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McKenzie Stupica

May 23, 2016
Photo of McKenzie Stupica

Year Graduated: 2014

Hometown: New Prague, MN

Why did you choose to major or minor in GSD?

Learning about Germany and more specifically, the German culture and language has intrigued me ever since my first German class sophomore year of high school. Not only did I find the history and culture fascinating in its complexity, but also the process of learning more about the language itself was something that both fulfilled and enchanted me. After visiting Germany on a three-week class trip in high school, I was confident that I wanted to continue my studies in German at the collegiate level, aiming to further develop my understanding of their culture and language. Initially, I planned to declare a minor in German, but after my sophomore year abroad in Berlin, I decided to indulge in my passion for German and upgrade to a major in German Studies.

What has been your favorite part of your experience in the department?

My favorite experience from the GSD department was being able to interact and work closely with the incredible GSD staff and minors/majors, which included interacting and learning from one another in class, participating in many of the various GSD student-run organizations, and attending events like GSD Movie Night.

Are you pursuing any graduate studies, internships or fields of interest outside your GSD major? How do you feel they enhance your study of GSD and/or your career plans?

As a double major in Art History and German Studies, I have always pursued internships and experiences in the arts. As an undergraduate student, I worked at the Germanic-American Institute and German Immersion School in St. Paul. During my senior year, I worked as an Education Department intern and tour guide at the Weisman Art Museum. Post-graduation, I wrote various grants for a non-profit Minneapolis-based art gallery, Altered Esthetics. In 2013, I also took part in an eight-week WorkART internship with a Kunstverein in Germany, where my passions for the arts and German collided. Currently, I am working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) at my placement school in Germany. I have started volunteering at the Kestnergesellschaft, a contemporary art gallery based in Hanover. There I provide public tours both in English and German; an opportunity that perfectly employs my interest in modern art, my experience as an educator and my passion for the German language.

What is something about the GSD department that most people wouldn’t know?

I think the majority of students at the U of M don’t realize how insanely qualified and dynamic the faculty and graduate students within the GSD Department truly are. Not only do they have superb language abilities, including the many native speakers, but also many of the instructing professors have extensive research experience in topics ranging from Jewish studies to folklore, from filmography to language pedagogy. If that isn’t enough to convince anyone to take a GSD class, the faculty members, at least in my experience, have always been incredibly approachable and passionate about their respective subjects.

What GSD courses would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take a GSD course?

For GSD majors, I would highly recommend taking any course instructed by Leslie Morris or Matthias Rothe. Both professors are incredibly competent and are some of the most supportive and encouraging people I encountered during my undergraduate studies at the U.

As for non-majors who are interested in taking a GSD course, I would encourage them to take any course instructed by Ray Wakefield, specifically “Vikings, Knights and Reformers.” Professor Wakefield lectures about folklore and Germanic/ Nordic history with a contagious energy and passion, making seemingly unapproachable topics such as Reformers and Revivalists seem interesting and fun. Additionally, I immediately have respect for anyone who shows up to class dressed from head to toe in traditional medieval garb.

Do you have any insights to share about your current experience in Germany as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA)?

Since the beginning of September 2015, I’ve been living with a host family just outside of Hanover in Garbsen, Germany and working at a Gesamtschule (comprehensive school) as an ETA. While things at school started off quite slowly, after just a couple of months of teaching, I started to take on more responsibilities. Now I am teaching my own lessons, starting a conversation group, as well as tagging along on a class trip to Cologne as one of the supervising teachers. I am required to work a certain amount of hours during the school week, and my days off are in a row which enables me to take extended weekend trips. I’ve traveled to Berlin quite frequently, visiting friends I made during my study abroad in 2011-2012. Additionally, I’ve visited friends in Frankfurt, Dresden, and Oldenburg. School breaks enabled me to travel outside of Germany to places like Amsterdam, Prague, and Poland. The many connections and friendships I’ve made so far with other Fulbright ETA’s and researchers, as well as with local Germans within my community and school, have been truly priceless.

However, on a more serious note, after the various terrorist attacks in France, Ankara and Brussels in addition to the mid-November bomb scare in Hanover, I was and still remain quite shocked. For the first time ever, I was afraid to live in Europe, a place that is, statistically speaking, much safer than the US. It was only by reaching out to various friends and colleagues within my community that I was able to feel more confident about traveling and continuing to live my life the way I desire to.

Are you following any interesting blogs or reading anything you would recommend?

Currently some of my favorite German-based blogs include rebel:art—connecting art and activism, artfridge, and Blitzkunst. Some other online art magazines that I find to be a necessity for anyone interested in following the contemporary art scene in Germany as well as internationally include Hyperallergic, art – das Kunstmagazin, Castor & Pollux and my all-time favorite monopol. For anyone who knows German and is interested in reading about controversial art discussions, I would highly recommend checking out any articles or books written by Hanno Rauterberg. Working as a journalist and art critic for die ZEIT magazine, his work approaches various problematic art and culture-related topics such as the normalization of art in modern society, the role of ethics in contemporary art, and influence of collectors on the success of artists’ careers, to name a few.