German community thrives outside the classroom at Medici


by Renee Changnon, Daily Vidette Senior Staff

It’s 6 p.m. on a Thursday evening, Medici is packed with the sounds of laughter and voices conversing, many of which are in a foreign tongue. Once you’ve spotted the tall gentlemen in lederhosen, it becomes clear that the language and topic of choice is German.

According to J.M. van der Laan, German professor, the sight you may stumble upon Thursdays in Medici depicts much more than just people gathering to speak in German, but rather a scene they like to call “Stammtisch.”

“The German program is very engaged and involved with students and with faculty across the campus who are interested in German, [as well as] the people in the community,” van der Laan said.

Van der Laan explained the beauty of the events they do weekly, including Stammtisch, is that people from all walks of life and levels of skill in German may attend. Whether one is a first-year German student or a native speaker transplanted at ISU for the semester, all are welcome.

“The students who come have a chance to interact with those who don’t know German as well as they want to. They have a chance to interact with people who are native speakers, or near native speakers,” van der Laan said.

Most people can’t miss the group at Medici every Thursday, where Tyler Saider, senior marketing major and German minor, makes sure to wear the traditional garb in a ploy to get others to notice.

“[Dressing up in lederhosen] is kind of like a little marketing thing that I do, because every time I walk around here people are like, ‘What’s going on?’” he said.

Since beginning at ISU with no German speaking abilities at all, Saider described how much being a student in this thriving German community has helped him personally and professionally as a student.

Coming to different events like Stammtisch allowed Saider to open the door to learning the language of his heritage, as well as meeting different students that helped change his life.

Saider explained that after confiding his interest in attaining an internship in Germany, he was able to take his advice and fulfill those dreams with the suggestion and guidance of his newfound friend from Paderborn, Germany.

For Brendan Reichert, senior Spanish major, who has also received a previous double major in German and history, speaking three languages is a challenge he enjoys and feels will benefit his future career goals.

“I started out with history, and then I started taking German classes along the way. I decided to student teach in German, so that became my first major and history became my second,” Reichert said.

Although Reichert loved learning German, and continues to engage with the ISU German community, deciding to return and major in Spanish was his way of making himself even more well rounded in spite of the recession.

For Reichert, surprisingly, the languages don’t all jumble together too much; however, it wasn’t always this way.

“There are times when I’ll be thinking in German randomly, there are other times I’ll be thinking in Spanish and then in English. As far as keeping the languages separate, it used to be a lot harder. It just naturally worked itself out,” Reichert said.

As one wanders around the long table in Medici, they may stumble upon Alex Hartmann, a student studying at ISU from Paderborn for the fall semester. According to Hartmann, classes at ISU are in many ways more intense than back home in Germany.

“I think it’s more intense [at ISU]. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s more difficult; it’s more work though,” he said.

According to van der Laan, engaging in the Thursdays at Medici or any other weekly event they hold, allows students to mingle with several people from all walks of life who share a great appreciation for the language they are in the process of learning.

“What we’ve done is we’ve tried to do things which are fun and interesting for the students, give them more opportunity to hear and speak German, but one of our main reasons for doing this is to create a community. It’s to create a community of teachers and learners, to create an intellectual community even,” van der Laan said.

Van der Laan encourages anyone interested in the group to come check out Stammtisch Thursday evenings at Medici, where they meet around 6 p.m. and everyone is welcome to come.

“The more the merrier. It’s a really pleasant group of people, very open, very welcoming. The door is always open and everyone is welcome to join us,” van der Laan said.



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