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      Our Widener-Germany Connection

      Partnership with University of Greifswald Enriches Both Universities

      greifswald exchange students

      University of Greifswald Students

      Benjamin Bergemann and Linda Preuss, both students at the University of Greifswald in Germany, are visiting Widener for seven weeks.

      Widener University and the University of Greifswald in northern Germany are continents apart, but a long-standing collaboration has bridged the two – benefiting both in the process.

      Every year for nearly two decades, a Widener professor and two students from any major go to Greifswald for seven weeks in May and June. In exchange, a German professor and two Greifswald students from the Department of British and North American Studies visit Main Campus for the same amount of time in September and October.

      The visiting professors teach a course at each university, while the guest students take classes in English and live on campus.

      "At Greifswald, there is always talk of our 'Widener family,'" said Dirk Vanderbeke, a former Greifswald professor who now teaches at the University of Jena and is visiting this fall through the program. "Widener has become a landmark for us, and we think it is very productive over the years that these two campuses are linked together."

      Vanderbeke is joined at Widener this year by Greifswald students Benjamin Bergemann, an English and German teaching major, and Linda Preuss, an English and geography teaching major.

      The students arrived the week before classes began and spent their time exploring Philadelphia. Now that classes are underway, they are settling into a routine that is somewhat different than their studies in Germany. Preuss noted that in Germany her classes occur only once a week, whereas at Widener they are two to three times per week.

      "The thing that first struck me is the space," Bergemann said. "The campus is very spread out. It's nice."

      While both are required to study in an English speaking country as part of their major, they said the experience is always something they've wanted to do.

      "I always wanted to spend a semester in a United States university because I spent a year abroad after I finished my school," Preuss said.

      city of greifswald

      Greifswald Market Square

      Widener professor Jill Meehan visited the Greifswald Market Square, located steps away from the University of Greifswald in Germany.

      Preuss recommended that Widener students interested in studying abroad visit Greifswald, especially because of the city's history and location on the coast of the Baltic Sea about two hours from Berlin.

      Widener adjunct instructor Jill Meehan, who coordinates the exchange program, agreed.

      "I love the idea of students going somewhere else to study to broaden their perspectives and see other cultures," Meehan said. "Not only is there academic enrichment, but there is personal enrichment."

      Meehan spent seven weeks in the summer at Greifswald as a guest lecturer on American Nationalism in Music. During her stay, she presented a public talk on American Classical Music in the late 19th century.

      "It was nice to meet the students and faculty members there," Meehan said. "Everyone was very friendly and welcoming."

      Vanderbeke has found the same welcoming environment at Widener – both when he first visited in 2002 and now that he is back. He is currently teaching a class on the history of British film.

      "What struck me as unusual is that when I came here to teach film, I expected my students to be from literary studies," he said. "But I have students from bio-engineering and chemistry. I like that. I like to work together with people from other fields."

      When not teaching, Vanderbeke plans to travel to Houston. Long before Hurricane Harvey caused major flooding in the Texas city, Vanderbeke scheduled a trip for late September to visit a colleague at Texas A&M University.

      Vanderbeke will also give a public lecture to the Widener community. His talk focusing on evolution and literature is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. in Freedom Hall room 122.


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