If you would have told me a year ago that I would have spent the next eight months in Germany studying abroad, I wouldn’t believe you. I had planned to study abroad in Spain for years; I’ve enrolled in Spanish language courses for the past six years, I’ve read about the country, and even acquired a Spanish visa. If I’ve learned anything over the past two years, it’s that no amount of planning can prepare you for life’s curveballs. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, I was unable to study abroad in Spain, and in less than a month decided to switch schools to enroll at the Technical University in Dortmund, Germany. It was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
In GLI, my global theme has been “Culture and Politics”. During my time in Germany, the country held a nationwide election to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel who held office for sixteen years. Exposer to their political system and election process felt otherwordly to the American way. In my experience, the election wasn’t all-consuming to their day-to-day life; the candidates were serious and well respected, while the people took their role to elect a new chancellor very seriously. A multi-candidate race was embraced with a “first-past-the-post” method of electing their candidates making every vote essential.
The project I worked on with my capstone group centered around countering misinformation. Germany takes a unique approach to solving this problem. First, the country is very serious about fact-checking their candidates and limiting hate speech. For example, it is illegal to deny or downplay the Holocaust in Germany. This approach led to the vast majority of their country moving through the democratic process seamlessly. It was impressive to be reminded of the principles and importance of the electoral process and to see ways in which our country can improve.
My time in Germany was unforgettable. The election process was relevant to my GLI courses, but my experience in a new country, meeting new people, and seeing new places is what will shape me the most in my life. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had, and the memories I will keep with me.