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DATE: June 6, 2001

CONTACT: Calvin Burns, 901/333-5338 or Marilyn Duncan, 901/333-4247

STCC's Exchange Program Opening Doors of Opportunity for German Students

The desire to improve the quality of their lives by obtaining a quality education has led two young men from Germany to Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College. For Soenke Rathjen, 22, a native of Hamburg, Germany, and Christian Reus, 22, of Westerburg, Germany, dreams of studying and working in America are becoming a reality, thanks to the International Studies Program at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

Rathjen and Reus enrolled at STCC through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program. They learned about the program while attending institutions of higher learning in Germany. This unique curriculum is offered through the College's International Studies Department. It is designed to allow German and American students to exchange homelands for the purpose of experiencing a year-long work-study program. The program targets young professionals.

Reus is studying English, computer technology, and statistics at STCC. He said that he is thoroughly enjoying his studies, and that his job as a research intern at the School of Audiology and Speech Pathology at The University of Memphis has helped him learn a great deal about the American culture. Rathjen noted his experiences are similar to those of his fellow countrymen. He is taking classes mostly related to electronics, and has landed a job as a technician with Cetacea Computers and Communications.

Debbie Hunt is an Associate Professor of Developmental Studies and International Student Coordinator at STCC. She represented the College at the American Educators Workshop, which was held in Cologne and Berlin, Germany, last fall. STCC was one of six colleges in the U.S. invited to attend the conference. The session was sponsored and funded by the Carl Duisberg Society, a branch of the Congress-Bundestag Program.

"The educators visited work sites and the international headquarters of Bayer, Inc., and Siemens, Inc.," Hunt recalled. "We learned about the German higher education system and gained insight to the post-Communist German society. Our American government and the German government both see the advantage of this exchange of young professionals as the economies of the world become more globalized."

The employers of the two exchange students from Germany echoed Hunt's sentiments about the program. Clark Hinds, Chief of Operations at Cetacea, made the following observation: "I have been very impressed with this exchange program. This is a win-win situation for our company, the College, Germany, and the United States. The students are bright and have a real good work ethic. We have not given one assignment to Soenke that he was not able to handle."

Ginny Alexander, a research associate for the School of Audiology and Speech Pathology at The University of Memphis, gave high marks to the program and to Reus. "This is a fabulous exchange program," she said. "It provides highly skilled professionals who bring a wealth of expertise into the marketplace. Christian has done an outstanding job for us. In fact, we were so impressed with his contributions that we took him with us to our national convention in San Diego, California."

Rathjen and Reus said they gained additional knowledge and skills that will help them in the marketplace when they return to Germany. The two exchange students added that they also look forward to utilizing the education and training that they received in America to enhance the quality of life for themselves and their families.

"My father operates a dairy farm, and my mother is a homemaker," Rathjen explained. "I have learned a great deal about designing computers that will be a big help to both of them. I have some things that I will be sharing with my two brothers and my sister as well."

Reus said he did a great deal of research on improving hearing aids while working at The University of Memphis. He plans to put his research to use by starting a career as a hearing aid designer. "I have an interview coming up with a company in Zurich, Switzerland," he revealed. "The interview is a direct result of my work as a research intern at The University."

Hunt emphasized that American students can apply for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program to study in Germany. She added that STCC is looking for host families for all international students who will be enrolling for Fall 2001. Currently, approximately 500 international students from 83 different countries are enrolled at the College.

For additional information about the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program or the STCC International Studies Program, call Debbie Hunt at (901) 333-4556.

Southwest Tennessee Community College is a Tennessee Board of Regents institution.