Erica Lansberg ’14

Masters’ Candidate at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich Germany

I am currently studying for my Master’s at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany. My program is entitled “American History, Culture, and Society” and focuses on a transnational and interdisciplinary examination of the Americas. I chose this program because it enables me to continue my interests in History, language, and culture while studying in English. In Germany, there are no tuition fees for university (yes, really!). I wanted to stay in Europe after two years as a Fulbright Austria teaching assistant in Salzburg, where I went after graduating Williams in 2014.

At Williams I double majored in History and Arabic Studies with a Concentration in German. This gave me an interdisciplinary and international outlook, as well as valuable language skills that have enabled me to navigate life in another country. My studies have also provided new ways of connecting to the people and cultures of diverse places.

During my time at Williams, I knew I wanted to go abroad, but was unsure in which direction I wanted to head: the Middle East or Germany. I took the Winter Study course in Morocco my sophomore year, which was my first time in another country. I think this was probably a turning point in my life, when I realized how deep my wanderlust is, initially sparked by wandering through the markets and drinking wonderful mint tea in Morocco. I also took a summer Arabic program in Jordan after my sophomore year, but after that, the situation in many Middle Eastern countries got quite unstable.

Today, my Arabic is quite rusty, and I am far from the days when I could understand a whole class taught in Arabic, or make a presentation in Arabic. However, I have met many people in Germany and Austria who speak Arabic, especially recently arrived refugees. I have a few Syrian friends and amazingly, I can understand a bit when they speak dialect. We speak to each other in a confusing mix of German, English, and Arabic (I have my few rusty sentences and my friends really try to speak clear formal Arabic to me). I believe that it really changes the shape of a relationship when a person shows an interest in the other person’s language or culture, and it really provides a sort of deeper connection.

Overall, the Arabic program itself was incredibly rewarding. I really enjoyed how the major required taking courses from various subjects from history to literature to media to language. It was also great to have native speaker teaching assistants and to have the language lunch table, as well as many events about the region. In my History major, I focused on Middle Eastern History, where I worked a lot with the wonderful Professor Magnus Bernhardsson.

Bucket list for Arabic students (or anyone): go abroad! Williams makes it so easy, whether through study abroad or Winter Study programs. I went abroad as much as possible, because every time my worldview changed and I had life changing experiences that are just not possible being on the campus all the time. What was especially rewarding from these trips was meeting people and learning about their ways of living and their languages. I am grateful that these experiences have enabled me to make friends from all over the world. This is really something precious that our globalized age allows. Get out and explore!