A Brief Introduction

Since I’ll be writing this blog for a while, I should probably briefly introduce myself. As can be easily inferred from my URL, my name is Noah Bridges. I’m from Clinton, Mississippi and I’m currently a freshman at OU. As this blog indicates, I’m interested in studying abroad. As much as I’d like to say that’s all you need to know about me, I should expand on these ideas and describe myself a little more. As far as my academic interests are concerned, I love math, and most things related to math. I’m currently majoring in industrial and systems engineering, with the intent to minor in math. Just to briefly discuss my hobbies, I enjoy reading all kinds of books, but especially science fiction, such as Frank Herbert’s Dune series, and classic literature from the 19th and 20th centuries. Besides reading, I’m also a big fan of napping, watching Netflix, and eating; all common loves of most college students. But my passion is CrossFit. I’ve done CrossFit for five years, since I was 14 years old, and I have been coaching at various gyms for almost two years. Currently I work at Koda CrossFit Norman, and I probably spend more time there than anywhere besides my dorm room.

However, since the primary purpose of this blog is to chronicle my journeys abroad, I’ll talk about why I want to study abroad. It all goes back to the summer of 2013, when a German student stayed with my family over the summer holidays. He wasn’t an exchange student exactly – my dad and his father worked together on some projects, and Konstantin wanted to visit the U.S. As a result, he ended up staying with us for the summer of 2013 and part of the summer of 2014. This was my first legitimate exposure to someone from another country, and it was a great experience. We had a great time, discovering a mutual love of great hamburgers (and food in general) and indulging in lazy afternoons by my grandparents’ pool, among many other fun activities. But more importantly, we traveled through large swaths of the country that I had never before seen, such as the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Because of this incredible experience with Konstantin, it launched a desire to study abroad. This has remained to the present, and next fall my plan is to spend a semester in Italy, at OU’s campus in Arezzo. Hopefully, if circumstances work out, I’ll be able to visit Konstantin and his family while I’m in Europe.


The OU German Club

As a part of my requirements for the Global Engagement Fellowship Program, I decided to join the OU German Club, since I am currently learning German and am interested in studying abroad in Germany at some point during my time at OU. The German Club puts on a variety of events related to culture, politics, and life in Germany. One of these events is the weekly Stammtisch, where students and faculty meet at House 333 on Campus Corner in Norman to discuss ideas and current events. Additionally, my favorite event I attended this semester was the event where the OU German Club hosted Dr. Stefan Buchwald, an official in the German Information Department, a branch of the German Embassy in the United States. He discussed the immigration crisis of 2015-2016 as well as its effect in the 2017 German Election. It was an enlightening event, to actually have an individual who lived in Germany offer his insights into the events about which I had read a great deal. The German Club is an excellent resource for enhancing one’s learning of the German language, because it offers events in which one can actually speak the language with others as well as informational sessions, such as the event at which Dr. Buchwald presented. However, the German Club is not limited simply to cultural concerns. At an event I was unfortunately unable to attend, a student named Erik Flom presented, exclusively in German, on the work he had done in Griefswald, Germany at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics.

Beyond anything else, joining the OU German Club is an incredible chance to enhance your learning by immersing yourself in some aspects of German culture and connecting with other individuals who share your interest in German culture and studying the German language.

All About Germany

A Continuing Discussion of the German Election and Immigration Crisis

In an event hosted by the OU German Club, Dr. Stefan Buchwald, a career diplomat who currently works at the German Information Center for the United States (based out of the German Embassy to the U.S.) discussed the immigration crisis of 2015 and 2016 and how this event impacted the most recent German election. By way of introduction, the immigration crisis has dramatically impacted German politics and the German state as a whole. It is an ongoing issue, but one that is steadily improving. I have already discussed some of the background to both the immigration crisis and the election in a previous post, so I’ll dive straight in to Dr. Buchwald’s analysis in this post.

First, it can be difficult for those of us in America to fully grasp the magnitude of the immigration crisis in Germany. To begin, although only having a landmass the size of Montana, Germany has a population of approximately 82 million. This is a much more densely populated area than virtually any large area in the United States. Additionally, over the period of time from 2015-2016, nearly 2 million refugees rushed to Germany seeking asylum; at the peak of this influx, 12,000 or more people entered Germany daily. Despite the magnitude of the crisis, Prime Minister Angela Merkel chose to keep the borders open for humanitarian reasons. As a result of this decision, the massive influx of refugees has caused a variety of difficulties for Germany. These difficulties are based around two primary issues: finding a place for the migrants to live and successfully integrating them into German society.

The first challenge, caring for the immigrants, was most challenging at the height of the crisis in 2016. During this time, when 12,000 or so immigrants entered the country daily, the German government, despite transporting immigrants all across the country, could barely find sufficient housing. But the migrants needed more than homes. They needed jobs to provide for themselves and other necessities. Caring for the refugees is an ongoing challenge for the German government; however, as the migrants become more self-sufficient and integrated into the German culture, this challenge becomes progressively less substantial.

The second issue, integrating the immigrants into society, has also been a significant challenge for the German government. When she allowed the migrants to continue entering Germany, Merkel acknowledged that there are “expectations” associated with immigration. Namely, that the migrants will learn German and obey German laws. In a word, they will integrate into German society. The German government has tried to make this transition easy, providing immigrants with classes to teach them the language and assisting them in finding jobs to help them develop autonomy. Although there have been distinct costs and difficulties associated with immigration, the immigrants have contributed significantly to German’s workforce, which, prior to the massive influx of immigrants, had been steadily aging.

Moving on to the German election, it is undeniable that the crisis shaped the outcome of the election. Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) experienced a dramatic boost in popularity because of the immigration crisis. Despite their meteoric rise, Dr. Buchwald expressed his hope that their popularity would be short-lived and they would fade to the background in future elections. He also asserted that they would gain more support the more that fear and the doctrine of isolationism is propagated throughout Germany. Additionally, Dr. Buchwald expressed his belief that AfD would not accomplish anything meaningful in the legislature, given that every other party represented in the Bundestag (the German parliament) is opposed to their ideals.

To conclude, the immigration crisis in Germany is a complex and multi-faceted issue that will undoubtedly have significant repercussions as time goes on. Despite the controversial nature of some of Chancellor Merkel’s decisions, the situation continues to improve as the German economy stabilizes and the state continues to integrate migrants. While the election was significantly impacted by the immigration crisis, Dr. Buchwald is hopeful that these changes will not be permanent. The German Immigration Crisis is not over – but the future ahead is bright for Germany.