Misty Voss graduated this past spring with a double major in German and community engagement and education with an emphasis in child care.
Now she’s taken her interests to Germany, to teach English to German children.
Her trip is being made possible by the prestigious Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals Fellowship, which is funded by the German Bundestag (parliament) and the U.S. Department of State.
The yearlong program begins with a two-month intensive language course in Cologne, followed by a semester at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, studying intercultural communication and education. Voss will spend the remaining balance of her fellowship as an intern working for a German company in either cultural exchange or education.
Voss said the impetus for her involvement in the program stems from her experience attending the Milwaukee German Immersion School and the Milwaukee School of Languages in Milwaukee Public Schools.
“The basis of all this is my passion for immersion education, because it was so great for me,” she says, “To give back that opportunity to learn a second language is something I’m extremely passionate about.”
Voss first attended UW-La Crosse but, being undecided about a major, decided UWM was a better fit.
“I remember looking at the variety of intriguing programs at UWM,” she recalled. “Especially the community engagement and education degree program. When I transferred, I took a couple of courses and it was something that really interested me. Ever since then I’ve been really appreciative of it.”
She also got deeply involved in the German program, and was inducted into the German Honor Society, Delta Phi Alpha, in 2014, her first year at UWM.
“Jonathan Wipplinger, the chair of the German department, started the same year I did,” she says, “I can’t believe three years are already over! I really credit the German department for the awesome opportunities I was given at UWM.”
While working in a kindergarten remains attractive, Voss said, since arriving in Germany she has developed a heightened interest in working for a nonprofit exchange organization.
“I’d like to work at an organization that focuses on the exchange of cultures,” she says. “One that offers opportunities abroad to expand students’ knowledge of a new part of the world through cultural immersion.”
It’s very common for German high school students to spend a year abroad, which Voss said is a crucial point in in a person’s life.
“The great thing about making this transition is that I am able to use my community engagement and education degree for this type of nonprofit work in the community,” she said. “I am continually learning about the different facets and flexibility of this awesome degree, and at this stage in my life I’m keeping my options open.”
Voss took an enterprising approach to her education: She combined the education and German courses to work in an internship at a kindergarten in Germany, to gain practical hands-on experience. She has kept in contact and continually returned over the past couple of years to see the children and teachers again. She credits Wipplinger’s assistance and flexibility for making it possible.
“He had a contract specially made up,” she said. “I can’t believe I had an awesome opportunity like that.”
Reflecting on her college career, she remembers being disappointed initially that she wasn’t able to attend college outside of Wisconsin, but since her UWM experience has so dramatically broadened her horizons, she is satisfied with her choice.
“It’s definitely worked out for the best, 100 percent,” she said.
Her long-term goal is to open her own immersion kindergarten, either in Germany or the U.S. or create an exchange organization similar to that of the one she is taking part in.
“Giving young people the opportunity to learn a second culture and language is a life changing experience and is certainly something I strive to achieve within my lifetime.”
And now she’s settled into her new home overseas, with only one minor regret.
“I left the week before German Fest,” she lamented.
Fortunately, she had a good consolation prize: She was in Germany for Oktoberfest.