Honors Ambassadors take a German jaunt


Photo by: Contributed Photo

FMU Honors Ambassadors visited Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle that inspired Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

The 2016 FMU Honor’s Ambassadors traveled to Germany for 10 days during spring break to visit two of FMU’s foreign exchange partners.

Dr. Jon Tuttle, director of the honors program, and Charles Jeffcoat, visual arts professor, traveled with Senior Anna Jackson, Juniors Colby Witt and Rebecca Cross and Sophomore Lauren Owens.

According to Tuttle, the purpose of the trip is to visit foreign exchange partners and recruit their students to study abroad at FMU.

“We’re really a very easy sell since we have a beach, a great campus, and a lot of courses they can choose from,” Tuttle said. “But also the trip exists to reward some of our best Honors students with the learning experience of a lifetime.”

The group visited four cities in Germany—Munich, Heidelberg, Landau and Trier.

They began their trip by landing in Munich, Germany and spent three days there.

Afterward, they traveled to Heidelberg, Germany, spending three days there as well. During their stay in Heidelberg, Tuttle, Jeffcoat, and the ambassadors traveled to Landau, Germany, to visit the University of Koblenz at Landau (UKL).

The students also visited the University of Trier where the group took a tour and had lunch with the university’s president.

Tuttle said that the group was welcomed at both universities, and he believes they successfully recruited some German students to FMU.

FMU’s International Exchange Program has partnerships with multiple universities in Europe and Canada, and Tuttle said UKL and the University of Trier are two of the program’s longest standing partners

Jeffcoat, the liaison for FMU’s partnership with UKL, said FMU students typically study in Germany during the spring semester of each academic year, and German students typically attend FMU in the fall.

Jeffcoat said that the partnership began in 2011 through a state-to-state partnership between South Carolina and the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. Through this, FMU received a letter of request for partnership.

The first FMU student sent to UKL studied there in the spring semester of 2012. Since the first year, Jeffcoat said nine FMU students have attended UKL, and four are studying there this semester. FMU is expected to receive four German students from UKL this fall.

“Both locations [UKL and University of Trier] and experiences are equally adored by both German and U.S. students,” Jeffcoat said.

Jeffcoat is familiar with Germany and travels there with his family frequently.

“My wife is German- American and we spend time in Germany regularly,” Jeffcoat said. “It is clean, friendly and beautiful and I love to show it to others. I am passionate about this little country of 83 million people, about the same size as our state of Montana.”

During the trip, the students also visited historical and cultural sites such as Dachau concentration camp, Neuschwanstein Castle, Heidelberg Castle, and various other galleries and museums.

Owens said that Dachau concentration camp shows how evil man can be.

“Dauchau opened my eyes to the severity of the concentration camps,” Owens said. “You read about concentration camps and study the material for classes, but when you see the graves in person, it becomes real in a different way that words cannot explain.”

Witt also found the transition from American culture to German culture interesting. He said one of the most difficult things was going from a place where he knows almost every word in the language to being unable to communicate with more than four basic phrases. He added that the people were always friendly and patient with him despite the language barrier.

Another aspect of German culture that Witt enjoyed was the food.

“I’m an adventurous eater, so every place we went I tried to get something new and exciting,” Witt said. “There were some flops, but most of what I had to eat there was absolutely delicious.”

During the trip, Witt got separated from the group by getting stuck on a train.

He used quick thinking and tips from Jeffcoat about traveling in foreign countries in order to get back to the group after only an hour and a half. He found them on the train platform.

Witt said the moral of the story is to never leave your phone on the train because he would have rather been with the group and lost his phone than separated in a city he wasn’t familiar with.

Tuttle said that Dr. Fred Carter, the FMU president, is supportive of international travel initiatives and says they are a transformative experience for all students.

“It is important to introduce FMU students to the world,” Tuttle said. “It does not hurt for them to recruit international students to FMU as well.”

Each year, four students are chosen for the Honors’ Ambassadors Abroad trip. The trip is partially financed, including airfare, train tickets, hotel rooms and a meal allowance.

“It’s almost an all-expense paid trip, except there are always souvenirs to buy and a lot of meat-heavy meals to eat,” Tuttle said. “I’ve been three times, and each has been wonderful.”