The German House creates a home for culture and language study for its residents in the Max Kade International Wing of North Village I.
Maggie Dugan, ’18, is a resident of the house, which is one of five language-based houses in the International Wing, for the second consecutive year. She expressed her gratitude for the diverse interactions and educational opportunities the German House has given her.
“It’s just been such a good experience. We speak German in the house on most occasions, and it’s so many different levels of students that come through that house,” Dugan said. “So it’s not even just the people that I live with, it’s the students who are taught by the [Teaching Assistant], and it’s just a lot more language work, and it’s a lot of learning about other cultures as well.”
The language work done by residents in the German House is a key feature of the house’s mission, since they have all agreed to speak German roughly 60 percent of the time, Rene Benoit, ’20, said.
Housemate Susannah Chilton, ’19, said this was what motivated her to live in the German House.
“I find it hard unless I’m forced to talk German,” Chilton said. “In classes it’s encouraged, but being around native speakers is better.”
Dugan said she was driven to live in the house so she could immerse herself in the culture she discovered while studying at the University of Cologne in Cologne, Germany.
“I came back and instead of having culture shock abroad, I had it when I came back,” Dugan said. “I was like ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t feel American anymore in a lot of respects.’ Culturally speaking, I had a very hard time readjusting.”
Dugan said this struggle inspired her to become an intern in the International Education office and to apply to live in the German House.
Benoit, who was an exchange student in Salzburg, Austria her junior year of high school, expressed a similar sentiment. She said she missed the lifestyle she experienced in Austria and hoped to be able to bring some of what she experienced to Allegheny’s campus.
“I wanted to incorporate, not only is it German House, but incorporating what I’ve learned of the Austrian culture as well into aspects of what kind of events we’re planning,” Benoit said.
Campus events allow the residents of the German House to bring their knowledge and experience with foreign culture to the greater Allegheny community.
Last semester’s first event brought Oktoberfest to the North Village I lobby. The German folk festival, most famously celebrated in Munich, Germany, was requested by several students, according to Alex Tauer, a German teaching assistant and resident of the German House.
“So what we did was prepare some pretzel dough, and people could come and make their own pretzels,” Tauer said. “We played some traditional Bavarian music and also some more popular German music, and hung out and made the pretzels.”
The miniature Oktoberfest was the smaller of last semester’s events, according to Tauer. The German House’s larger event provided an opportunity for Tauer to showcase her home city of Cologne, Germany.
The December event was a Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market, held in the Henderson Campus Center. While Christmas markets are popular across Europe, and particularly across Germany and Austria, Cologne’s market is especially well-known, according to Dugan.
The Allegheny rendition of the Weihnachtsmarkt tradition featured a non-alcoholic version of mulled wine, decorating sugar cookies and crafting paper stars. Dugan said the event is her favorite way the German House brings German celebration and education to campus.
“To me, it’s a very non-traditional way of bringing a German tradition to a college campus because it’s not something that you would first think of,” Dugan said. “When you think of Germany, you think of beer, and wurst, and Oktoberfest. To bring in an event that’s not always known, that sometimes has a bigger impact on someone’s memory.”
This semester, the German House is planning to participate in a larger function being organized for the first time, according to Tauer. Each of the specific houses within the International Wing is planning to participate in an open-house style event.
“This semester, all the TAs decided to do a event together,” Tauer said. “We have a small event inside of each house with traditional food and music and then in the lobby, it’s kind of a gathering point for everybody to talk about experiences, languages and cultures.”
This connection to the larger community within the International Wing was a significant benefit of living in the German House for many of the students.
“I love that kind of diversity,” Benoit said. “It’s very intriguing to me to be around and be able to talk to people from completely different backgrounds and completely different perspectives.”
The language houses, and especially the German house, offer a place for people of different backgrounds to come together over a common interest, according to Tauer.
“The personalities of us four are very different, but I feel like that’s kind of the beauty of it,” Tauer said. “We have to kind of live together, even though usually or even naturally you wouldn’t room together. That’s really nice, and I like that we all try to speak as much German as possible.”
Dugan said she also appreciated discovering this bond with other Allegheny students.
“I’m just learning so much more about the world, and it’s a really easy way to be a global citizen on Allegheny’s campus, and feeling connected with the world around you but not leaving campus,” Dugan said.