Kellen Shirley, a junior physical and health education from Robertsdale, is one of seven students who participated in a two-week exchange program for the College of Health and Human Services in Germany. The students returned from Germany, along with two Troy professors on March 23, 2014.
“In order to truly understand your own cultures and beliefs, you must explore the way other cultures operate and view the way your culture works from the inside out,” Shirley said.
“We don’t always have everything right in America, and there’s room to improve,” said Jonathan Elrod, a senior physical and health education major from Wetumpka.
Elrod said that Americans have a lot that they can learn and teach to other countries, referring to his time spent in Germany.
This exchange, led by Mark Tillman of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, was the first in what is hopefully a long line of exchanges between Germany and Troy University.
“This is an annual exchange that flip-flops every year,” said Jonathan Elrod, a senior physical and health education major from Wetumpka. “So next year, German students should be coming here.”
The students who went on this exchange explained that it was not all about sitting in a classroom.
“I would say the majority of the trip was historical sight-seeing,” said Shannon Herold, a junior exercise science major from Smith Station. “Germany is famous for their castles.”
“We were basically the guinea pigs of the program, so we got to do a lot,” Elrod said. “We had about three days worth of lectures about how they run their programs then we toured different colleges.”
Some of the students who returned were keen to share the differences that they had noticed between American and German culture.
“Everyone is active in Germany,” said Elrod. “Everywhere they go they walk. A lot of older people ride bikes, so they are a lot healthier.”
“They are so resourceful,” Herald said. “They recycle everything. The city and the air was so clean, but they are not required to do so. They take pride in their country.”
The trip itself was not purely educational, but also served to make a lot of new memories for the students involved.
“I think overall, it’s just a great experience under many areas,” Herald said. “It was also the friendships we made; we probably made lifelong friends on this trip.”
Herold encourages students to consider study abroad opportunities at Troy, regardless of cost. She stresses the advantages of going abroad and learning the ways of life in another country.
She believes that the experience is priceless.
“It was very affordable,” Herold said. “Dr. Tillman got a grant from a family in Germany that paid for two years of exchanges, so we only had to pay about $600 each for our trip.”
Elrod also encourages more students to go on abroad trips because of the academic credits that students can be able to receive in addition to the cultural experiences.
“We were the guinea pigs, so we didn’t receive credit, but credits for this exchange will be offered in the future,” Elrod said.
Herald, Elrod and Shirley all agree that, if they had the opportunity, they would do the trip all over again.
“If I go back,” Elrod said, “I might not be coming back.”
“Everybody needs to spend time in another culture,” Shirley said, “to see that there is more out there and it’s always good to integrate other cultures and ideas into your life.”