"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." — Amelia Earhart (the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic)
Amelia Earhart knew that "adventure" is a verb, and that adventuring is itself enough. In Summer 2013, with the support of the Dean's Fund for Study Abroad, the Department of English, and the Program in Judaic Studies, I had the privilege to combine adventure with education.
As I left Princeton, I steadied myself for my journey: I planned to enroll in an intermediate-level German course at the Freie Universität Berlin, and then use my language skills to facilitate my work as a genealogist’s research assistant, where I translate and transcribe the family histories of German and Polish Jews. Besides awaking 45 minutes late, dousing myself in hot steam (due to an improperly set espresso machine), losing my way and asking for directions (twice), and ripping my new white dress, my first day at my summer course was a success. The afternoon's placement exam set me at one level above my initial plan, and the following four weeks turned into a rigorous schedule of daily homework assignments, weekly writing assignments, two essays, two oral presentations, a large group project, and two exams. The experience was incredibly immersive, as I worked hard to make every word from my mouth be a German one. The course was a challenge, and I knew that it was exactly where I needed to be.
It was not only the six hours in the classroom every weekday that transformed my German. Thanks to the torrent of chatter in the U-Bahn (Berlin's subway), the talkative passerby in smart footwear and leather bags, and the Wurst and Döner vendors shouting on the street, I learned the language through experience, through osmosis. In a city as busy as Berlin, I learned to speak quickly, and firmly, and loudly — through living there, my fluency became stronger, and more confident.
This fluency has proven to be relevant for my professional work. Since my visit to Berlin, my work as a freelance researcher for the Museum of Jewish Heritage (NYC) has felt richer. The genealogist at the head of these projects has continued to present papers at conferences in the States, and our projects are growing. I've learned that I am most successful when my work begins with a bit of adventure — whether abroad, or at home.
~ Jeanette Beebe ‘14
© 2014 Princeton Traveler