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PROFILE: Christine Montgomery
German Immersion Pays Off in Language Skills, Experience

Date: Feb. 19, 2001
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Archive: Profiles Archive

Christine MontgomeryChristine Montgomery studied German for years in junior and senior high school, but none of those lessons came close to matching what she learned in UC's education abroad program that flew her to Munich for three weeks in summer 2000.

The UC College of Business Administration senior participated in the Munich Summer Program led by Cordelia Stroinigg, professor of Germanic languages and literatures. Like all 12 of the undergraduates enrolled in the program, Montgomery had to sign a pledge to refrain from speaking English whenever the travelers were together. "And if Professor Stroinigg caught us speaking English, we had to pay her 50 cents in German money as a fine."

But Montgomery, whose only other travel experiences prior to the Munich trip took her briefly to Tijuana, Mexico, and Windsor, Canada, never had to pay up on any fines.

In NurembergWhen it came to money for the trip as a whole -- the flight, lodging and meals -- the marketing and international business major didn't have much to worry about either. Including the tuition students paid to UC for the summer session, participants paid less than $2,000 out of pocket for meals, entrance fees, housing, etc. Montgomery and the rest of her undergraduate fellow travelers each received grants from the UC Institute for Global Studies and Affairs to cover up to $739 for roundtrip airfare. Many students also received additional UC grants. For example, Montgomery won a scholarship from the German department to help cover some of the expenses.

"It was an opportunity that just fell into my lap. I would never have thought about going, because of the expense, but a friend of mine told me that he'd gone with the program and money wouldn't be a problem."

The 1997 Northwest High School graduate (Cincinnati) says now she's thrilled she didn't miss the chance to travel to Munich with UC. She learned so much about German culture, architecture, history and art by seeing it all firsthand. Highlights of the overseas program for her were:

  • an excursion to Salzburg.
  • a trip to the famous Castle Neuschwanstein, the model for the Disney castle.
  • learning about the German monarchy.
  • visiting the home of Albrecht Durer (one of her favorite artists).
  • touring beautiful churches filled with significant artworks and history.

And these were just a few of the attractions she loved. "I really could go on and on," she said. "It's hard to describe how wonderful this program was and just how much we learned... I have a lot of gratitude toward Dr. Stroinigg and the UC staff who worked hard to get us the funding to go and to especially Dr. Stroinigg, who took and taught the students on our program."

A typical day for Montgomery would begin when the owner of her bed and breakfast, or "pension," awakened her, her roommate and two other UC classmates for breakfast. After eating and talking with Frau Mäser, she and the other three students had to find their way to the subway station to meet up with the rest of the UC group. They devoted mornings to cultural field trips. After lunch they spent two to three hours in the classroom with Professor Stroinigg and a teacher from Germany. Evenings were for homework and free time.

Montgomery poses at the AlpsMontgomery was surprised to learn that the cliché -- you'll learn more when you go to the country in person -- proved true. "I learned a lot more phrases. The rate I learned over there was a lot faster than in the classroom here."

The key to learning a foreign language abroad is to be "confident" and "not be afraid to make an idiot of yourself," she advised.

Montgomery had her share of linguistic missteps at first. On one of her first night outings, she and her companions had trouble ordering a "typical German" pretzel. It turned out that the German pronunciation for pretzel in that region was slightly different from what they had learned previously. "It was a difference in German regional language cultures," Montgomery said. "That is something that can't be taught to you in the classroom. You have to experience it. Once we got the dialect down, we were fine!"

By the end of the trip, the "language immersion" paid off even more. At first, there were plenty of red marks for corrections in the journal Stroinigg required her students to turn in every day. But in the last couple of weeks, Montgomery's language skills improved so much that the red marks in the journal nearly disappeared altogether. "It was incredible. For once I was actually looking forward to getting my papers back," she said.

She feels triumphant about a shopping trip she took to buy a hat for her dad, near the end of the program. This time, she knew enough of the language to have a lengthy conversation with a shop worker who didn't know a single word of English. She was even able to make a joke and laugh with her, about the size of hat that she needed to purchase. "I said, 'my dad has a really big dad has a really big head. And she said, 'Why don't you try it on?' So I answered, 'I guess I have a really big head, too.'" The clerk then replied that big heads mean you're intelligent. So Montgomery quipped, "Yes, I always tell people that."

At medieval fortOne little joke, but she considers it a major accomplishment. "Being able to carry on a conversation and to communicate a joke felt even better than getting my journal back with just a little bit of red on it."

Now with one international study trip worth six credit hours logged on her passport and UC transcripts, she's eager for more. Montgomery has already signed up to go to Linz, Austria, with a CBA undergraduate trip in September. UC students interested in the German-only program in Munich can travel abroad even sooner. Another Munich program is planned for summer 2001, from June 14 to July 6, led by Eckard Rademann, adjunct professor of German. For more information, contact Rademann at (513) 556-2752 or e-mail him at

To view previous profiles from UC, go to the profiles archive.

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