Written By Sarah Jez, Staff Writer
Jan Burger is this year’s German Language House TA. He is from Mainz, Germany, and got his bachelor’s degree in English literature and culture at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in 2021. He will be teaching and taking classes here at Austin College for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Observer: What made you decide to come to Austin college?
Jan Burger: I was always planning to go abroad during my American studies master’s program at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, but I had completely different plans for the next year or so. But then a member of the staff in the American studies department reached out to me and they told me that the exchange spot for Austin College was still open, and asked whether I would be interested in participating in the program. So, we got together and talked a little about it, and I liked the idea of being here for a prolonged amount of time anyway. So, the program and me were, so to speak, a perfect fit.
O: What classes are you teaching this semester?
JB: What I’m teaching is the intermediate German conversation class. I am also teaching the German house class, which is a once in a week get-together for fifty minutes where I talk to the students in the German house about everyday business and I bring a couple of topics from Germany to explain to them. Dr. Lueckel is in charge of the Language House class, but I help him with all the administration processes and grading at the end of the term.
O: What are you studying while you’re here?
JB: I’m taking Dr. Wolnisty’s 363 history class on Civil War and Reconstruction and Dr. Bigelow’s 311 political science class on the presidency.
O: What are the major differences you’ve noticed so far between German universities and American colleges?
JB: One of the biggest differences is that most students at Austin College live here on campus. In Germany, we have that, but because the universities are so large, there’s no way they could fit all the students onto the campus, so most of us live in the city, so the routine is very different. It’s a bit more relaxed here.
I’ve noticed that the reading and the amount of assignments that I have to do is much more here than in Germany. The work in Germany was still challenging, but here, there’s even more work and the schedule is tighter. The cost of studying here in America is also a lot more expensive than in Germany.
O: What do you miss the most about home?
JB: My girlfriend. I really like to be here, but I also would really like to be home for the sake of being home. I know this feeling is totally normal to have when you get to a new place so I’m confident that I’m going to get used to it in no time.
O: What was the weirdest thing to adjust to here? How are you adjusting to the Texas weather?
JB: Luckily, for me, hot weather is not really bothersome. It doesn’t get as hot in Germany in the summer as it does here, but I’ve been doing sports for the majority of my life, even in the summer. It’s more difficult to adjust to the AC units everywhere. Where I grew up, we don’t really have that; the houses would be naturally isolated in such a way that you would produce heat with a heater in the winter, and it would keep the house warm all day, and then in the summer, you just put the shades down and leave the windows closed, and the house is going to be cool.
Transportation is another thing I had to adjust to. I asked my director, Dr. Lueckel, what transportation would look like once I got here, and he said “well, you’ll need to get a car.” In Germany, you would go everywhere by public transportation. Obviously, people have cars– Germany has a huge automobile industry– but, here, I have to catch rides with other students, or with my colleagues. Not having that independence of being able to go wherever I want when I want is different for sure. Although, the hours here for the stores are better. On Sundays, everything in Germany is closed except for restaurants. Here, everything is open.
O: What are your plans after your time at Austin College?
JB: Part of the reason I wanted to do the exchange program is because I want to be a teacher at a German university after I graduate. An experience abroad in American Studies is really important. So, my plans are to go home after the program here, finish my masters degree, and then hopefully apply for a position at the same university and go for that doctorate. I’m thinking, maybe while I do the doctorate, I’ll take some more trips back here if I get the chance.
O: Do you have office hours? Where/how can students get in touch with you?
JB: I haven’t officially declared office hours yet, but in general, you can always reach me at my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will be in touch with the German students about specific hours if they need help.