Scott Copeland at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.
Research Across Borders
Scott Copeland time in Germany didn’t just help him improve his language skills—it also helped him shape his senior thesis.
A sociology major from Fort Mill, South Carolina, Copeland is researching the German-speaking population of Belgium and their sense of European, national, and regional identity in the midst of an environment with significant multicultural influences.
During his time studying at the Carl Duisberg Institute in Cologne, he noticed abundant cultural differences.
“I was surprised by how reserved the Germans are about nationalistic issues,” he said. “You don’t see German flags very often, and you don’t hear people speak about how proud they are to be German, just because of their history with the rest of the world, and Europe in particular.”
Since returning to the U.S., the senior said, that type of cultural knowledge has caused him to be a more informed observer of international political and social issues—including Germany’s lead role in welcoming refugees fleeing civil war in Syria.
“I feel like I can understand why they’re willing to take in so many immigrants,” Copeland said. “From what I experienced, that was the kind of society they want to promote—a very open, very nondiscriminatory, very liberal society.”
Beyond his thesis, Copeland—who has a minor in business economics—hopes to remain attuned to German and European issues and cultures, whether academically or personally.
“It’s definitely something that I want to continue to be involved with throughout the rest of my life,” he said.
Ready to Return
Though their experiences varied greatly, a near constant amongst SLA participants is a desire to return to their host countries.
Copeland is currently writing his senior thesis and hopes to return to Europe eventually, either in pursuit of another academic degree or in his career.
The students agreed that their SLA experiences have made an impact on their studies at Notre Dame as well. For Nwadiuko, China remains on his mind as he continues his pre-health coursework.
“I think about how this is actually playing out in the place that I just came from, and how I will be able to use this if I go back,” he said. “Establishing a passion for the place in my heart has enabled me to study more passionately right now.”
Shortened version, originally published by Tessa Bangs at al.nd.edu on December 02, 2015.