My EPA Bonn Internship was in Fall 1998. Unlike many of the other students in my internship group, this was my first-ever trip to Germany and not counting Canada it was only the second foreign country I had ever visited. Two things were immediately apparent to me. One, Germany was as beautiful a country as advertised. Two, my Germany proficiency was nowhere near where it needed to be to participate in my internship with the German Defense Ministry. Thanks to Hartwig Prüßmann’s intensive indoctrination program, his patience, and his generosity, I quickly became acclimated to living in Germany and became more comfortable with conversing in and taking courses entirely in German.
Germany was such an eye-opening experience! Fall 1998 happened to be an election year there, so I experienced those events firsthand while getting the opportunity to meet dignitaries from many different countries. I also had the opportunity to live with and mingle with German students and other Bonn residents, who were thrilled at my efforts to speak their language. Thanks to Hartwig, he connected me with many high-ranking members of the Defense Ministry and I had the opportunity to sit in the audience of a German political show and visit the Bundestag! The experience was surreal. And I always looked forward to the end of each day and the weekends where I hung out at beer gardens and great restaurants with my friends. And what better way to celebrate Oktoberfest than by doing it in Germany!!
As an African-American I went to Germany with many preconceived notions, all of which were debunked through my experience there. The German people I met loved America and were excited to speak with an American (and practice their English). At the same time, I tried to be a good ambassador for America and this helped my German friends to dispel any preconceived notions they may have had about America as well. I left Germany after my internship with a heavy heart, knowing that EPA had given me a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But through the connections I made during my internship I received an unbelievable invitation the following summer to work at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn to assist with its transition to Berlin. I even got the opportunity to play on a German squad which played American football! This would not have been possible without EPA.
Since my internship, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively through Europe (including Switzerland and Austria) where the Germany proficiency I acquired through EPA helped reduce the stresses which come with a language barrier. I recommend an EPA internship to any student who qualifies for it; it will lead to experiences which will stay with you forever.
Troy Beecher, Drexel University Class of 1999 (Bonn, Fall 1998), J.D. Stetson University College of Law 2006, L.L.M. University of Houston 2008