Penn State Behrend’s German roots run deep. Ernst Behrend, the original owner of the property on which the college now sits, was of German descent. If he and his wife, Mary, who donated the property after his death, were here today, we feel certain they would be pleased to learn of the many links between the college and Ernst’s former homeland.
Here are a few examples of the viel (a German adjective meaning, much, a lot, many) ties that bind Behrend and Germany.
Dr. Ihab Ragai, assistant professor of engineering, established an engineering exchange program with Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences, and Behrend recently hosted its first Rosenheim student, Alois Kunschert, who took engineering and business courses this fall.
“I was born in South Africa and have traveled to six continents, but I had never been to North America, so I was excited to attend Behrend,” Kunschert said. “It’s a beautiful campus with very well-equipped engineering labs and great professors.”
Differences he noticed while attending college in the United States include the workload (more homework here), the number and frequency of tests and quizzes (Germans have only one final), and the informality of U.S. residents.
Kunschert’s time at Behrend came after Rosenheim had welcomed Behrend Mechanical Engineering major Jacklyn Niebauer, who studied in Germany in the spring of 2017.
“Right now, the student exchange with Rosenheim is a one-for-one program,” said Ruth Pflueger, Global Programs campus representative and director of the Learning Resource Center, which coordinates international experiences for students at Behrend, “so when Rosenheim hosted Jacklyn in the spring, Behrend welcomed Alois in the fall.”
Faculty members in Germany
Ragai’s association with Rosenheim University began in 2015 when he served as a guest lecturer over Thanksgiving break. Since then, he has been teaching courses during Rosenheim’s spring/summer semester.
Ragai, who earned his engineering degree in Munich, Germany, said he is excited to offer his Behrend students the same global experience he had.
“Germany is central in Europe and travel is very feasible,” he said. “Last year, I took my students to Croatia, Slovakia, and Austria. Teaching there is also fun and gives my students the opportunity to learn from and with students of a different culture. It creates an appreciation for diversity.”
Ragai recently received a research fellowship from the German government, and he was selected as one of twenty-four U.S. delegates to represent the National Science Foundation to its German counterpart, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, to strengthen the manufacturing collaboration between the two countries.
Faculty members in the Plastics Engineering Technology program often take students to Germany to tour manufacturing companies, visit German universities’ engineering labs, and attend trade shows.
“It’s an increasingly global business climate and students need to have insight into the culture and business practices of international partners,” said Jon Meckley, chair of the Plastics Engineering Technology program and associate professor of engineering. “There is much to be learned from seeing how others do it.”
Annalie Fitzgibbon, a senior Plastics Engineering Technology major, learned in early December that she would be spending her next semester in Germany. Fitzgibbon received a Gilman Scholarship, a competitive U.S. State Department grant, which is making her international experience possible.
Fitzgibbon, who is minoring in Operations and Supply Chain Management, left for Germany in March, which is the start of the spring semester at Rosenheim. She will be taking three business courses and an engineering course during her six-month stay.
“I’m really excited about traveling to Europe where there are so many countries within close proximity,” Fitzgibbon said. “I can take a train and be in a different country in a few hours. I look forward to embracing the culture.”
Many Behrend students do internships in Germany each year.
Last summer, Aimee Ozarchuk, a senior majoring in Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies and International Business, had a paid internship at Krones, a manufacturing facility in Rosenheim.
“It was the best experience of my life thus far,” Ozarchuk said. “It helped me realize the career path that I want to pursue.”
She enjoyed her time living abroad as well. “Germany is beautiful and the food is delicious,” she said. “Bicycling is very popular and the cities are set up to accommodate it. The majority of people bike wherever they are going. I was surprised at how well companies treat their employees and accommodate their personal lives.”
The experience not only confirmed for Ozarchuk that she was on the right path, but boosted her confidence.
“Working abroad really challenges you in new ways,” she said. “It helped me realize my potential. After my internship, I am confident in my ability to excel in my future career and positive that I want to work for an international company.”