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Julia Siegle just returned home from five months in Tübingen, Germany, where she studied politics and German language at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. A junior in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy who’s been studying the German language for six years, Julia jumped at the opportunity to expand her worldview and gain a global policy perspective in the picturesque German university town.
Julia’s semester abroad was made possible by the Wilhelm and Mary Seeger Scholarship Fund, of which she was the first recipient.
“My grandparents are German immigrants who come from the region where I was studying, and I was also able to visit their hometown,” said Julia. “I’m so grateful to the Seegers for this opportunity to connect my studies with my family’s roots.”
A Devotion To German Study
Bill (A.B. German, 1959) and Mary Seeger committed their careers to the study of German and Slavic languages and culture. Together with several other young faculty in 1965, they established the Foreign Language Study Program at the newly-opened Grand Valley State University (GVSU). Passionate about introducing the German language and culture to American students, the Seegers were also instrumental in developing GVSU’s International Studies Program, which sent its first student to Germany in 1967. Bill and Mary remained at GVSU until they retired as emeritus faculty in 2006 and 2005, respectively.
The Seegers' pride in their ongoing educational legacy inspired them to endow funds at their various alma maters in support of study abroad and internship opportunities for undergraduate students in German speaking countries.
Julia says, "When you become friends with a German, you’ll most likely be friends for life."
Moving to a new country alone and navigating an entire immersive semester in German, Julia developed a newfound sense of independence and fearlessness.
“After two months—and more trips to the Tübingen McDonald’s than I’d like to admit—Tübingen began to feel like home, which I never thought would happen on day one,” she says. “I’ve seen a huge change in myself; I’ve become more open to people, opportunities, and the idea that life really is what you make of it.”
The experience was transformative for Julia in more ways than one. In addition to a feeling of ease in the world-at-large and a much stronger grasp of the German language, Julia was also inspired by Germany’s commitment to sustainability and environmentally friendly policies.
“At first I found their environmental efforts and trash systems excessively complex, but now I honestly think that we as Americans can learn so much from Germans about making small lifestyle changes to protect our planet,” Julia reflects. “I’m definitely a lot more conscious of my impact on the world since returning back to the States.”
Julia’s already looking for an opportunity to return to Germany.
“This past semester abroad showed me that the world really is so small. Germany itself is such a beautiful country with such a rich history, but the people I met are what made the trip so meaningful,” she notes. “Now, I’m looking into different internships and graduate school programs in Germany. This trip has given me so many more ideas for what my future could look like.”
We are deeply saddened that Mary Seeger, retired dean and professor emerita of modern languages and literatures at GVSU, passed away in June 2019. Her lifelong contributions and support of the study of German language lives on through this special endowment.
“I have fond memories of connecting with Mary over her and Wilhelm’s interest in sustaining German studies,” says Johannes von Moltke, professor of German and Film, Media & Television, and former chair of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. “Mary’s spirit was infectious: she was full of anecdotes about her life and love for things German and Scandinavian, and a wonderful, welcoming partner in wide-ranging conversation.”