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German language, culture program takes students to Regensburg

October 30, 2012

The School of International Letters and Cultures’ study abroad programs are among the longest running and most prestigious at Arizona State University. Founded in 1981, and directed by knowledgeable, world-class faculty, the programs offer students the opportunity to experience and study international humanities and learn languages firsthand while earning credit toward their degree.

For the 27th consecutive year the School is offering “German Language and Culture in Regensburg,” a faculty-directed summer study abroad program in Regensburg, Germany, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that noted British architect Lord Norman Foster called “one of the most beautiful in the world.” 

Regensburg has been one of Tempe’s eight worldwide sister cities since 1976, exhibiting a successful relationship predating the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Sister City Corporation encourages cross-cultural cooperation and collaboration, sending students, educators and professionals abroad to promote international goodwill and cultural understanding. 

“Without the support of the Regensburg Sister City Corporation, this program would be much more expensive and not nearly as rich in cultural experience,” says faculty director John Alexander, who created the five-week program in 1986 in cooperation with the Tempe Sister City Corporation.

Located on the confluence of three rivers (Danube, Naab and Regen), Regensburg prides itself on its 2000-year-old history. Founded by the Romans in 179 A.D., the city retains medieval features such as dark, narrow cobblestone streets, Romanesque and Gothic churches, Italianate towers, and massively solid 16th-century patrician houses.

Regensburg served as the political seat of the Holy Roman Empire until 1806. Today the city is comparable to Tempe in population, and as a modern, thriving university town that hums non-stop with a multitude of daily activities.

Former participant David Natko found the setting moving, calling Regensburg “a truly romantic city with much to offer…Everyone who goes there seems to fall in love with it.” 

Students in the program are housed within the walls of the old city in the Hotel am Peterstor, which is located a short walk from the train station, banks, grocery stores, and coffee shops.

Students take seven credit hours of language and culture courses consisting of three or four credits of second-, third- or fourth-year German, and three or four credits of popular German culture, which is taught in English and required of all students. The classes are held at the Pindl and the Goethe Gymnasium (secondary school) with generous support from directors Barbara Neumann Trüb and Franz Feldmeier respectively.

The rigorous coursework is supplemented by four field trips outside the city. Students visit the metropolis of Munich, Bavaria, home to many of the most famous museums and collections of European art in the world. They also make day trips to Neuschwanstein to visit a castle set against the stunning background of the Bavarian Alps, to the world-renowned Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg, to Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, and finally to the fortress of Hohensalzburg, which holds the distinction of never having been conquered.

About his experience participant Russel Roefer says, “this trip was truly exciting because we had personal tour guides in our great teachers" who have been leading the program for nearly thirty years.

In addition to field trips outside the city, students go on a guided tour of the Thurn-and-Taxis palace in Regensburg, home of the family that founded the postal system, a boat trip on the Danube to the temple of Valhalla, which contains busts of the most famous Germans, and, depending on availability, a tour of a local BMW factory. Students also enjoy a visit to a local brewery, and an evening filled with polka music and Bavarian dance.

“What I specifically liked about Regensburg was the beautiful aesthetics I was surrounded with daily,” says Marissa Grondin, “I greatly enjoyed the 15-minute walk through town to the Gymnasium, where I attended classes. I was so inspired just being surrounded by the German language, the smells of German food drifting from café windows, and the sight of cobblestone streets and all the greenery. The classes were great, the excursions were awesome, and the friends and memories I made are unforgettable.”

Alexander believes strongly that a study-abroad component is absolutely necessary for anyone who seeks to master a different language and culture. He points out how motivating such a trip is for students who are usually among the best in their German classes after they return. In addition, such an experience can be a major factor for a future employer deciding between two equally qualified job candidates.

Grondin agrees, “Traveling to Regensburg was the opportunity of a lifetime. Not only did my language skills improve tenfold, but I gained a better understanding of myself through learning about Germany’s amazing culture. I strongly encourage every student who has the opportunity to travel abroad to do so.”

For more information contact Alexander at

Applications accepted through the ASU Study Abroad Office.

The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.