A Year Abroad that Turned Into a Lifetime of Friendships
Hoch, bitte. Los! The words ring in my head and the adrenaline still rushes back when I think about my experiences fencing, even now, sixteen years after spending time as an active member of Corps Germania.
It all started when I came to Germany in 1991 to study at the Ludwig-Miximilians- Universität as part of the Junior Year Abroad in Munich program (JYM) run by Wayne State University. I had been studying at the University of Pennsylvania as an international business and German studies major when the opportunity arose to participate in the JYM program and I jumped at the chance. I came to Munich full of desire and enthusiasm to get as much out of that year as I could and fortunately for me the year I attended happened to be a year that members of Corps Germania participated in a meet and greet night between the JYM students and local student organizations. One thing led to another after that meeting and within a fairly short period of time I had joined Corps Germania along with another JYM student, Ed Stone, who was an Engineering Major from the University of Virginia.
Immersion in the German experience was what I sought and immersion beyond my wildest dreams is definitely what I got. My days were full of classes studying everything from European history to international business but my nights were filled with fencing practice, touring the lesser known locals of Munich and hanging out with Corps-brothers over a cold beer at the Corps house or in the Englischer Garten. We worked hard in our studies but played even harder during down time.
On many occasions I had the pleasure of traveling with small groups of Corps-brothers to visit other Corps, go hiking or simply just site seeing in such places as Bielefeld, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Köln, Stuttgart, Salzburg and the Austrian Alps. On one occasion a bunch of us even went skydiving at a skydiving school owned by one of our Alumni. On another occasion ten of us went sailing for a week in the Mediterranean Sea from Cannes to Corsica. An experience certainly never to be forgotten. On other occasions nearly the whole corps, active Corps brothers and alumni alike, would get together for Veranstaltungen at the Corps house or the annual Weinheimtagung, where a couple of thousand corps students from Corps around Germany gather for a weekend at the Wachenburg Castle in Weinheim to discuss corps business, swap fencing stories, relax and, of course, drink beer.
The range of experiences I had as a member of the Corps was truly amazing. On one extreme I found myself at the Oktoberfest with a wild bunch of Corps students sitting in the private boxes held for members of the Munich Corps, drinking Masses of beer, singing songs and partying hard. On the other extreme I found myself in a tuxedo at the MSC Ball in the Deutsche Theater sipping champagne, dancing the Viennese Waltz with beautiful German women and discussing politics and business with Alte Herren who had been active in the Corps as far back as 1917.
I went to Germany wanting to maximize my experience for a year but by becoming a member of Corps Germania I left with much more than I expected. The bonds and memories that I built with my Corps-brothers through all of these experiences are the type that are cherished and kept for a lifetime. Over the last 16 years I have returned to the Corps house on numerous occasions to watch fencing matches, meet the newer Corps brothers, build new friendships and rekindle old ones. I have had the pleasure of hosting many Corps-brothers at my home in the United States and of staying with them at their homes around Europe. A few of us even got together in Greece in 2005 for a sailing trip around the Aegean Sea. It may have been only a single year studying in Munich but that year has lead to many, many years of friendships and experiences since and I can foresee decades more to come.