Interdisciplinary studies major Tano Holmes '12 of Cambridge, Mass., is taking his focus on German to new heights as he spends this semester abroad in Germany.
He lives in a mini castle in Heidelberg that's full of history: it once served as a residence for Adolf Hitler when he visited that city during the Third Reich. And, "It is the old residence of a Russian princess who married a German who built a palace for her family. It has since been converted into a university and dorms in one."
"There is a lot to see here in Germany," Holmes said. With a population of 80 million in a country smaller than the state of Texas, German students spend a good deal of time traveling to visit friends and other cities. In addition to traveling to all of Germany's major cities, he's been to France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
In Germany, "There are museums, castles, palaces, fairs, wineries, hiking trails, cathedrals, graffiti walls and city centers with shopping everywhere. And they are almost all accessible with public transportation.
"Life is different here in a variety of ways," Holmes explained. "First, we go almost everywhere with public transportation, which is really quite convenient. Secondly, there is no cafeteria in our dorm, so we always cook for ourselves. Third, there are so many cultures represented at my school that I am constantly learning new things about different parts of the world even if I am not there personally. Fourth, we go out much more on the weekends: the night life here is far better than that in the United States. And, when we want to go shopping, we go to downtown and not to a mall. There are very few malls here and they are quite small.
"The German youth are more motivated than the average American youth," he continued. "They watch far less television, and care far more about the world around them. This is one of the biggest differences I have noticed between our youth cultures and one of the main reasons I like being in Germany so much.
It's his third time to visit that country: after high school and before beginning college at MCLA he worked as an au-pair in Bermen, Germany, where he learned how to speak the language. Then, last winter, returned to spend Christmas with the family he worked for.
While in Germany, Holmes is maintaining his connections to the MCLA campus by serving as the foreign correspondent for the MCLA Beacon, the student-run newspaper on campus. He writes an opinion column every week for the newspaper.
"This experience has taught me so much about the world as a whole and about myself," Holmes said. "Through my three trips to Germany, I have truly grown accustomed to the German culture, and assimilated into it to a certain extent. While in America, I of course knew that other cultures existed, but experienced them but only as a tourist. Through living in Germany, I have really come to learn another culture inside and out, not to mention the language."
Holmes is earning 24 credits this semester as he studies intensive German every day, including grammar, speaking, reading and vocabulary. After he graduates next December, he plans to attend graduate school, and is considering doing so in Germany. "At this point I feel a little bit German," he said.
"It really means so much to me to have this opportunity. I feel quite blessed to be able to study exactly what I want, where I want and have it factor into my major. I feel the responsibility to represent both MCLA and the United States here in Germany."