with Professor Uwe Zagratzki
of English has had the privilege of hosting a professor from Germany
during the spring semester. Joined by his wife Steffi, six-year-old
son Angus, and three-year-old daughter Fiona, Professor Uwe Zagratzki
arrived in Carrollton in January as part of West Georgia's exchange
program with Carl von Ossietzky Universitat in Oldenburg, Germany.
He is teaching three courses during his stay here-Scottish Literature,
British Literature, and Travel Writing. I recently talked with Professor
Zagratzki to learn more about him and what his experience at West
Georgia has been like so far.
How did you
decide to start teaching?
I think I was particularly inspired by a teacher from high school
I sort of became friendly with. He stimulated me into teaching at
the high school. So I was in a way bound to become a high-school teacher.
Once I was at the University of Osnabrueck, however, there was another
sort of influence. One of the instructors came to see me one day and
asked if I would be interested in writing a PhD thesis on a very particular
topic of Scottish Literature. I considered this and after a while
I agreed and he put me on a different track.
What is your
favorite thing about teaching?
Being a teacher and at the same time being a student and the vivid
lively interchange between me and the students. I love to do research
but I really want to practice my ideas with others and try them out
with others just to get the response-How far can I go? How wrong am
I? Does it make sense? How do they respond to it? I find this kind
of interchange very interesting in teaching.
Why did you
decide to come teach here at West Georgia for the semester?
First, I think that thanks go to Dean Richard Miller. Also, I wanted
to support this valuable exchange program and gain a better understanding
of the southern culture.
What did your
family think of your decision to teach here for a semester?
It took me quite a while to persuade them, in particular, because
we had just arrived from Ottawa, Canada, last year at the beginning
of October. It was only within a very short time that we got prepared
for the States. It was not the country. It was the very short preparation
time. The kids were quite open, quite concerned, particularly Angus.
We took him out of kindergarten. He just realized there are many more
languages other than German. He had to submit himself to this encounter.
He has started picking up English by listening and he and Fiona have
started speaking English occasionally. It's not really coherent phrases
but bits and pieces. My wife has been practicing her English, but
we both realize that there may be better places to learn English for
a German once you take into consideration the strong, southern accent.
It's really hard to come by sometimes, particularly for a learner.
For me and Steffi it was quite hard to come by.
How have you
and your family spent your time here?
We went to Zoo Atlanta. We've spent time with friends from the university.
We've been dining out with our neighbors. So I think we're quite busy
socializing. We're also planning on going to the House of Blues in
What are the
biggest differences that you've noticed in Germany and the US?
One of the most visible for me and Steffi is the car-centered culture
here. I just bought a used car and it's the first in my life. I've
never had a car and I don't need a car back home. Of course, we have
many cars back home but you can survive without one. I have two bikes
. . . or I walk. If it's long-distance, we take a train. Once you
say this is a car-centered culture, you realize that cars kill culture,
that is, street culture. There are no pedestrians walking. People
do not meet in the street to talk to each other. There are no squares
populated with people sitting in cafes, looking around, getting into
communication with each other. Everything is sort of sacrificed to
the needs of the car. This is one of the major points you start writing
home about . . . and this is what we did.
What do you
think of West Georgia?
I was amazed, struck by the friendliness of the people. I received
an open, warm-hearted welcome. The department, colleagues, all of
you working here really made it easy for me to settle in properly
within a very short time.
any differences between the students here and those in Germany?
I was trying to categorize them and I found that there are similar
types of students here as well as in Germany. They do not differ very
much. You have ambitious, committed students. You have less committed
students. You have students sitting by, obviously interested in what
you are saying, students on the verge of sleeping off. I think all
these types you will find in Germany. There is no great difference.
The types are quite similar.
you tell your German students and colleagues about your experience
First of all, that they should come here and enjoy the atmosphere,
the academic climate at the university. I would like them to be more
willing to leave their university and come here. I really would like
to give them a boost to be an invigorating, reinforcing agent for
this exchange program. I will tell them to come here to West Georgia,
in particular, because this is of comparable size to the University
of Oldenburg and you will not go under like you would at a massive
university. I think you are guaranteed to be identified as an individual
at West Georgia. I would also tell them about the system of grading.
The students are put under a constant grading pressure, so to speak.
They are constantly graded.
Are they not
graded in Germany?
They are but only at the end of the term, once they have turned in
their written essays or manuscripts. The focus is more on writing
so they are supposed to turn in papers at the length of 15 to 28 pages
at the end of the term. So they take a special topic and write about
it. This is a marked difference between our two systems. Another is
here students have to pay for their courses. There is only an enrollment
fee in Germany. I would also tell them that Carrollton students are
exposed to many different subcultures. They run into people from different
races, different social groups, and I consider this to be a privilege,
an advantage, which might be beneficial for everybody to consider
how good it would be for our own culture.
like to add anything else?
Thanks to all of you--faculty, staff, English Department--for making
this such an extraordinary experience. Yes, just thank you
hope that these university exchanges can contribute to a better global
--Susan R. Rooks