Alexandra Scalise

Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
Home Institution: 
Washington & Jefferson College
Heinz Programming Area: 
Study Abroad Country: 
International Experience

As a Vira Heinz Scholarship recipient, Alexandra traveled to Berlin, Germany for 6.5 weeks. Throughout her trip, Alexandra took courses that engaged in German history, politics, and the language. These classes not only helped her better understand the language, but also took her through a timeline of Germany’s very rich history. In this course, she visited the many museums and memorials that the city had to offer while learning how German citizens remember their past. These museums weren't ones that just had her read information, but rather had her understanding what it felt like to be in Germany during the given time periods. Her main interest and final project during her stay revolved around the former East German culture, politics, and history with a focus on how the country remembers it today. She studied the tactics of the former Soviet government, while looking at it from a former East German point of view. To do this, she used the first hand resources around her. For example, she visited many museums that gave an insight on the past by showing artifacts and real life accounts and interviewed people who were citizens themselves. These citizens were everyday citizens she could sit in the park with and talk to. This is where most of her experiences in Germany stemmed from. This, in turn, helped her to establish new connections and learn about Germany from a new standpoint. Alex also had the opportunity to visit popular sites such as the parliament building, a former Stasi prison, one of Europe’s largest synagogues, and one of Europe’s oldest Jewish cemeteries. During her visit at the synagogue, she engaged in a conversation with a holocaust victim and had the opportunity to attend a Jewish service. Here she learned of a firsthand account from the tragic past and the consequences today as the victim poured his heart out. These sites gave her a real life feeling of the past. In her free time, she enjoyed traveling through the city on the U-bahn while simply watching how an everyday German went about his or her life. She also took advantage of trying new foods on every street corner. Alex lived with three German families in an apartment building, a popular lifestyle in Germany known as “shared housing” or “flat share.” Here she ate dinner with them almost every night and shared many evenings speaking only German with their seven year old daughter. She even learned how to make potato bug families with her while speaking solely in German. Alex was able to grasp an understanding of what it means to be a “Berliner,” attain her goal of having casual conversations in German, and form many bonds with family and friends. 


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