College students often ask, “How do my studies apply to real life?” International Relations and Economics major Daniel Fuglestad ’14 found answers in Germany.
Daniel put his majors and his German minor to good use this summer, brushing shoulders with European political leaders such as Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hermann Gröhe, general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union.
Daniel spent three weeks in Bavaria and a week in Berlin as a participant in the Wheaton in Germany program. “In many ways my Wheaton in Germany experience was perfectly typical,” he said. “Students spend a month touring their way through southern Germany and subsequently Berlin, immersed in the German culture and language (students are duty-bound to only speak German during this time), and spend an optional additional month in Berlin working at an internship.”
Daniel completed his one-month internship with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), a government-funded foundation that promotes democracy, human rights, and the ideals of the Christian Democratic Union. Immersed in a German-speaking workplace, Daniel stretched his language skills through media research, writing letters for the KAS chairman, editing English language articles, and attending KAS-hosted conferences.
The internship opened doors for Daniel to meet political leaders such as Hans-Gert Pöttering, former president of the European Parliament, and Chancellor Angela Merkel—“an imposing figure,” by Daniel’s account. Here Daniel answers a few questions about his summer experience.
What is one thing you learned from Wheaton in Germany?
From Wheaton in Germany as a whole, I learned the importance of relating to people in their native tongue. So often in the U.S. we free-ride on the fact that English is the la lingua franca of the world. But if you really want to make a connection with people in other cultures, whether on behalf of God or the government, you have to do it in their language.
What did you learn from your internship experience?
I learned a great many things but the most interesting to me was how Christianity functions in a German political context. The ruling party of the most powerful country in Europe has an explicitly Christian foundational identity that is extremely different from how we understand Christianity politically in the United States. It was quite the eye-opening experience.
Were there any surprises?
I was shocked by how often people asked if I was Mormon. Apparently clean-cut young Americans wearing suits who aren’t Mormon are hard to come by in Berlin. Who knew?
What was a favorite moment?
I don’t know if I could pick one moment; there were so many wonderful and interesting experiences. If I had to pick one though, it would probably be the elevator ride back to my office after the Chief Editor at the KAS asked me to write a big article that would be published by the foundation. I was so excited that I had this tangible request from the organization that showed I had done good work. It was a wonderful feeling.
What was one challenge?
Definitely using my German in a German work environment—it was absolutely terrifying at first, but my professors prepared me very well, and it ended up going off without a hitch.
Did the summer affect how you’re thinking about this school year?
Well, the internship really convinced me that international relations and international politics are the route that I want to take in life. The internship has focused me in a way I wasn’t before. I can now see the end goal of what I want in life and in my education. It’s great knowing that.
Well, the night before I met Angela Merkel, I got completely lost while looking for my new host family’s house. I ended up going back into the city around midnight sleeping in a youth hostel in a really seedy part of Berlin. I got up early the next day, staggered into work wearing the same suit as the night before, and attended a breakfast on the subject of Islam and politics with several members of German parliament and a professor from Iran. A couple hours later, I met the Chancellor in the photo you see above.