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To Germany and beyond

Top: German students Philip Grage (left) and Sebastian Plewe hitchhiking to Francois.

Bottom: Georg Hackl, five time Olympic medalist in the single luge event; Memorial student Josh Howard; Felix Loch, Olympic gold medalist and contemporary world champion in luge; Dr. Armin Kibele, exchange co-ordinator at the University of Kassel

By Michelle Osmond

Josh Howard passed the poster on David Behm's door several hundred times until one day curiosity took over and he popped in and enquired about the exchange program to Germany. That enquiry has lead Howard, a physical education student, to Kassel, Germany this summer and a new outlook on life.

Memorial has been partnering with the German university since 2007 for exchanges of teaching, literature, publications, and research. Since then, two students from HKR have travelled there and two University of Kassel students have come here every year to study for a semester.

Last fall, German students Philip Grage and Sebastian Plewe came to experience our culture. While here, they hitchhiked and took ferries along the Southern Shore because they had seen a documentary on the out ports of Newfoundland which featured Francois and they wanted to see it. Howard, however, is the first Memorial undergraduate to travel to Kassel.

Dr. Behm is the associate director of Graduate Studies and Research in HKR. He said Howard will gain valuable insight into the different physical education teaching philosophies of the German versus the Canadian system.

"Most Canadian physical education universities provide thematic activity courses. Students would learn how to teach a variety of activities with similar goals. But the German system spends more time teaching activity courses with more in-depth emphasis on physical competence ... Instead of spending four weeks on volleyball at Memorial, Kassel students would spend an entire semester on the ability to teach and play volleyball."

Mr. Howard had always wanted to go to Europe.

"I was going to go on a surfing trip this summer to Costa Rica, but decided to look into studying abroad," he said. "I figured that studying abroad would give a better opportunity to discover how people live on the other side of the world.
"The city of Kassel is about the same size of St. John's. The students have been very welcoming and made me feel at home. It would have been beneficial if I spoke the language, but all the students speak English fairly well. The pace of life here is more relaxed."

Mr. Howard has travelled a fair bit since arriving, even meeting some famous Olympians.

"Kassel is centrally located in the middle of Germany. You can travel to seven different bordering countries by train in three to eight hours. I have been to Amsterdam, Paris, London, Munchen (Munich), Grojinen, and Italy so far."

What will Mr. Howard take from this experience? "You certainly learn a lot about yourself when you are alone in a foreign country. I have adapted great studying habits and a new found appreciation for school. I have learned to live a simpler life. Interacting with people from so many diverse cultures has been an amazing experience. Travelling abroad gave me an appreciation for the life I have in Newfoundland and a desire to keep travelling as often as possible."