“Das sagen die Studierenden” | Amerikastudien (American Studies) (B.A.) studieren

“Das sagen die Studierenden” | Amerikastudien (American Studies) (B.A.) studieren


WHY ARE YOU STUDYING AMERICAN STUDIES?
I chose American Studies because I’m mainly interested
in modern things, whether culture, history, social issues. And I realised, after leaving school, that I had just so many questions about America itself,
because my school didn’t really deal with it, and I’m fascinated by
how the country has succeeded, within such a short time, with such a short, modern
history, as it were, to become such a superpower; I wanted to find out more about that
and find answers to my questions. That’s why I chose the programme, and I love it. I chose American Studies because right after finishing
school I spent nearly a year in Canada, which was when I first
became interested in transatlantic relations – so for example, how
the US shapes Europe or Germany. And I definitely knew by then that I wanted to study
in English. So I looked at what was available: what degree
programmes were there in Germany? I came across American Studies straight away, and
I’ve chosen to focus on politics. HOW AND WHEN DID YOU CHOOSE AMERICAN STUDIES?
I made my decision while I was still in Canada. I had applied for several programmes, but in the
end Leipzig was my first choice, so I was really pleased to be offered
a place here and I began studying here two years ago. I started studying American Studies in 2012, so a
year after leaving school. After passing my school-leaving exams, I first spent
six months in Russia, where I volunteered in Siberia, which satisfied my passion for Russia, so I then thought, now I can focus on my passion
for America. And a friend of mine, who also did her bachelor’s
in American Studies here, spoke very highly of the programme, which got me interested and eventually I applied. That was two years ago now. It seems like such a long time! WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS ESSENTIAL FOR ANYONE CONSIDERING THE AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAMME?
What are the requirements? First of all, it’s
essential that you speak good English. Of course you will improve further
during your studies. My English also improved considerably when I started
studying. But English is a basic requirement. I would also say that you should be able to think
critically and want to knuckle down and show initiative, because
there is a relatively wide choice when it comes to which
modules we take, it’s not all mandatory. It’s a lot of work that you
have to manage somehow, but with a bit of initiative and
active participation, it’s easy enough to overcome. I agree, first and foremost you need to understand
from the beginning what you’re studying. You should look at what the
programme actually covers and be prepared to read a lot. Since it’s a humanities degree, you will definitely spent a lot of time reading. If you don’t enjoy reading a lot, but perhaps
prefer learning things by heart, then this course is
definitely not for you. Apart from that, of course, you have to show plenty
of initiative on the programme, be willing to read and, of course, take an interest
in the content that’s actually taught. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR STUDIES?
My first impression was that it was a fairly small group. During the very first class, I noticed there were
fewer than 30 of us. It’s a very informal atmosphere, you get lots of
personal advice if you want it, you’ll be on first name terms with
lecturers, they’re approachable, there’s always someone to talk
to if you have any questions; all this really impressed
me. Those are the advantages of such a relatively small
study programme. It was similar for me. I also liked the fact that I had a lot of contact
with the other students, that I knew everyone in some way, since we had got
to know each other well, and of course contact with the lecturers, that we
actually knew them from day one, we knew who the important people in our institute
were, plus I realised pretty quickly that I had made the
right decision. So I wanted to be challenged, and I was
challenged! We covered what I wanted to learn, so actual American
culture, history, literature. From the beginning, I had the feeling that my questions were being answered and I think
it’s good how we also get a lot of active knowledge, and a
lot of practical knowledge. For example, in the first semester we looked at how to apply for a job in English. Since there are differences between British and
American conventions. We learned to how to write a proper résumé, and
above all from the beginning we learned to think: what exactly am I studying? What do I want to achieve
by studying? What do I want to do with my degree later on? And
where can I go? So we’ve never been left completely in the dark as
humanities scholars; we’ve always been shown our options. And I think that’s great. WAS THERE ANYTHING YOU DIDN’T EXPECT?
What I didn’t expect? Well for one thing, as mentioned, the fact that it’s
relatively small, the intimate atmosphere, you really do get to know
all your fellow students, the fact that each module, which is what the different
subjects are divided into, involves a lot of work; you always have a tutorial,
where you really learn the basics, so things like: how do I actually
write? You always have a seminar that you can talk about,
and there’s also a lecture, so there’s always that tripartite structure. So
during each module this is a great way to reinforce what you’re doing
and how you have to do it. You just get a lot of help, which I wouldn’t have
expected. I would have thought maybe there’d be a lecture which would then be followed by private study at
home or it would be up to you to decide what to do with
the lecture. So I was very pleasantly surprised by the structure
here. I agree completely. There’s not much more to say. I would maybe add that uni life is even more
international than I would have imagined, which I really like. And also that there’s a big difference compared to other degree programmes and how they’re
structured. I think that’s true of us, because we are geared a
little towards the American model, so I would say there’s a bit more of a classroom-style
approach to teaching than elsewhere, which helped me a lot, in the first semester, when
it came to exam preparation. I think we were very well prepared for what to
expect. We weren’t thrown in at the deep end, including when it came to the bachelor’s thesis,
which we have to write after a year or two. From the very beginning, we learned how to write,
for example, so we really weren’t left alone. Just like you said. WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT AMERICAN STUDIES HERE IN LEIPZIG?
What I like most about American Studies in
Leipzig, for one thing, is that it’s taught entirely in
English, we’re either taught by native speakers, or our lecturers are native speakers, our
professors, or of course that we have lecturers who have spent
a lot of time in America, who are very interested in it, conducting lots of
their own research. I really like that, and above all, the greatest respect I have for our institute comes
from the fact that we really do have a lot of seminars, and we can choose
from a lot of seminars that are offered only once, so new seminars are
prepared for us every year, new seminars are prepared every semester. Students ten years ago weren’t already learning the
same things or covering the same content as we are now. I think that’s great. It is constantly evolving,
feedback is very much welcomed. It feels like the lecturers really do work with us
and learn from us. It’s not so much a hierarchy, where we say: OK,
they’re the teachers, they’re the lecturers, they’re the professors, so
they must know so much more than us. Instead, there’s a culture of dialogue and
discussion, which is mutually beneficial. I’ve also had a lot of unusual seminars; at the
moment for example I’m attending a seminar on monuments to terrorist attacks. So it’s very specific, very new, and I really like
that. I couldn’t agree more. Another thing I like a lot
is how we’re not necessarily limited to American Studies,
but that we also have the option of combining with other humanities
subjects. That allows us to combine our fields of interest,
such as politics, culture or literature from American
Studies, with, say, Communication Studies, which is what I’m
doing. I have a passion for both disciplines, and I would
like to apply the knowledge I acquire in American Studies, especially with regard to culture
and politics, to my work in Communication Studies. And I think it’s great here that every semester you
have the opportunity to take one module, so a third of your workload each semester, in an entirely different subject, and combine the two subjects. I really like it, and I’ve done just that for the
last four semesters, combining it with Communication Studies. Yes, and the same applies within our programme:
you’ve chosen to specialise in politics in American
Studies, whereas I’m more of a literature lover and prefer
to concentrate on that sort of thing. And I, for example, have also started learning
Italian, that’s my elective subject. That sort of thing is possible and easy to do. So you’re not tied to literature, for example, if
you say: I enjoy reading, I find it interesting, but would
much rather focus on politics. I’m much more interested in what’s
happening now between Germany, Europe and the US. So I’m not obliged to take literature modules every
month, but can instead say: I’m sticking to politics and
specialising in that. Which means that you also have the option of tailoring
your core subject to your own preferences. ARE THERE ANY MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AMERICAN STUDIES?
The typical misconceptions about American Studies
are probably, just like with any humanities subject, that we just sit back doing
nothing but talking. That’s not the case. We have to work all
semester, and we want to work. So there’s that humanities aspect, and otherwise I
would say the typical misconception is definitely that America
has no culture. No. That’s not true. America has a very different culture than European
culture, and a much shorter one, from a Western perspective. Far more modern, with a lot of different media; for
example, we also work a lot with film, with TV series, sometimes even with
comics. It’s not comparable with what you might learn in,
say, German Language and Literature, or what you know from German culture. When we think
of Goethe, Schiller and Bach, that’s obviously completely different, but
it’s just as exciting. If not more exciting, I’d say. What I noticed when I was asked about what I was
studying, is that people know nothing at all about American
Studies. It’s an abstract term for them, and they ask: are you studying it because you like America so
much? Or do you want to emigrate? Many people assume it’s a degree programme that
glorifies America. That we only study it because we like America so
much, because we like going on holiday to the US, but as
I said, it’s not like that at all. You’re taught to think critically, you’re always
shown two sides, especially in essay form. With any given topic, we always consider two sides,
so that means one essay that supports a particular policy or attempts to
explain it. And another that argues the opposite. So they’re not directed towards America per se, not
towards certain ideologies, but rather we are always shown two perspectives, and not many people
know that about American Studies, what it is we actually do. If you just like travelling to the US, then this
degree course is definitely not for you. It’s not some hobby. It’s not a hobby. It’s not something you do for fun;
it’s a very critical course of studies. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO NEW STUDENTS?
Definitely have a look at the module catalogue on
the American Studies website. There you can see which modules are offered each
semester, there’s a brief description of each one. There you can see what topics are discussed, what
kind of books we read, that sort of thing. It’s worth taking a look, because it’s possible to
sign up for taster classes in the humanities or American Studies at our uni. Then you can see what really interests you, whether
you also like politics, literature. And if that’s the case, then definitely come here
– I highly recommend it. But if you notice: well, actually, this really isn’t
for me, the stuff they cover during the semester, then you should probably keep looking for something
else. There’s not much I can add to that. I would stress that you absolutely should study
something that truly interests you. That you shouldn’t simply study something, whatever
the discipline, so don’t study medicine for the job prospects, or
law because you want to earn a lot of money, or American Studies if you’re not actually interested,
and just because you think: well, maybe it’ll be quite nice, why not give it a
try. Instead, really act according to your interests,
because in our experience, we’ve known a lot of people on our course, and some of them dropped out. It’s no use if you’re not interested. Not at all. But if you are interested, then I think you should
really act accordingly and not look too far into the future, because we’re doing
a bachelor’s degree; it’s still just the bachelor’s, and of course there’s
also the master’s course afterwards. But what you actually do with it is a completely
different story. But first of all, when it comes to acquiring knowledge,
to studying, above all to picking up all the soft
skills as well, then you should certainly consider your
own interests. WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO DO AFTER YOUR DEGREE?
I’m not exactly sure what I want to do after this
programme. I have a few ideas, and I think I’ll do a master’s
degree, but I’m not yet sure which one. And my career goal is actually to work at a
Goethe-Institut abroad, so on cultural programmes, project
management, and I could certainly imagine working in America,
for example, but that’s not essential. But absolutely abroad. After my degree, one thing I hope to do is pursue my elective subject further, so Communication
Studies. I’m actually about to do just that during my year
abroad, so focusing on Communication Studies there, and my plan is definitely to structure my master’s
accordingly and then combine that with the knowledge I’ve acquired about
US culture, politics and society, and maybe work for a company in America, whether in communication, marketing or PR. That’s my plan at the moment and I like it a lot.

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