Transfer Student to Translator
Senior and recipient of the prestigious Birkelo Scholarship Kat Hurlbutt has long been passionate about learning German. That enthusiasm was solidified in her senior year of high school, which she spent as an exchange student in Germany. “That experience was really great,” says Hurlbutt, “I absolutely fell in love with the language and culture. When I came home, I knew that German was something that I was passionate about and would be something that I could study while in college.”
When Hurlbutt transferred to the University of Minnesota, she immersed herself in German. “Studying exclusively German when I first arrived at UMN [might have] seemed like a narrow educational learning approach,” says Hurlbutt. But, “each course that I have taken in the Department [of German, Scandinavian & Dutch] has been incredibly unique and helped to provide me with a broad range of knowledge of German culture and language.”
However, she often encounters misconceptions about what her German classes are like. “When I talk with people who are not in the department, they often think that every course we take [focuses] on language and grammar.” She wishes that more people understood the GSD department’s emphasis on developing cultural understanding, both in language and culture courses and through other courses dedicated to the literature or history of northern Europe.
As an example, Hurlbutt points to Rüdiger Singer’s recent class on German humor. “In addition to being very engaging, Professor Singer’s courses have taught me valuable insight on current and past German culture,” she says.
Translating Cultural Understanding
In addition to her GSD major with an emphasis in German, Hurlbutt is also pursuing a minor in translation. “The translation minor seemed like something that paired well with the German major and is also something that I might be interested in doing in the future,” she says. “I have had some really cool opportunities in some of my courses to translate incredibly detailed scientific articles, which have not only helped with my grasp of the German language, but also with helping to develop my translation skills.”
Hurlbutt knows the importance of developing a broad cultural understanding, and appreciates how both her translation and German courses have helped her develop the ability to interact successfully with people from other cultures. “Now, more than ever, it is critical to become exposed to people and cultures that you wouldn't normally be exposed to,” she says.
Hurlbutt plans to find her way back to Germany after she graduates this spring. “The end goal is ultimately to move back to Germany and be surrounded by a language and culture that I am so passionate about,” she says.