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German 416 students pose in front of the Berliner Dom after a day of urban exploration in downtown Berlin. Eric Gedenk is on the far left of the back row.

KNOXVILLE—Eric Gedenk went to Germany to study post-WWII press systems, but came home having learned something else, too: There’s value in slowing down and appreciating the small things in life.

Gedenk, of Chicago, Illinois, is a senior pursuing a double major in German and journalism and electronic media. He was in Germany from May 8 to May 26.

Gedenk got the traveling bug his freshman year after he stumbled onto the opportunity to study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. So this past spring, when his German professor, Maria Stehle, announced an interdisciplinary course about Berlin culminating with a trip at the end of the semester, Gedenk e-mailed her back that same day.

Maria Stehle, assistant professor in Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, explains the Nazi-era architecture of the Ministry of Finance building—one of the few Nazi buildings remaining in Berlin.


The class looked at Berlin from a multidisciplinary lens, touching on art, politics, religion, and architecture. Each student picked a topic they were particularly interested in to write a research paper on and, once in Berlin, they had to take classmates to a site relating to their topic. Gedenk wrote his paper on the development of the post-WWII German press systems and how people in East and West Germany received their news during the Cold War. He took his class to the German Press Agency (“deutsche presse agentur”) and toured the news room.

While enjoying the more recreational side of Germany, Gedenk said he appreciated the way people always found time to walk around the city in the evenings, ice cream or beer in hand, enjoying pretty weather and each other’s company.

Eric Gedenk poses in front of Berlin's iconic Fernsehturm, Germany's tallest structure. The tower was built in old East Berlin to display the power of Eastern Bloc nations.

“Moving at Berlin’s pace and observing its people made me reconsider the ‘frantic’ nature which I operate in certain times of the year, as well as where true priorities—family, peace of mind, relaxing, interpersonal communication—rank in my life, and more importantly, where they should,” Gedenk said. “Berlin is a national capital, and yet people did not wear the scars of fatigue and stress one would expect in such a bustling city.”

Gedenk also noticed an emphasis on green and healthy living in Berlin. The public transportation system allowed him to get anywhere in the city in thirty minutes or less. Also, he noted, the ingredient list on food and drink labels was much shorter than the typical American label.

“Not one time did I see the words ‘high fructose corn syrup’ in something that I ate or drank,” Gedenk said.

Gedenk received scholarship funds from the German department and a Center for International Education scholarship.

C O N T A C T :

Emma MacMillan (865-974-2225, emacmill@tennessee.edu)

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)