University of Southern Indiana

Trading Spaces

by John Michael O'Leary

“I was impressed by the smaller class sizes at USI,” says Dag Grothe, graduate business student from Osnabrück, Germany. “When I began my studies in Germany, we had 800 students in one class. Here, it’s easier to ask questions in class and get help from the professor outside class.”

Grothe plans to complete his MBA at UO with a specialization in accounting next February. During the 2019 fall semester, as an exchange student at USI, he took three accounting classes and a course in English. He is studying this semester in Thailand. “I think the more international experience I get, the better my job opportunities will be.”

While at USI, Grothe taught in the German language lab, competed in intramural basketball and volleyball and got involved in campus ministry. It all helped him feel connected to the school’s social fabric. “In three years of study at home, I knew few if any of my fellow students,” says Grothe. “After a semester at USI, I know all the faces, if not all the names.”

Perhaps the biggest difference Grothe noticed at USI is the way students are graded. “I had no homework in Germany, and no one takes attendance. You have one exam that accounts for 100 percent of your grade. At USI I had homework in every class. Attendance is expected. And if you work hard all through the semester, the final is not so critical for your grade.”

Grothe also saw differences in how Germany and the United States fund education. “Students don’t pay tuition in Germany, because education is supported by the government. At home I pay about $400 a semester for a public transportation ticket and $300 for rent. I rent textbooks for free at the library. My meals, which include a main dish and three sides, are about $4 each.”

Grothe plans to someday work as a corporate controller or for a consultancy firm, and he believes his studies at USI will serve him well. “Understanding the differences in accounting standards between the United States and Germany will be especially useful if I work for a company that has to prepare different financial statements for foreign operations.”

“I enjoyed my time in Evansville. I met a lot of nice people. I would certainly consider an internship here.”

-Dag Grothe, exchange student, Osnabrück, Germany

Dag and William

Dag, left, and William on the quad on the USI campus

Evansville native William Elfreich is a junior at USI with a double major in marketing and finance. As a recipient of a twin cities scholarship, he attended the International Summer Language School during August and September at the University of Applied Sciences in Osnabrück. He was one of about 90 international students to take part.

“My ancestry is mainly German,” says Elfreich. “Studying in Osnabrück not only helped me with my foreign language skills, it was a chance to learn more about my family’s heritage.”

The course required five hours of daily classroom work, Monday through Friday. Weekends brought the chance to take in Germany’s culture, and Elfreich joined fellow students on instructor-led tours of Bremen, Münster and Berlin.

“The German people are friendly,” says Elfreich. “They open up when you get to know them. And there’s a strong sense of community—you see lots of people gathered in coffee shops and out walking. The [cities] are designed for people to walk . . . you don't have to drive everywhere and worry about getting gas or fighting traffic. When you do want to travel, you find the public transportation systems are well developed.”

Upon completion of the language program, Elfreich took advantage of being in Europe to backpack solo for 2 1/2 weeks. At the same time, he was taking USI classes online. “I had to make sure my hostel or inn had wifi so I could keep up with coursework.”

Elfreich plans to graduate in spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance. This semester, his studies include a sales internship with State Farm. “Sales skills and the ability to talk to people will be helpful in any part of life.”

Reflecting on his time in Germany, the thing that clings most to memory is the human connections.

“I think what was most valuable for me was interacting with fellow students,” says Elfreich. “I made lifelong friends from China and Japan, from Algeria, Brazil, Columbia and the UK . . . and now I want to visit all those places.”

“Studying in Osnabrück not only helped me with my foreign language skills, it was a chance to learn more about my family's heritage.”

-William Elfreich, junior, marketing and finance

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