25 May 2007

Munich to Memphis

Wednesday night was an information session for German students about studying abroad. The Internaitional Organization asked many of the foreign students here to represent their university and answer questions from curious Germans. While some of the American students groaned about or flat out ignored the simple request, a fellower Memphian and I myself jumped at the opportunity to bring more Germans to Memphis.

Rachel, new to Eichstätt this semester, and I prepared a simple display and eagerly spoke with interested individuals. We wrote and printed nice brochures about the universtiy and the city, adorned a board with Memphis post cards and facts, brought along a photo essay book on Memphis and even a box of American brownies. All the while my laptop displayed a side show of photos from the city and university, and played a mix of Memphis music to lure people closer to our table.

The turn out surprised even the event's organizers, the university's study abroad department. For most of the two hour event the second floor library lobby bobbed with a human sea. It definitely seems that more German students desire and see the importance to study abroad.

With the large turn out and attention Rachel and I received there might be a spike of German students coming to Memphis in the next couple years.

I also feel inclined to report on some negative news. It amazes me that the largest, and essentially the only amount of bigotry, intolerance, or prejudice (call it what you want) aganist my identity that I have encountered while studying abroad comes not from Germans or other foreigners, but from a fellow American. Apparently some Americans still possess a strong stereotype with the South, believeing that it is a backward, racist, and primitive region.

One of the new Americans from Minnesota is the cause of this negative news. While other new Americans, obviously not from the South, will pass an occasional joke about the region and the fact that a few us here in Eichstätt hail from there, I know they mean what they saw light heartedly. However, this one boy is so clearly closed minded to the possibility that the stereotypes of the South are false, more so he makes no hesitation to inform me of the South's alleged inferiority. As you can imagine, I no longer attempt to correct his misperceptions in a rational way, or talk to him at all for that matter.

I find it very sad that someone can have the open mind to come live in another country and culture, but can not be as accepting toward his own countrymen. Maybe some Americans should stick at home and travel our diverse land before crossing the ocean. For those like the boy from Minnesota it might be a more eye opening experience than a semester in Europe.

Not to leave you on a bad note though, here are a couple photos I took the other night. As I came home from a party I noticed something moving on the corridor floor outside my door. I clicked the light on and saw to my surpise a hedgehog walking about on the concrete. As I watched him I heard a noise out on the grass and looked out to discover another one of the prickly critters. I went inside and grabbed my camera to photograph my late night visitors. As I got close to one it would freeze and roll into a ball with its spikes standing in defense.

Hedgehogs are protected animals in Germany and one is not allowed to harm them in anyway. They are nocturnal animals, so your best chances of seeing one is on a crisp Spring night. Too bad they never made it over North America.


mc said...

Nicholas, I am not sure if you are familiar with Garrison Keillor who is a radio humorist and writer of The Prairie Home Companion. He hails from Minnesota. I recently read an article where he was asked about visiting South Carolina. Here is one of the questions he was asked and his answer. I suggest you share this with the chap from Minnesota. It seems that some mid westerners appreciate the rich culture the southern states contribute to the U.S.

(excerpt from an interview of Garrison Keillor by Dan Conover)
Q: What is it that Southerners typically fail to grasp about Midwesterners?

A: I don't sense that Southerners take a keen interest in the Midwest, which is OK by me. We northerners listen to southern music all the time and read southern writers and love to drive around the South. As the accent becomes more rare, we cherish it more. A southern humorist has an eager audience waiting in Minnesota and has the great advantage of a wealth of stereotypes to work against. We Midwesterners by and large are too private and polite to have made a big impression. You have Jerry Lee Lewis and Flannery O'Connor and Bear Bryant and Robert Johnson and Lester Maddox, and we don't have anybody comparable. You're the show and we're the audience.

mom said...

Hey Nick, also.....today is Memorial Day here in the states! Memorial Day originated after the Civil War to reunite the country North and South....some people have to be reminded we are all one country! Happy Memorial Day from across the pond.

DaddyO said...

I liked the hedgehog!! remains me of the one you use to have, look allot alike. haha

Nick O. said...

mc: I like what Mr. Keillor had to say. Not much of a surprise to me.

It's a shame that this guy represents his region of the America so poorly. I know from my two visits that Minneapolis and Minnesota are nice places, and that this guy is an exception. However, there's a Korean girl here who now states she will never go to that region of America because of her experience with this one individual.

Thanks for the Memorial Day greeting, the Pentecost holiday here has treated me well.

daddyo: Yes, I had some flashbacks about Quill myself. Although, these guys were much larger than Quill. It's hard to tell in the photo, but there were larger than my shoe.

andrew said...

did the hedgehog *pat pat pat* you?

Nick O. said...

Andrew: No, it just hissed.