Why would someone put acceptance to a prestigious law school on hold to spend a year in Germany? That’s just what Russell Lawson did, and he doesn’t regret a minute of it.
Lawson, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in economics at Michigan Technological University in 2016, has been accepted into the University of Michigan Law School, but he chose to spend this year participating in the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange program. In Germany, he’s going to school, working a job, immersing himself in the culture.
Lawson calls the competitive program, known as the ‘’Parlamentarisches Patenschafts-Programm’’ in German, a “cultural exchange program aimed at promoting understanding and cooperation between the two countries.” It includes 75 participants chosen from all over the US, representing a majority of states and multiple fields of study. “We have engineers, bio chem majors, those who study music, politics, international relations, two welders and four chefs/bakers, really a diverse group,” Lawson explains.
The program has three phases. The first two months are dedicated to language, preparing participants to live and work in the country. Phase two includes a full semester at a German university. During the university phase, Lawson was required to volunteer for a minimum of 40 hours, although, he says “most of us did more than that.” His volunteer work in the Universität Erfurt, where he was studying, involved working in the writing center, where he “helped with all manners of English writing, such as applications for university in the US, resumes, etc.” Lawson says that his two years working with Michigan Tech’s Multiliteracy Center provided him the skills he needed for this volunteer position.
The last five months are spent in an internship relating to your field of study, providing Lawson the opportunity to not only practice his language skills, but to fully experience “ the German business world and acquire a more international, particularly German, impression of our field.”
Living with a host family in Cologne his first two months, during the language phase of his program, Lawson then moved on to Bundesland of Thürigen to he attend the Universität Erfurt. That’s where he remains during his three-part internship. “I honestly love it here, ” he says.
During his first internship, Lawson is working with an organization that provides housing and assistance for refugees who have fled their unstable homelands for the safety of Germany. His second internship will be working in Thuringia parliament. He will finish his internships and his time in Germany working in the administration and organizational side of the German parliament system.
“I've been fortunate enough to learn a lot here,” Lawson says, “and although it might not be the most related field to law and politics, it is most certainly a decision and time I don't regret and would willingly do again.”