My decision to major in German at UC Berkeley is founded on my initial interest in the German language and culture that was ignited during the year I spent abroad in Germany during high school. As I eventually applied to college, I choose Berkeley thinking that I might want to study business or law. But after sitting in lecture halls with over hundreds of students, I felt somehow alienated from the intimate educational experience that I had anticipated and longed for. During my third year at Berkeley I declared my major in Legal Studies and began to search for an interesting minor program – I tried business, but was disappointed by the unfriendly atmosphere, then I tried dance, but injured myself, and finally I took my first upper division German class with Professor Seeba and immediately became an enthusiast for the German Department. I loved the small size of the lectures and the ability that I had to work directly with my professors. There was something small, intimate about the German department, which gave me the sense of belonging that I had been searching for. All my German professors knew my name and would greet me as I walked through Dwinelle; they showed interest in me, my education and my future.
In addition, I was amazed by the variety of German courses that were offered for upper division and how some these courses directly correlated with my legal studies major: in some of my German classes I would often read the original texts – such as Kant and Nietzsche – that was also assigned for my legal studies classes.
Furthermore, the more classes I took in the German department the more I realized how the German department really offered a well-rounded liberal arts education with perspectives on art, history, politics, sociology, philosophy, psychology and more. Therefore, I never felt that I was receiving a limited viewpoint within the major, because I was learning about artists, composers, writers, politicians? that had not only left an impression on Germany, but on the entire world.
My final decision to major in German was actualized my last year. I blissfully continued to take German classes when I discovered (my last year) that I was missing only a few classes in order to receive the major. Therefore, I buckled down and finished my legal studies major in the fall and took almost all German classes my last semester?that was the best semester ever.
My current life and job is proof of how effective the German department can be. After graduating this past May 2003, I wanted to receive first hand experience living and working in Germany so I applied to General Motors in Germany. They were very impressed with my German speaking skills and fascinated with my major in German (especially as an American). Hence, I was given quite a competitive position to work for Opel, a subsidiary of GM, within the marketing department. I’m really enjoying the opportunity that I get to test driving all sorts of cars on the Autobahn for marketing analysis!
Planning on eventually heading to law school, I am attempting land an internship working for a political office here in Germany. I’ve begun to apply to various political offices and hopefully my major in German shall once again give me the advantage needed to get a position!
For prospective students: not only does the major open your mind to a different country and culture, but it can also give you wonderful opportunities and advantages, as it has given me.
Schöne Grüsse aus Mainz,
Studying German here at Cal is really a cultural eye-opener! And it doesn’t really matter whether or not you have any connection to Germany; because even if you don’t, becoming acquainted with the German culture makes you more aware of your own culture; it makes you think about your own identity and opens your eyes to the multiculturalism both in our society and within ourselves. In my case – an American of Egyptian origin and German education—I felt it particularly important to try to connect all three aspects of my (admittedly weird!) background. And the cross-cultural emphasis of German Studies at Cal is certainly a good start. But even if the cultural aspect isn?t really your thing, learning German can be both interesting and helpful in many different ways. The best proof is the large number of students—myself included—that choose to major or minor in German in addition to their original major. With the dominance of German philosophers, thinkers and writers, it makes sense to be able to study their works in the original language—since it adds a lot of depth and richness to these works that cannot be appreciated when reading them in an English translation. Finally, the professors and GSI’s in our German department do a really terrific job at teaching one of the most beautiful languages and most fascinating literatures ever. Another student put it very nicely at the German Department’s Open House a couple of years ago: “The German Department here at Cal is just awesome!”
My name is Carlo Funtanilla. I’m a fourth year, Political Science major and German minor. I have been taking German classes since my freshman year in high school. Interestingly enough, it was an accident that I started taking German. When I entered high school, I was required to submit my top three choices for a foreign language. My first choice was Latin, but because I had turned in my choices so late in the process, I foolishly thought that I wouldn’t get my first choice. So, I put my first choice, second and my second choice, which was German, first. It sounds ridiculous now, but that was my thought process at the time. Little did I know, German was not exactly the most popular language to study, especially when you live in Los Angeles, where Spanish is almost a second language. In any case, when I received my schedule on the first day of school, I was surprised to see that I was enrolled in German one. After my first semester in the class, I was hooked. You see, my teacher was a 60-year old German who could still vividly recall his boyhood days living in Bonn. When he wasn’t teaching us the language, he told the class stories about the war, the music he used to listen as a kid, and the trips he used to take with his family around Germany. It was fascinating. It sparked my attraction to German history and to its heralded culture. Later, as I became more interested in politics, I became curious to learn more about Germany’s place on the world stage, particularly the role it played in the European Union.
When I arrived at Berkeley, I knew I wanted to be a political science major, but I also wanted to continue taking German classes so I could both improve my communications skills as well as learn more about contemporary German culture and German literature. Doing the German minor, I felt, would allow me to do this. Although the department is smaller, compared to the Political Science department, the German department here is top-class and a clear advantage of a small department is the close relationships you can build with the people here, both the professors, who are all at the top of their fields, and the GSIs For instance, I still keep in touch with one of my German GSIs, even if its been four years since I’ve taken his class. The professors, too, are very friendly and always helpful to their students. They completely debunk the notion that professors at large research universities are distant and smug. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same is true at the political science department.
The classes I’ve taken while I’ve been here have been absolutely amazing. I’ve learned so much and immensely improved my German skills. One of the most interesting classes that I took here was German for Business, in which we partnered up with students at the University of Potsdam to write two essays: We in Berkeley wrote an essay making observations of American culture from a German perspective, while our German partners wrote one making observations of German culture from an American perspective. Aside from an exercise in enhancing our writing skills, this was a unique opportunity to exchange ideas about how we perceive each other’s cultures and how closely related the stereotypes we have of each other are to the truth. Classes like this makes taking German a completely worthwhile experience.
I hope that as you mull over what you want to major in while in Berkeley, you seriously consider the German department, whether you’re a student continuing German from high school or if you are someone who only recently become interested in the German language and the German culture. It is one of the top departments in the nation, it’s small and intimate, and the professors and GSIs are excited to impart their knowledge on you. Remember, Deutsch macht Spass!