Ethan Klein, a third year mechanical engineering student with a minor in German at Michigan Technological University, has always had a fascination for Germany and German culture.
So you can imagine how excited he was to have been chosen to participate in a Cultural Vistas Fellowship program in Germany.
Cultural Vistas Fellowship awards a select group of students the opportunity to travel abroad, with the goal of increasing understanding of innovation and entrepreneurship in a global market. The two-month program destinations include Germany, India and Argentina. The students undergo an intensive two-day training program in New York prior to departure, preparing them to live and work in their selected countries; they then share their experiences in New York once again, when they return.
Klein, whose fascination with German history is fueled by his family ancestry, was thrilled to have the opportunity to not only go to Germany, but to secure an internship where he and his team members worked on a testing apparatus for linear led lighting systems.
Exchange Student Friendship Rekindled
When Klein was younger, his family hosted a German exchange student, Matthias Straubinger. Klein’s family kept in contact with Matthias over the years. Klein was very pleased to be able to spend time with Matthias while in Germany. The two toured some of the local sights, including a historic park in the Grunewald Forest and a castle built in 1542 by Prince-Elector Joachim II.
Klein also explored Germany on his own. When he describes his experiences it is evident that visits to Auschwitz, Munich and the Nazi death camps in Poland had a powerful emotional impact on him.
Klein, who has been taking German language courses since high school, found that “many Germans wanted to speak to me in English, while I wanted to speak in German.” Klein found himself “actually thinking in German.”
Towels Are Too Small
What surprised him the most about Germany? A huge smile crosses his face “Towels” he says with a laugh. He explains that bath towels in Germany are the size of American hand towels. “I couldn’t just run to Walmart to buy big towels.” However, he did find some in an Ikea store nearby.
Klein almost missed the opportunity to participate in Cultural Vistas. He had originally submitted his application for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) but unfortunately had not been selected. He was chosen for the Cultural Vistas program, but the task of completing all the required documentations did not go quite as smoothly as he had hoped. Klein turned to Associate Professor Dieter Adolfs and Instructor Janice Cox-Adolfs who teach German in Michigan Tech’s Humanities department, and to Darnishia Slade, Tech’s director of international career education. “They went above and beyond the call of duty for me, including a 11:30 p.m. phone call during Thanksgiving break, to do all they could to get me in,” Klein recalls. “They made this happen.”
Klein plans to apply again for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program and hopes to return to Germany. The name Klein in German means small, but the future looks anything but small for this Michigan Tech student.