Change by (German) Exchange

Junior Matt Carl discusses summer in Germany, appointment as Young Ambassador for the German Academic Exchange Service


Ellen Kanzinger

Matt Carl, ‘17, said he hopes to encourage more W&L students to pursue study abroad opportunities in Germany. Photo by Ellen Kanzinger, ‘18.

Faith Isbell

For Washington and Lee student Matt Carl, ‘17, what started out as a family vacation to Germany would soon turn into a passion for German language, culture and travel that continues today.

This past summer, Carl studied at Germany’s Universität Bayreuth (University of Bayreuth) from mid-April to late-July. Carl first learned about study abroad opportunities in Germany through emails from professors and the W&L Study Abroad Department.

“I was very motivated,” Carl said. “I wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities that college has to offer.”

After spending the summer in Germany, Carl was recently selected as a Young Ambassador for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), a German not-for-profit organization that promotes international academics. As a Young Ambassador, Carl attended for a four- day seminar in New York City, where he and 35 other students from across the United States learned about opportunities that are available in higher German education and research. Their task was essentially to spread the word about the DAAD.

Now a representative for the DAAD, Carl plans on encouraging W&L students to seek out opportunities for study in Germany. Carl recently acted as a representative at W&L’s Study Abroad Fair, and he plans on giving a presentation in late October for all German students and visiting STEM classrooms throughout the semester.

“What sets [DAAD] apart from other programs is that they’re fully funding students to go and study in Germany,” Carl said. “I just want to make the W&L community aware of these opportunities.”

Carl applied to the University of Bayreuth’s program at the recommendation of Head of German Department and German Professor Paul Youngman. To Carl’s surprise, he was accepted.

At the University, Carl lived in academic housing similar to the Woods Creek apartments and attended class about twice a week.

Carl felt that the German classroom was “a lot different” than what he experienced back in the United States, especially when it came to relationships between the students and the professors.

“We really shouldn’t take [relationships with our professors] for granted at W&L,” Carl said. “It is a much more in- dependent learning process in Germany.”

In his free time, Carl played for a local soccer team, hung out with friends, and went on excursions through the university to German cities such as Cologne, Munich, Berlin and nearby countries such as Austria. Of course, Carl would study “every once and awhile.”

“Academically rigorous is not something I would necessarily call [the university],” Carl said. Nonetheless, Carl admits that being on his own wasn’t entirely easy.

“You’re trying to find your place and your sense of belonging in a new culture and a new environment,” Carl said, as he likened the experience to freshmen year in college. “It definitely took time to adjust.”

Carl largely attributes his passion for German to the German Department at W&L. As the co-president of the German Club, Carl helps put on a variety of programs every semester that promote German language and culture, such as soccer games and group dinners at the local German restaurant. Carl believes that the German Club and the class structures promote a special, close-knit German community.

Nonetheless, study abroad opportunities are not simply limited to a single language or subject. Carl encourages other W&L students to pursue any opportunity to study

“You learn a lot about yourself, and you learn to challenge your own views on various issues,” Carl said. “There is so much personal and intellectual development and enrichment. You become a better person from it.”

Carl plans on returning to Germany in the spring and summer of 2016 for humanities research.