I first laid eyes on the Max Kade German Residence, back in its previous location in Baits II, as a high school senior. I was trying to decide where to live on campus in the fall, and scheduled a brief tour with then-head resident Stacy Swennes. Stacy showed me around the building, introduced me to a few of the other residents, and told me about the study abroad trips to Germany. By the time I walked out of the building, my mind was made up, and no amount of dire warnings from my older friends about the horrors of living on North Campus could deter me.

After I moved in the following fall, I soon met people who would become some of my best friends throughout college, and even to the present day, through the Kade program. The Kade Haus gave me both a social and an academic network from day one. I only ended up minoring in German, so I did not spend as much time in the Modern Languages Building as many of my housemates, but this just made the Kade house all the more valuable to my experience. The opportunities to practice my German around the dorm and to engage more deeply with German culture helped me engage with my German studies in a much deeper way than most people get with their minor.

Best of all, though, were the study abroad trips to Europe.  My freshman year the trip fell through, but after that, we went to Berlin, Munich, and Vienna in successive years. I still tell friends stories of getting stranded with friends at Ostbahnhof in Berlin after the trains stopped running (the words “nicht einsteigen” have a very sinister feel in the wee hours of the morning, several miles from the youth hostel!) and the time we got forty or fifty people in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich to start singing “Hail to the Victors!” 

Encountering German and Austrian culture, with the foundation in conversational German that the Kade program was able to provide was an unmatched experience that I have carried with me ever since.

Since leaving Michigan, I have gone on to complete a Master’s degree at the University of Notre Dame and a PhD at the Catholic University of America, both in the area of Early Christian Studies. I work especially on the development of Christian monasticism in the fourth and fifth centuries, and love nothing more than teaching undergraduates about the history and thought of the early Church. I still use my German skills in research from time to time, but the bigger imprint my experience in the Kade program left on me lies in the way I learned to understand and appreciate a foreign culture and country. Both as a historian and as citizen, I can think of few skills that seem more practical to me today than that. I am deeply grateful to the Kade program for providing me with a community dedicated to developing that appreciation.  I hope that it will continue to do so for new students for many years to come.

Max Kade Haus in Baits II (Photo credit: Ryan McKown)
Sean back on campus for the Penn State game with his dad. Photo credit: Bertley Moberg.