The “German for Students of Classical Studies” (GSCS) program hosted online by the University of Cologne has posed quite the constructive challenge. Never before have I had to combine my major, Classics, and minor, German, so intimately. For hours daily, my fellow program participants, coming from all over Europe and North America, and I have learned and practiced advanced grammatical concepts and vocabulary that researchers frequently encounter in German academic scholarship in the field of Classics. The assignments hitherto have been unflaggingly challenging, exercising comprehension, composition, as well as conversation.
The GSCS program has not only improved my German, however. In addition to the advanced language classes, the participants and I have attended lectures both specifically designed for us German learners as well as those for traditional students studying Classics at the University of Cologne. Lecture topics have been varied, ranging from the philological scholarship on the ancient Greek poet Homer to the archaeological scholarship on the Roman foundations of the German cities of Cologne in North Rhine-Westphalia and Trier in Rhineland-Palatinate. The philological lectures have been delivered from different members of the faculty and staff, each presenting introductory information on their specific Greek or Latin specialty. The archaeological lectures would traditionally be accompanied by museum tours and fieldtrips to the several ancient Roman ruins strewn throughout the city of Cologne, or rather Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, the city’s ancient Roman name. The faculty and staff, however, have masterfully put together virtual tours for our benefit in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-fluctuating restrictions on European travel this summer. Thanks to the great variety of research carried out at the University of Cologne, I have been introduced to the German approach to several subdisciplines within the field of Classics, such as papyrology. The university’s large papyrus collection, having been catalogued online, has been the source of fascinating presentations from the department’s papyrologists.
Near the GSCS program’s conclusion, I will be presenting my research on medicine and politics in Plato’s Republic in German. I have discussed and written on this topic extensively, in preparation of my undergraduate thesis and presentation at the next FSU President’s Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence, but never have I done so in any language other than English. Having to think about ancient philosophy and medicine from the ground up in German will force me to look at my research from a different and refreshing perspective, which is one of the many boons of learning a new language. After this presentation, the GSCS program will be formally concluded with a German language exam. Taking the results of the entrance exam into consideration, the results of the final exam will gauge improvement and will serve as a form of proof of German language competency, backed by the University of Cologne and a huge advantage in my applications to graduate programs in Classics.
Though European travel restrictions forced the University of Cologne to move the GSCS program to an online format in the early summer, Germany has since started to permit entry to American travelers. For this reason, I plan on continuing and solidifying my German language progress in Germany, granting myself the complete language immersion the traditional GSCS program would have allowed me in Cologne. I have chosen to travel to the capital of Germany, Berlin, in which I will participate in an advanced German course, visit the many museums the city holds (such as the Pergamonmuseum, which exhibits the world famous Antikensammlung), and continue to work on my research. Thanks to the David B. Ford Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award, my future research and bibliographies will be all the more robust, and I will finally have the chance to see Europe.