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CDC director learns from German trip

When Nancy Paul saw an event titled “America’s Election Night: Party and Discussion” on her Fulbright Scholar Program itinerary, the Career Development Center director envisioned a small gathering with German faculty members.

What Paul witnessed was a large election party in the University of Freiburg’s student center that celebrated the election of a new U.S. president.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” she said. “They had a room comparable to our Mandela Room decorated in red, white and blue with pictures of Barack Obama and John McCain. It was amazing to see the level of interest in our election.”

That interest extended beyond the German universities, Paul said.

“I’d get in a cab and as soon as they saw I was from the United States, they’d say ‘Obama! Obama!’ and put their thumbs up.”

The election bash was just one of the highlights of Paul’s visit to Germany. She was one of 24 college officials (and the only one from New York) selected for Fulbright’s 2008 U.S.-Germany International Education Administrators Program.

The seminar, which took place from Oct. 25-Nov. 8, gave U.S. administrators an overview of higher education in Germany while offering connections to help further international initiatives. The presentations, tours and sessions took place in Berlin the first week. The participants then split into subgroups and Paul traveled to Freiburg and Cologne. Later, the groups reunited in Frankfurt.

Paul and the others learned that European countries are striving for a common university system that involves rewriting much of the curriculum for grades six and up and a growing emphasis on the bachelor’s degree.

“The bachelor’s degree is a lot more intense than here,” she said. “They don’t do the ‘gen-ed’ kind of things. It’s much more focused on the major.”

Career services also have grown during the past decade, and German educators were able to discuss career preparation and skill development with U.S. experts such as Paul during the subgroup sessions. One meeting at the University of Freiburg included insights from U.S. and German students.

Paul, whose previous international exchanges were in England and Norway, applied for the Fulbright grant in January and was selected in May. The grant paid for all of her expenses. Outside of the universities, Paul and the other Fulbright participants were treated to a Berlin Philharmonic concert. She found the German people to be “warm and welcoming.”

Paul returned home with several lessons.

“It’s given me a renewed desire to help students think seriously about studying abroad,” she said.

Many students express interest in an “international career,” Paul said. Whether or not they will actually live and work in another country, Paul stressed that all students need to prepare to work in a global economy. Through individual meetings with students as well as CDC programming, Paul will continue to pose questions and offer resources to address “What are you doing to develop your international competencies? Are you getting to know students from other cultures? Planning to study abroad? Are you studying languages? What can you do while you’re a student here to internationalize yourself?”

Paul also would like to see more Binghamton colleagues pursue international opportunities to increase their cross-cultural professional experiences.

“I would love to see more staff encouraged to do this and have some structured international exchange programs where they could spend whatever period of time learning and developing connections with colleagues in other countries,” she said.

Paul is pleased that she has developed a new network of colleagues in the United States and Germany, and also said she was pleased that she was able to promote the University and its international initiatives to others in new places.

“It’s another way to showcase Binghamton on the international scene,” she said.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08