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Life in Huntsville:
A Look at Three German Fulbright Recipients

Fulbright Recipients
Left to right: Thelma Douglass, vice president of Student Services; Fabian Boettcher, Katja Zschieschang, Axel Seinsche, Fulbright recipients; James Gaertner, SHSU President.

Three native Germans have traded snow for sun, Volkswagens for Fords, and tennis shoes for boots. Until May, Axel Seinsche, Katja Zschieschang, and Fabian Boettcher are Texans.

And proud ones, at that.

The three students are all attending Sam Houston State University as Fulbright Scholarship recipients. They, along with 131 other college-age Germans, have come to the United States to attend school on full scholarships, in hopes of gaining a better understanding of American culture and language, allowing both Americans and Germans to be exposed to a different culture.

"It is prestigious for SHSU to have these Fulbright recipients," said Thelma Douglass, vice president for Student Services. "The selection process if very competitive." Douglass herself was a Fulbright recipient to Germany in the Spring of 2000, and encouraged the Fulbright commission to bring students to SHSU.

After filling out an application, complete with resume and statement of purpose essay, the three waited until being selected for a personal interview. After the interview and 1-2 months of waiting, they finally got the news that they were accepted into the Fulbright program.

"There was almost a year lapse between the application and the departure date," explained Axel.

The three students are from different cities in Germany and did not know each other prior to being accepted to SHSU. The only time they met before arriving in Texas was at a preparation meeting in Germany with the other Fulbright recipients.

The scholarship allows the students to study in any field that interests them through May, which is "too bad" according to Katja.

"I want to stay longer," she said. Katja is studying Management, with an emphasis in Human Resources.

"At my university in Germany, we only had one class offered in this field," explained Katja. So to further her understanding of the area, she decided to study in the United States, though credit hours obtained do not count towards her major.

Axel and Fabian both have the chance to obtain credit in Germany for completed coursework in the United States. Axel is studying computer science and Fabian is studying accounting.

Though they all seem to be enjoying their stay, they admit they had little intentions of actually residing in the Lone Star State.

"I didn't choose to come to Texas. The Fulbright commission told me to come to Texas," said Katja.

"For geographic reasons," continued Fabian, "I really wanted to be at a northern university and chose two for my application, but didn't get them. But SHSU is a fine university."

After mulling over the heat factor, Fabian also consented that "Texas is nice also." He shares an apartment with Axel, and Katja lives in a separate complex with a roommate.

Besides the obvious differences in language and customs, the three have noticed some differences in schoolwork.

"Classification is a big issue in the United States," said Fabian. "Honestly, we don't care what we are classified as."

He has also found that the way of studying is different in both countries. "With the amount of tests and daily homework students have in each class, a person gets a bit tired of studying."

Katja agrees, adding that the idea of tests being in a format other than essay was an adjustment. "Multiple choice tests are new to me."

"It is important for individuals to extend their scope in working and interacting with others," said Douglass. "The Fulbright Commission makes this possible."

The three keep busy with their involvement in various organizations and a Conversational German class they have set-up to aid students in the spoken German word. The class meets every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. They have even found time to experience a little Huntsville night life.

"Axel does most of the partying for us," teases Fabian.

But for these students, many lessons aren't found in the classroom. The three are learning a great deal about American culture, language, and customs from their everyday interactions with American students. They have been honored at various events and even attended their first Thanksgiving celebration, thanks to an invitation by a fellow student.

"What surprises me most about Texas is that the people are so polite," said Katja. "I always say that, but it's true!"

While they still don't understand the need for such big trucks in Texas, all three seem to be having a great time in their new home.

Fabian and Axel even admitted to buying cowboy hats.

For more information on SHSU international programs, visit the Office of International Programs website.

For more information on Fulbright, visit the Fulbright Scholar Program website.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Audrey Wick
December 3, 2001
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