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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U students Kiel over

Gavin Gough is fluent in both Spanish and K’ekchi’-one of 24 Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala. This summer, he decided to learn a third language, spending four weeks studying German at Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany.

“I gained an interest in learning languages while on my [LDS] mission and I’ve always wanted to do something [with a career] internationally,” said Gough, who is an accounting major at the U.

Gough, who says he loves learning about new cultures and new people, also says that “The only way to understand a people and a culture is through the language.”

Located in northern Germany, near the Baltic Sea, Kiel is home to one of several intensive language study programs offered through the U’s International Center.

This summer, 48 U students, including Gough, traveled to Kiel to study German culture and language.

They also each earned nine college credit hours.

“Part of the appeal for me was being able to get those credits,” said Scott Stapleton, a U junior studying mechanical engineering. “I already knew the language from serving a [LDS] mission in Germany, so I really wanted to get credits toward a German major. I also wanted to improve my grammar. The last time I was in Germany, I couldn’t really focus on the language, so it was nice this time to be able to make it my sole purpose.”

Like Stapleton, Aaron Stillman, a U junior majoring in business and German, went to Kiel to improve his skills in a language he already knew.

“I went to Kiel to efficiently further my studies by taking a lot of classes in a short amount of time,” he said.

Both Stillman and Stapleton took classes four days a week at Christian Albrechts University in Kiel from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. They also learned about Kiel’s history, ate traditional German dinners, watched an outdoor operetta and became acquainted with other international students and the people of Kiel.

“We had to do this report on German culture,” Stapleton said. “We went on the street and just interviewed different people about techno music. Then we got two locals to take us to a CD store, and then we went to a disco at night and fell asleep the next day in class.”

According to Stapleton, anyone can participate in the Kiel study abroad program.

“There are classes for beginners, those in the middle and those who are already fluent in the language,” he said.

“They have upper-division classes and even German 1010 and 2020,” Stillman added.

Gough had only taken German 1010 before he left for Kiel.

“I didn’t understand much, but I knew what it took to learn a language,” he said. “I had done it twice before. It’s all about just speaking and learning from experience.”

For Gough, much of that experience came from the opportunity of living with a host family.

“I had the best hook-up in the whole program,” he said. “I had all the amenities-everything I wanted, and the family had the attitude of wanting to teach me German. They also wanted a cultural experience with an American.”

Gough said that Germany and America are “two countries in unfavorable circumstances because of the war.” His host family wanted him to understand their culture, and in turn, wanted to understand his.

“The mom told me that in order for us to get over stuff like the war, we need to communicate on a personal basis,” Gough said. “There are so many stereotypes. We don’t understand each other. We base our judgments through dignitaries and presidents-how the countries relate on a political stand. She wanted to have the experience of having an American student in their home.”

While he was with his host family, Gough primarily spoke German.

“It was frustrating, but it was so helpful,” he said. “They really pounded the language into my head.”

Gough said that much of his progress with the German language came through discussions with his host family.

“While others were in the dorms, I was sitting down at the dinner table speaking with the family…I was there talking about things.

Those conversations could include topics ranging from history, Sept. 11, the Holocaust, ongoing problems with the war and cultural events, “even though my German is weak,” he said.

Through these discussions, Gough said he was able to gain a greater insight into the German culture and people-something he said he wouldn’t have been able to learn in a traditional classroom.

“I saw that the students in the dorms didn’t get much of a German cultural experience, especially like I did. When we went on a bike ride along the ocean, they were just sitting in the dorms,” Gough said.

Though many of Gough’s cultural experiences came through his host family, he said he also gained insight into the German culture through class projects.

“At one point, our class did this survey about foreigners,” he said. “It’s a very touchy issue at the moment and we had these heavy, difficult questions we had to ask.”

Even with difficult questions, however, “very few people turned us down. Very few were unwilling to help me out,” he said.

“The people were very patient and willing to help me learn and also wanted me to experience the German culture,” Gough added. “They would suggest things to do or would take us to certain places.”

“This program forces you to use German. You use it on the bus or train. You talk to people. It’s better than to stay here at the U because you’re immersed in the language…you use what you learn and then you apply it,” Gough said.

[email protected]

For more information about programs offered through the U’s International Center, please visit or call (801) 581-5849. The International Center is located in Room 159 in the Union.

On Thursday, Sept. 11, the Study Abroad Fair will be held on the Union Patio from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Information about different opportunities to serve or study abroad will be available. Students that have participated in different study and service programs will be on hand to answer questions.

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