Ricarda Redeker, Consul General at the German Consulate General in Houston, Texas, visited the University of Dallas this past weekend to talk with students about German politics and relations.
In charge of German relations not only in Texas, but also in Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, Redeker seemed pleased to take time to meet with faculty and students in an audience-driven dialogue.
When asked what they thought of Germany, attending students mentioned soccer, efficiency and, of course, beer.
Redeker amiably agreed with the descriptions but also reminded the attendees of everything else Germany has to offer.
Redeker said that with roughly one-third of Americans claiming German ancestry, it is surprising how little Americans know about the rich German culture, politics and traditions.
She spent some time on each of these topics and highlighted the ever-controversial refugee crisis in Germany.
The subject prompted many questions from the attendees, including how Germany would fix the problem and why they had let in so many “guests” in the first place, as described by Redeker.
The German people have little experience with such a wide-scale introduction of other cultures to their own community. This inexperience meant they were completely unprepared for the somewhat unpredictable turn of events, according to Redeker.
With thousands of mainly Syrian immigrants seeking asylum, Redeker explained that Germans tended to have one of two extreme reactions to the influx: either severe right-wing attitudes or an overwhelming sacrifice of their time.
She stressed that these refugees would rather be at home, and the aid they search for is temporary.
Redeker also made it clear that Germany wishes the refugees to integrate rather than assimilate.
In return for their generosity in accepting a surprising number of refugees, Germany asks that their basic values are accepted and respected.
Of course, the real issue turns into how long the German people can support these guests. As Redeker pointed out, Germany cannot look into the future, and costs are impossible to estimate.
However, because the focus is shifting from changing the situation to dealing with its aftermath, Germany and the whole of the European Union are working toward peace, Redeker explained.
A few German efforts toward this effect include sponsoring conferences to search for solutions and facilitating high-level discussions in order to improve poor communication.
Redeker focused on other domestic affairs and concerns within Germany as well as opportunities for American students to work and study in Germany.
Due to a shift in women’s roles from simply homemakers to additional family providers, German population growth has taken a turn.
With a decrease in family size, the job market has room for foreign employees, whether originally German-speaking or not.
Because of increasingly favorable relations between Germany and the US, the largest benefit for American students is the possibility to study in Germany with reduced costs.
There are some fees involved, but the German government covers the majority of expenses in order to encourage positive relations with international students and better their own business market.
Courses can even be offered in English, though students are highly encouraged to learn at least basic German language skills.
Chair of the UD Modern Languages Department Dr. Jacob-Ivan Eidt said that studying in Germany is an attractive and practical option for many American students.
“As the cost and debt incurred from higher education in the US continues to become a major crisis, international study will be an increasingly attractive option, especially in the realm of postgraduate degrees,” Eidt said. “Equipping students with skills beyond their areas of specialization and going beyond introductory language instruction is not just smart, it may one day be essential.”
This essential ability is, even now, a priceless one.
The experience not only benefits an individual’s career, but it also broadens world perspective.
“We love to attract well-educated people,” Redeker said, adding that the German market is seeking hardworking and driven individuals, and that the investment for the future afforded by studying abroad aids not only Germany, but the students as well.
President of UD’s newly revived German Club, junior Mary Lindberg, said she was glad that the different German organizations on campus were able to coordinate Redeker’s visit.
“[I was] pleased that the German faculty, German Club and Dallas Goethe Center partnered closely in planning the visit,” Lindberg said.