Ben Fisher

I began learning German at the age of 15. My grandfather had spoken German at home before the outbreak of World War II, and I wanted to explore my family’s heritage, which was at the time largely a mystery to me.  I had no idea then that studying German would change my life.

Inspired by my teachers’ love of German literature and culture, I entered UCLA as a German major. From the very beginning, I was challenged and inspired by my professors and fellow students to improve my fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, and, to my surprise, my argumentation and debating skills. In learning the finer nuances of the language, I was pushed to deeply examine how I related to language in general, and how I expressed and justified my thoughts and opinions. Instead of allowing assertions to stand, I began to learn how to ask better questions of myself and others, and accept that as often as questions produce answers, they also produce further questions. And after I cried tears of joy during my first German literature class because I was very moved by the play we were reading, I knew I had chosen the right major. Thus began an extremely motivating and exciting intellectual journey.

The Department of Germanic Languages at UCLA gave me the opportunity to study a wide variety of aspects of German culture: linguistics, history, art history, philosophy, literature, Jewish studies, contemporary culture.  A class about representations of immigrants in German literature and media gave me critical focus in analyzing media and politics, and a business German class connected me with current affairs more than I had ever been. A scholarship from the department enabled me to participate in the Vienna, Munich and Berlin UCLA Summer Travel-Study Program, where I was able to grasp history in my own hands and walk the streets I had only known through textbooks.

As President of the German Club at UCLA, I made friends with German speakers from all over the world and witnessed fascinating intercultural communication and learning every week at our meetings. I was constantly surprised by the abundance of German cultural offerings in Los Angeles, and always thankful for the diversity, which proved to be an additional great teacher.

For anyone considering studying German, or even just learning the language: do it.  I was a Fulbright Grantee in Germany, working as an English Teaching Assistant at the Georgius-Agricola-Gymnasium in Chemnitz, Saxony, and I had experiences with German that I will never forget.  I remain very happy with my choice of major, and intend to become a teacher of German.  Studying German opened up my creativity and intellect, gave me tools to live and work in the global community, and has shaped the course of the rest of my life.