Global Education

Immersive student visit continues Oglethorpe, Dortmund cultural exchange

Last week, more than 20 German students from the Technical University of Dortmund visited Oglethorpe and Atlanta as part of a 10-day study abroad trip highlighting the ongoing partnership between the universities and the city’s role in American history.

The students stayed in Oglethorpe residence halls, worked on research projects with the German Club, and took in local cultural landmarks as an extension of their Dortmund American Studies classes. Both Dortmund and Oglethorpe student groups presented research they collected during a field day on the topic, “German-American Relations in Atlanta.”

“The program (gives) opportunities for TU Dortmund and Oglethorpe students to deepen their intercultural competencies and form friendships further deepening our exchange partnership,” said Marisa Atencio, assistant dean of students and A_LAB director of global education.

The partnership between TU Dortmund and Oglethorpe was formed more than 20 years ago by the Halle Foundation, and has been thriving ever since through an exchange of students and visiting German instructors. Each year a professor from TU Dortmund teaches at Oglethorpe, with Henriette Gert occupying the position through May 2019.

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Dortmund and Oglethorpe students gather in the residence quad.

Because of this connection, Atlanta has become a large part of TU Dortmund’s research and teaching. Courses taught at TU Dortmund have included one focused on the city as a “Hub of Media and Culture,” and another based on “Stories of Black Mecca,” analyzing literary representations of African American life in Atlanta in the course of its history. Dr. Sibylle Klemm and Dr. Randi Gunzenhauser helmed those courses in Dortmund, and both previously spent a year as visiting faculty at Oglethorpe.

In 2017, another course examined texts from Atlanta-based playwright and author Pearl Cleage. Cleage’s “Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous” is currently running at the Alliance Theatre, and Dortmund students were able to attend the premiere performance. Cleage also met with the students to talk about her work.

This spring’s trip helped contextualize the German students’ own findings concerning Atlanta’s history, literature, and culture in concert with an immersive stay on the Oglethorpe University campus. The Dortmund guests visited museums such as the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta History Center, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, as well as international firms in metro Atlanta, such as Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, Siemens, and Porsche. Students also visited small and mid-sized German-founded businesses like the Epsten Group, educational institutions such as the Deutsche Kirchengemeinde, and organizations like the German American Cultural Foundation.

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