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Laura Campbell '12

Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner Tackles Online Journalism in Germany

Hometown: Greenwood, Virginia

Majors: German Literature and Philosophy

Minor: Creative Writing

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • German Club
  • 2009 and 2010 Generalprobe (German theatre
  • 2010 Poetry Symposium at VMI

Off-Campus Experiences: I spent Spring Term 2009 (the last six-week Spring term) in Germany, mostly in Bavaria.

Why did you apply for the Johnson Opportunity Grant? I applied because I really wanted work experience in Germany. My previous trip was amazing, but it felt more like tourism. I wanted to stay longer, speak more German, and really immerse myself in the everyday working world of modern Germany.

How does your work under the grant apply to your studies at W&L? I never would have guessed that I could find an internship that would apply so perfectly to my studies!  Working for a private sponsorship organization has definitely presented me with the opportunity to think about the ethical questions and problems I've explored in Philosophy courses. Not only that, but I get to think about these issues in relation to modern German culture, thereby learning about the current prevailing ethical mindset in Germany. Furthermore, I get to write about it, in German. There couldn't be a more perfect position for me.

What has been the most unexpected aspect of your grant experience so far? I definitely did not expect that my internship would give me the chance to take so many interesting field trips and work outside the office. I got to travel to Berlin for a weekend, and I got to see a German baseball team in Cologne. In a few days I'm going to interview the attendees of an anime convention here in Bonn, which promises to be highly entertaining...

Post-Graduation Plans: Don't know yet. Possibly some sort of master's work here in Germany. Hopefully publishing novels.

Favorite W&L Memory: Meeting Bernhard Schlink when he visited campus my freshman year is one of the many.

Favorite Class: This is impossible to pick! Favorites have included: 20th century German Lit with Professor Crockett, Kierkegaard with Professor Sessions, Metaethics with Professor Smith, Poetry with Professor Miranda, Political Philosophy with Professor Velasquez, and pretty much all of my courses in the German department. I honestly can't think of a single "bad" course that I've taken here.

Favorite W&L Activity: I love Generalprobe. I'm hardly an actress, but it's been such a rewarding and exciting experience both years that I've participated.

Favorite Campus and Lexington Landmarks: The fitness center, the wooded area behind Wilson Hall and the Healthy Foods Market. Oh, and also that plaque on Washington Street that marks the spot where "Absolutely Nothing Happened."


Laura Campbell applied for a Johnson Opportunity Grant to intern with the Germany Hands-On program in Bonn, Germany. Campbell is a double major in German language and philosophy with a minor in creative writing from Greenwood, Va. She studied abroad in Bavaria, Germany, during a W&L Spring Term program in 2009 and hopes to return to Germany for another term abroad, as well as for post-graduate study. Campbell has been involved with the Generalprobe German theater program at W&L, participating in the group's productions for the past two years.

The sun rises early in the summer in northern Germany and spills in through the sheer white curtains of my fourth-floor bedroom. I'm living in the Bonner Südstadt: the south-side of Bonn, a scenic district of nineteenth-century pastel façades, wrought-iron gates and prim city gardens of roses and fragrant boxwood hedges just a block away from the Rhine River. Even if Ludwig van Beethoven hadn't been born in this town, Bonn would still have plenty to brag about. I enjoy a cup of coffee in the sunlit breakfast room of my host parents' home, flipping through today's Bonner Stadt-Anzeiger, and then amble out to catch the subway to the office.

I work for Aktion Mensch, the largest private sponsorship organization in Germany. They operate a social lottery, which means that when you buy a lottery ticket, about a third of the money you pay goes to support social benefit programs, focusing on equal opportunities for the handicapped. Basically, it's a really impressive organization, and you can tell that all of the employees really take their work to heart. They're a great bunch of people, and they've made me feel very willkommen. I feel like a character in a movie, walking past slick, geometric modern art and walls of glass and slate to my third-floor office, and exchanging "Guten Morgens" with my coworkers.

One of the best things about my job is that I get to write every day. Writing has always been my number-one passion, whether in English or in German. As a journalist for the website (a blog-forum-news portal aimed at getting teenagers thinking about socio-political, cultural and ethical issues), I have multiple projects to work on at any given time. I spend my time in the office writing articles, editing them with my project managers, doing research and planning upcoming projects. Six weeks into the internship, I still can't believe how amazing it is that I was given this chance to indulge in my passions for German language, culture and creative writing while gaining valuable work experience at the same time.

The philosophical aspect of my work has been especially fascinating to me. The projects that Aktion Mensch sponsors focus on pressing, current philosophical questions like bioethics and environmental ethics. I was pleasantly shocked when my team leaders suggested I take a weekend trip to Berlin to conduct interviews regarding politically-oriented posters (the results of a competition that recently conducted). While there, I even got to meet and tour a partner agency, which works on advertising and media projects for social-benefit companies. The variety of work experience I've been gaining is phenomenal.

Twice already I have seen my articles published online. It is such an amazing feeling not only to be published, but to be published in German. If someone had told me at the beginning of the school year that I would be publishing articles in German during the upcoming summer, I would never have believed them.

In the afternoon after work, I enjoy exploring the city and visiting museums. There is an abundance of great museums in and around Bonn; I've also travelled to Hanover (just a few hours by train) to see the collection of a favorite poet/artist, Kurt Schwitters, to whom I was introduced in German 314 this past fall. To see the hometown that inspired his work, and to see his work firsthand... it was definitely one of the crowning experiences not only of my trip, but of my whole life to date. It's been great to have this chance to totally indulge in the culture that I love studying so much: the so-called Land der Dichter und Denker (the land of poets and thinkers).

It's also been nice to hang out with real-live Germans. In the evenings I enjoy going out with my friends from work, to the cinema or for drinks in the Altstadt (the old-town, where lots of students hang out).

The sun sets late; at twenty-two hours, the sky is just darkening over the Rhine.

My language skills have, of course, improved vastly, but my experience with this Johnson Opportunity Granthas enhanced my studies in innumerable other ways. In addition to experiencing German culture (both modern and historic) and philosophy hands-on and learning how to write journalistically (in German, at that), I've gained valuable work experience, overcome a lot of stress and become a lot stronger and more mature as an individual and a student. I am grateful beyond words to the Johnson Program, W&L and the German department for making this possible!