Language barrier overcome in bike-friendly Germany


 Nathaniel Potrepka and Rocky at the Rhine River, with the skyline of Bonn, Germany in the background.

Germany’s transportation system is legendary for its efficiency – but it can also be expensive if you have to use it every day.

So rather than ride the train 10 miles each way to Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences in Sankt Augustin this summer, DAAD-Rise scholar Nathaniel Potrepka '17 rode his bike instead, “taking in the scenery.”

RISE Germany is a summer internship program for undergraduate students from the United States, Canada and the UK in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering. As the program’s website notes, RISE Germany offers opportunities for bachelor students to work with research groups at universities and top research institutions across Germany for a period of 3 months during the summer. RISE Germany interns are matched with doctoral students whom they assist and who serve as their mentors. Stipends and housing are provided.

Nathaniel, a computer science major, studied multi-sensory human-computer interaction under Jens, a PhD student at the university, and created a 3d model for a position tracking device for mobile phones.

“This trip gave me insight into the workings of language and its deep integration with culture and everyday life,” Nathaniel added. “There was definitely a bit of a language barrier between Jens and me, and working through this barrier taught me how to communicate more efficiently. Certain contextual features and connotations in language are missing when not a native speaker, and I noticed this phenomenon both in English and in German throughout my stay in Germany.”

Nathaniel also visited Cologne, Rotterdam, Leiden, Amsterdam, The Hague, Antwerp, and Budapest.

“The trip was amazing, and I could not recommend any more to my fellow classmates going abroad at least once during their undergraduate studies.”