Student spends summer in Germany

Amy Cooknick

Imagine spending your summer in a foreign country with a Kent State professor. For senior speech pathology major Abby Kidwell, this was a reality.

From July 18 to Aug. 24, Kidwell lived in Ulm, a city located two hours from Munich in southern Germany.

This was her second summer in Germany funded by mathematics professor Ulrike Vorhauer. Kidwell said she met Vorhauer while working in Kent’s Child Development Center.

Vorhauer returns every summer to her family in Ulm, and last year invited Kidwell to join her for six weeks.

Kidwell accepted the opportunity to stay with Vorhauer in her home and watch her four children. The paid trip, along with the experience of living in a foreign country and learning the culture, meant a lot to the senior.

“The landscape is so different and cool — just to go sightseeing,” she said. “It’s such a different life.”

She also learned the education system in Germany is arranged differently than in America. Kidwell admits to still being unsure of the whole concept, but said she appreciates the differences between the German and American ways of living.

Germany is more eco-friendly than the United States, she said, with greater emphasis on recycling and more public transport, meaning less cars and laundry hanging out to dry rather than using energy.

Despite the cultural differences, Kidwell managed to make some lasting friendships during her two summers abroad.

Much of her first visit was spent sightseeing, but the second trip Kidwell reconnected with friends, including Vorhauer’s 19-year-old niece.

Kidwell said the language barrier was never much of a problem because students in Germany learn English starting in the early years of school.

“I don’t know if I would go alone somewhere else,” she said. “When they speak another language, it’s good to go with someone else who knows the language.”

Now that Kidwell is back in the U.S., she keeps in touch with her Germany friends through Skype and Facebook.

Kidwell plans to look for a job teaching English in Germany for a year once she completes her undergraduate studies in May 2011. After that she will return home for graduate school.

“Her grades improved tremendously. She takes her studies more seriously,” Vorhauer said, regarding Kidwell’s changes since the trip.

Currently, Kidwell’s next visit to Germany will be solo for three weeks over December break.

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].