Beth Uding Seizes Opportunities
by Andi McDaniel
It’s hard to imagine someone better equipped to give study-abroad advice than recent graduate Beth Uding, who completed a month-long teaching internship in Berlin in summer 2007. Uding has seized every opportunity to spend time abroad during the past four years, from the summer she spent as an au pair in Germany after her freshman year (a position she arranged independently) to the Junior Year in Munich program through which she studied at a German university.
Despite the amount of time she’s spent living, studying, and working in Germany, she hasn’t come to any grand conclusions about the right way to study abroad. Her most recent study-abroad experience involved working as a teaching assistant in a fourth grade classroom at a school for students with physical and learning disabilities. Neither she nor any of the other seven U students in the program had previous interest or experience in teaching, but that didn’t matter. She says in her characteristically easygoing way, “ultimately, you’re just there to be there."
That doesn’t mean that the experience doesn’t open new doors. Returning home, Uding found a new interest in tutoring students learning English at the Franklin Learning Center at the Minneapolis Public Library in the Phillips neighborhood. While the job never called for her German language skills, she felt the experience was a natural extension of her time abroad. “I returned from Germany with a newfound interest in intercultural communication, so working with African immigrants felt very relevant," she says. “In Germany, I’d been the foreigner. I had some command of the language, but I had a long way to go. To help someone else with that—someone who is learning a language—that’s very much related."
As for her own experience learning a language, initially she chose German without much deliberation—it was one of only two languages offered at her high school. But Uding quickly found that she was a natural with languages, so when it came time to apply for college, she indicated that she might major in German. And it’s lucky that she did; her interest in a German major, combined with her academic record, won her a four-year $3,000 CLA Dean’s Scholar–German Award.
Uding eventually combined a German major with an English major. For her thesis, she indulged her loves of both literature and language in a literary analysis of Wolfgang Koeppen’s Pigeons on the Grass, a German novel translated into English and set in her favorite city, Munich.
While Uding is not yet sure if she will continue down the academic path to graduate school, she feels intensely drawn to the vocation that has supported her over the past four years: study-abroad advising. As an undergraduate, she worked at the Learning Abroad Center, a great job that gave her “a behind the scenes look at international education." These days, she’s on the hunt for a position as a study-abroad coordinator. Without a doubt, she will instill in tomorrow’s students the same passion for overseas learning that she’s experienced herself.
Hometown: St. Genevieve, Missouri
Career goals: International education. “In the ideal position, I’d get to work in study-abroad outreach, getting the word out about all the different programs and opportunities."
Favorite GSD professor: “I couldn’t possibly choose! I loved working on my thesis with Leslie Morris, who has been great about telling me about future opportunities, and Rick McCormick has been an incredible resource. It’s rare to have a close relationship with someone as high-profile as the head of CLA Honors—and it was so neat to have someone who had sight of me throughout all four years."
Best thing about the GSD department: “On one hand, it’s on the smaller side, so there were people with whom I had my first German class who were also in my thesis workshop my senior year. It’s one thing that made a big school feel much smaller. But at the same time there are all those Scandinavian majors in there too, which made it really interesting."
Best thing about the Twin Cities: The arts. “It’s so great to be able to go to a play, or dance performance, or concert, at a moment’s notice."