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APSU math professor provides home for German exchange student

Julius Fricke and Dr. Jackie Vogel

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Julius Fricke, a young German student, arrived at Austin Peay State University last August, ready to immerse himself in American culture. He returned home to Europe this summer, after living for almost a year with APSU mathematics professor Jackie Vogel, and he took with him a deeper understanding of this country’s culinary delights.

“We taught him how to cook – chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, barbeque ribs – those are the ones you’re taking back with you,” Vogel said.

Fricke’s eyes widened at the memory.

“I forgot about the ribs,” he said, patting his stomach and then joking about how tight his shirt now fit. “Oh, they fed me.”

Fricke came to Austin Peay as part of Germany’s Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals program, which is a reciprocal fellowship program that gives 75 German participants the opportunity to spend one year studying, working and experiencing everyday life in communities across the United States. He was Austin Peay’s first CBYX participant, and to give him a more authentic experience, the University sent out a call last summer to faculty and staff, hoping someone would welcome Fricke into their home.

“I’d previously had two high school German foreign exchange students, and when they sent out a message last year about this, I said I can do it because I’ve done it before,” Vogel said. “It’s a huge commitment to have somebody I don’t know living in my house for almost a year, but it worked out. He’s a family member. It would not be the right experience if he wasn’t like a member of the family.”

That’s exactly what Fricke wanted. He’d studied abroad before in Russia and Ukraine, and when he decided to go to America – to a city and University he’d never heard of before – he didn’t want to be confined to a residence hall.

“It’s an important part of the program to get this immersive experience with a host family,” he said. “It would have been a totally different experience living in a dorm here. Jackie, she and her family were so kind to help me for one year.”

Fricke spent the fall semester taking agriculture, American literature and music classes at Austin Peay. In the spring, he interned at the University’s Office of Global Engagement, helping other international students acclimate themselves to Clarksville and APSU’s campus life.

“I would totally recommend studying at Austin Peay,” he said. “Just getting to know all the people, I really like my job in the Office of Global Engagement. It put me in contact with people all over the world. Austin Peay has a strong international crowd with students from all over.”

Some afternoons, he returned to Vogel’s house with dirt on his boots because he’d spent a few hours at the University’s farm. The CBYX program requires participants to perform service work, which is what he did at the farm.

“My official title is ‘Junior Cultural Ambassador of Germany,’” he said. “I always have to make sure I represent this role well, and that I engage in the community. I went to a German class at Austin Peay and gave help to people that learned German, and to answer questions. They have very good German students here – I was surprised. We discussed deeply things like politics. They knew the German political system and topics in Germany. That was really great.”

As a junior cultural ambassador, Fricke taught Vogel and her family how to make Black Forest cake, Schnitzel and German pretzels. And the family – in addition to sharing the joys of ribs and mac and cheese – helped him see more of America, with outings to Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Louisiana and Memphis.

“It’s been a busy year,” Vogel said, “but it was a great experience for him, for me, for Austin Peay’s international office.”

Fricke has now returned to Germany to finish his bachelor’s degree, but Austin Peay is continuing its participation in the CBYX program. The University’s Office of Global Engagement is currently looking for a host family to welcome Kester, a 19-year-old from Bersenbrueck, Germany, who loves American sports – particularly basketball.

“I often went to watch games of the Artland Dragons, one of the better basketball teams in Germany,” he wrote in his letter to prospective host families. “Because of that, I joined a team. I used to play in the small team Blau – Weiß Merzen. After my first year, our team got elected as team of the year in Merzen, because my team ascended into a better league. I left the team with pain in my heart because I started my apprenticeship. I haven’t had much free time left to play basketball since.”

Anyone interested in hosting Kester this year and taking him to a few Governors basketball games should contact Marissa Chandler, director of the APSU Office of Global Engagement, at chandlerm@apsu.edu.

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