By Nathan Saylors, BSCJ ’19
As a first-year undergraduate student enrolled in SPEA IUPUI, I did not expect to have the opportunity to travel halfway around the world for an educational program. The SPEA On the Rhine program focused on Public Policy and Administration. All five seminars revolved around the European Union as well as the acknowledgement of the different topics and situations from the German and the United States’ perspectives.
Our five-week program was stationed in the small town of Speyer, Germany, where we learned about international governance. English-speaking German professors taught most of the seminars in our program, and we also took classes with German students from the German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer. This allowed us to coexist with citizens of Germany and to break the cultural and language barriers that exist.
One class that I had the strongest bond with was with Professor Karl-Peter Sommermann, Chair of Public Law, Political Theory and Comparative Law at the German University of Administrative Sciences, in our U.S. and European Constitutional Law from a Comparative Perspective class.
In this particular seminar, the discussions focused on specific laws and court cases that set a precedent for a certain country. For example, after the rise of the Third Reich during World War II, Germany became extremely restrictive of telecommunication in fear of another dictator trying to convince people to buy into the same views of the Nazi party. This incident was considered the “television case” of Germany in 1961, which then gave specific regulations that Germany had to follow in order to have any form of acceptable broadcasting privileges. Throughout the seminar, we analyzed the reasoning behind these regulations.
Personally, this seminar helped me understand why countries are the way they are and the steps they had to take to make their country more stable. I am pursuing a dream of joining a federal agency for homeland security/national security, and having this seminar under my belt helped me better understand European countries as a whole as well as making myself think more critically about the legal foundations of the United States.
During the program, we visited extremely important institutions of the EU throughout our stay in Europe. We visited the Council of Europe, European Central Bank, the European Commission, European Committee of the Regions, and the European Parliament. We also took day trips to Frankfurt and Heidelberg. At every stop we learned how each institution specializes in specific areas of propelling the EU and learned about the importance of collaboration of surrounding countries.
At the end of each week, students had the opportunity to explore Europe with a group or on their own. Our group visited the following places: Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Malta, and many other places. On one of our three-day weekends, I visited the historical site of the Holocaust, Auschwitz-Birkenau — one of the saddest place I’ve ever visited in my life.
Now that our program has ended, I look back on the hundreds of memories created with my professors and classmates to share with my friends and family. Never in my life would I have ever dreamed of having the opportunity to travel the world and take classes in a different country other than my own.
I am from the small town of Converse, Indiana, and those who do know Converse can say it is a community in which our neighbors look after each other. While I was in Speyer, Germany, it reminded me of home: a small community, small population, small amount of recognition, and a big welcoming heart to a stranger that will forever consider Speyer as a home away from home. There is never enough time to visit every place you wish to go, but with an experience as magnificent as SPEA Study Abroad, the wonderful memories and experiences will last a lifetime.