates are standing inside the Cologne Cathedral in Germany—the second tallest cathedral in Europe, which took over 600 years to build. A reverent silence hangs in the air, and you find yourself filled with awe as you stare up at the ornate stained glass windows all around you. These windows have served as narrative avenues for light to filter through for hundreds of years and will continue to do so for many more.
You are inspired by this moment and this place. And you can’t help but ask yourself how you got here when just one week ago, you were walking across the stage to collect your diploma at your college graduation.
At Northwest University, juniors and seniors from most majors have the opportunity to experience moments like this through cross-cultural immersion trips. I was able to spend 10 days in Germany at places like the Cologne Cathedral and other locations I learned about in my classes at NU. The theme of this trip was “The University” since Germany is home to several of the world’s oldest universities. Accompanied by Dr. Bryan, Dr. Nielsen, and Dr. Thompson, 21 students from the College of Arts and Sciences traveled to the cities of Heidelberg, Worms, Bonn, Cologne, and Frankfurt.
Our days were spent visiting different universities, seeing historical city sights, and enjoying the best authentic German food in each city. It’s safe to say that our group did not lack in pretzels, bratwurst, schnitzel, or apple strudel.
We also got to talk to several professors and students from the universities who spoke about their experience learning within the German education system. After four years of experiencing the American college system myself, visiting a country where student life and academia look quite different than what I am used to helped me remember that learning about these new perspectives can open our minds up to things we never considered. For example, on our tour of the University of Heidelberg, I learned that, during World War II, one specific outdoor square was used to burn books that were considered illegal. To this day, you can still see the circle imprinted on the ground where the books were placed. As someone who read a lot of books during her time as a student, this made me appreciate my freedom to learn and read from a variety of cultures and points of view.
Visiting these beautiful cities that are so full of history and culture also showed me that as much as someone can study a place through pictures, articles, and books, nothing compares to actually going there and immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and lifestyles of that place. It made me want to continue exploring new parts of the world in the years to come.
This was the perfect time in my life to take this kind of trip. Not everyone is fortunate enough to visit other parts of the world with some of their closest friends, so I don’t take it for granted. I’m so glad NU gives students opportunities like this, and I know I will treasure the memories I made on this trip for the rest of my life.