Life After the MAS
Here you will find some information on what life after graduation can be like: Former MAS students give insight on how they proceeded after successfully completing their studies at the HCA.
- Amy Foster Parish (MAS 2005)
- Amanda Chiu (MAS 2005) and Florian Vlad (MAS 2005)
- Raluca Gheorghita (MAS 2005)
- Selina Lai Suet Lin (MAS 2006)
- Anja Milde (MAS 2008), Cristina Mustea (MAS 2006) and Jiawei Mao (MAS 2007)
- Natalia Obelets (MAS 2007)
- Gulchekhra Makhkambaeva (MAS 2008)
- Alexander Vazansky (MAS Lecturer and Coordinator)
- Esen Momunkulov (MAS 2007)
- Raymond Eberling (MAS 2006)
- Justin Schwerling (MAS 2006)
- Anthony Santoro (MAS 2005)
- Axel Kaiser (MAS 2011)
- Dorothee Unger-Lee (MAS 2007)
- Oksana Yeshyorkina (MAS 2011) and Ergün Baylan (MAS 2012)
Amy Foster Parish (MAS 2005) shares with us her experiences in the first ever MAS class in 2005. Now Amy is one of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies’ first Ph.D. students. The current working title of her thesis is: Petticoat Governments: Representations of Female Presidents in American Fiction and Film.
When my American friends and family first learned that I was planning to get a Master’s degree from a German university – especially a university as prestigious as Ruprecht-Karls-Universität – they were universally impressed. My husband and I were already planning a move to Heidelberg in conjunction with his work in the U.S. military, and the opportunity for me to further my education while we were there was serendipitous to say the least. However, when those same friends and family learned of my degree program – American Studies – their supportive smiles turned a bit quizzical. I even got some chuckles. After all, what’s the point of an American, born and raised in the United States, moving to Europe to study…America?
For me, a degree in American Studies made perfect sense, no matter the location. While finishing my bachelor’s degree in English literature, I had become interested in a more multidisciplinary approach to the study of modern American fiction. The program in American Studies gave me the opportunity to view such literature through the lens of politics and history, or in conjunction with the other cultural product of the time.
But the MAS offers something so much more important than a multidisciplinary approach to American culture; it offers a multidisciplinary approach with an outside perspective, and it is in that perspective that the true value of a degree from the HCA lies. Living in Germany, working with students from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, with an ocean and several thousand miles between you and the United States, you are taught a valuable lesson – to view yourself and your country as others view it. To see your experience – to see the American experience, if there is such a thing – through the eyes of your German or Iranian or Chinese peers. Whether or not you agree on what you see, it’s the seeing itself that makes all the difference; the true benefit is in realizing the cultural product that America is exporting and understanding how that product is perceived.
So chuckle all you want – it’s true that I am an American who moved from America to Europe to study America. And as confusing as that seems, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What became of Amanda Chiu (MAS 2005) and Florian Vlad (MAS 2005) after graduation? Amanda reports on her work for the Hong Kong Tourism Board and Florian gives us his update on his life as Ph.D. student in the U.S.
Amanda came to Heidelberg to endulge in American Studies, “because it is a comprehensive program with many interesting fields, so it can satisfy my greed to learn everything. I chose to come to Heidelberg because it is a historical place with famous people and a town of cute buildings!” Now, two years after graduation she is back in Hong Kong working for the Hong Kong Tourist Office.
Florian looks back on the MAS: ” Yes, there is life after the MAS, believe it or not. After graduating, I finally entered the real world (if working in academia can be described as “the real world”). I am currently as an instructor at Ovidius University, teaching composition seminars to American Studies and Journalism students. However, I will be going back to school in August. I was lucky enough to be awarded a Presidential Fellowship by the University of Iowa to pursue a Ph.D. in American Studies and I’m very much looking forward to an exciting and challenging experience. And I would also to visit Heidelberg again and meet up with the other alumni, with the staff and with the current students. I haven’t practiced my German lately, but I can still order a Döner mit scharfe Sosse, ohne Pepperoni. As for the MAS, it has been successful in attracting students from all over the world, and, from my experience, the international nature of the program is helpful both academically (since it encourages a plurality of perspectives) and socially. The MAS was intellectually stimulating, but I also enjoyed the relaxed and friendly atmosphere at the HCA.”
What became of Raluca Gheorghita (MAS Class of 2005) after graduation? Raluca reports on her studies in London and her work for Procter & Gamble in Romania
After finishing the MAS in Heidelberg, I was offered a Marie Curie Fellowship from the European Commission to attend a Master Program in European Studies at University College London. This was a public policy-oriented master and I got to learn a lot about the practical functioning of the EU and its institutions and about EU policy making. London, as a town, was a completely different experience from Heidelberg, yet I enjoyed its amazing cultural and social life and the feeling of being in the middle of things…
I finished the M.A. in September 2006 and then I returned to Romania and I obtained a job with Procter & Gamble where I am currently employed. What I appreciate about this job is that it places me in direct contact with P&G employees from all over the world and it also allowed me to develop my German language skills. I am now proud to say I can speak German as well :)).
Nevertheless I still have not given up on my dream of getting a job with an EU institution or another international organization in the public affairs/public policy sector.
I wish you all good luck in the different corners of the world you may be in now and I hope to come back to beautiful Heidelberg soon.
Selina Lai Suet Lin (MAS Class of 2006) reports on her fortunes after graduation.
I had learned a lot in Heidelberg to begin with, and am going to take the knowledge and experience from there with me wherever I go in the future. I had such a great experience in Heidelberg, and I still remember the New Year countdown up on the castle, and the great dinner at Prof. Junker’s house with others. After having graduated from the MAS 2006, I returned to Hong Kong well prepared to take up the position as a lecturer in American Studies at Hong Kong University. Besides, I attended conferences and published in academic journals and encyclopedias such as the Columbia Journal of American Studies, Magill’s Survey of American Literature, International Fiction Review, and the Encyclopedia of the Culture Wars. I was all the more excited to receive an offer from the College of William and Mary to earn my doctoral degree in American Studies starting this fall. Much as I have lost my heart in Heidelberg, I am looking forward to bringing with me the unique experience I had from there to Williamsburg in the coming years.
Anja Milde (MAS 2008), Cristina Mustea (MAS 2006) and Jiawei Mao (MAS 2007): Ph.D. Colloquium in Oberflockenbach
Former and current MAS students Anja Milde, Cristina Mustea and Jiawei Mao presented their theses during the Ph.D. colloquium in Oberflockenbach, June 6 and 7.
Blessed with sunshine and a mild summer breeze, participants of the HCA Ph.D. program in American Studies, together with teachers and students, convened on June 6 and 7 for the fifth annual Ph.D. colloquium at the Curt-Engelhorn-Seminarzentrum in Oberflockenbach. The Seminarzentrum, formerly the home of the Italian-born chansonnier Caterina Valente and acquired by our benefactor Curt Engelhorn, continues to serve as a favorite retreat for numerous study groups affiliated with the University of Heidelberg, among them the HCA Ph.D. program. As in previous years, the colloquium listened to exciting talks, witnessed stimulating discussions and brought together a wide range of speakers and topics, thereby living up to the intercultural and interdisciplinary mission of our institute.
The first panel Literary & Intellectual Interventions featured two Ph.D. candidates from the English Department, Tamara Treichel and Tobias Endler. They were followed by two HCA Ph.D. students, Cristina Mustea and Karsten Senkbeil, who presented their ongoing research in the field of Popular Culture & the Media. For the next panel which focused on Civil Rights at Home and Abroad, the floor was yielded to two young historians associated with the HCA, Anja Milde and Alexander Vazansky. Florian Pressler and Jiawei Mao, historians also, concluded the event with talks exploring different aspects of U.S. Foreign Economic Policy.
After the final panel, the participants left Oberflockenbach thoroughly satisfied. Apart from giving informed advice to panelists of diverse disciplinary backgrounds, the colloquium members managed to create a supportive and intellectually engaging atmosphere worthy of a true community of scholars.
Natalia Obelets (MAS Class of 2007) reports on her life after graduation.
Before coming to Heidelberg, I would never ever have thought what kind of experience I would gain there, experience that is really precious both in terms of academic knowledge and personal growth. Being part of the MAS taught me the real meaning of academic life that I was so desperately looking for. Moreover, the international environment we were all placed in, helped me to develop some interpersonal skills that appeared to be really helpful for my future career path.
After graduation, I got an internship position with one of the leading German flavor ingredient companies, where I became a market analyst. The HCA courses helped me to accomplish it. Afterwards, I moved to Moscow, where I was offered a position with one of the leading international consulting groups.
I just want to express my gratitude to Professor Junker, Dr. Kraft, Alex Vazansky and other members of HCA and encourage other students to take a chance and experience what we'd experienced. The year spent in Heidelberg took a special place in my heart and nobody will take it from me.
Gulchekhra Makhkambaeva, a graduate of the MAS 2008, returned to her native country Uzbekistan after graduating. She reports on current professional activities.
Since I came back I have been working at the newly organized Management Development Institute of Singapore at Tashkent. I teach English (Academic Skills) as well as Communication Skills tutorials. Together with my colleague from my previous job, who also studied abroad in 2007-2008, I organized a private training center where we prepare students for IELTS and TOEFL tests. So, I have two jobs at the moment and I really enjoy both. If you are interested you can read an article about the center and my work there at www.usembassy.uz. Overall, my expectations about coming back home and finding work at a university came true, which makes me very happy. Of course, the degree that I gained at the HCA has helped a lot. I am very thankful to all the teachers and HCA staff for having provided me with such great opportunities. The course gave me not only professional but also personal confidence.
In May 2009, Alex Vazansky, the longtime MAS course coordinator, left the HCA to follow his fiancée to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he is now working as a lecturer at the University of Nebraska.
Alexander Vazansky has been part of the HCA since October 2004. He got to know all MAS students, from the very first class that graduated in 2005 to this year’s graduating class, first as lecturer of the Methodology class and later, since October 2006, also as the MAS Coordinator. In this position, Alex took care of the MAS students from the application process and their first days in Heidelberg to the completion of the program and the final stages of the commencement. During his time at the HCA, Alex was also writing his dissertation in history, entitled “An Army in Crisis: Social Conflicts in the United States Army, Europe and 7th Army, 1968-1975.” He successfully defended his dissertation in April 2009. Not only was his time at the HCA professionally successful, but it brought about a great change in his private life. In September 2007, he met Dr. Jeannette Jones, who came to the HCA as a guest professor. In August 2009, they were married in a beautiful ceremony on Long Island. Now Alex is leading a new life as a husband and lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Esen Momunkulov, a graduate of the MAS 2007 class, returned to Kyrgyzstan after graduating. He reports on his current professional and academic activities.
More than a year has passed since the graduation of the MAS class 2007. It is unbelievable that time goes by so fast. While I was studying at the HCA, I told myself that I would keep in touch with my professors and classmates after the graduation. Well, I was going to, but every time when I had decided to send an email, I kept telling myself, “wait until you have something that is worth telling”, “wait until your project ends successfully and then you can share your joy with others”, etc. Now, I believe this was not a good idea at all.
Christian Kempf, a student assistant at the HCA, offered me to write an article for the newsletter and I agreed without hesitating because it was such a good opportunity to say “Hi” to everybody. First of all, I hope things are going well for everyone. Secondly, I once again would like to thank the HCA professors and staff for providing students with good quality education. The HCA diploma is truly serving me well here in Kyrgyzstan.
After I returned from Heidelberg, I was still working on my M.A. thesis. It was a very difficult task to write my thesis with my daughter dragging all my books and papers around the house. Besides, my wife and daughter wanted me to spend some time with them after being apart for 6 months. The deadline for the thesis was putting extra stress on me as well. Despite all the difficulties, I managed to finish my thesis before the deadline, of which I am very proud.
After I sent off my M.A. thesis, I took some time visiting relatives and friends. For several weeks my routine was the same: sleeping, watching TV and eating good food. Then, I started to look for a job. I decided to take some time off from academia because I could not look at my books any more. A friend of mine made me the offer to be a manager for his small construction project and I agreed. The project lasted for a year and I believe it was a success. I was responsible for the overall management of the construction of a car repair shop. I acquired management skills, learned to work with bureaucrats in government bodies and became familiar with construction and auto parts business.
In May 2009, I got a chance to participate at a conference in Potsdam, Germany. Unfortunately, my travel visa was only valid for a few days, so I did not have time to visit Heidelberg. Recently I applied and was admitted to the Ph.D. program at the Diplomatic Academy of the Foreign Ministry of the Kyrgyz Republic. I plan to start teaching at a university this fall semester. Finally, I would like to ask the MAS Class of 2007 to keep in touch and share their experiences after the program. I wish you all good luck in your endeavors.
Ray Eberling who graduated from the MAS program in 2006, is now in his third year of the HCA’s PhD program. His research project is titled "Come on Down!" The Selling of the Florida Dream 1945-1965," and explores the intersection between politics, growth, race, and media in postwar Florida. His adviser is Prof. Dr. Manfred Berg, Curt Engelhorn Chair in American History, University of Heidelberg.
On behalf of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the University of Florida Raymond A. Eberling is the recipient of the 2010 Julian Pleasants Travel Award. A retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Mr. Eberling received his Bachelor of Arts in Education (B.A.E.) from the University of Florida in 1970. The Julian Pleasants Travel Award was created in honor of Dr. Julian Pleasants, Director Emeritus of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and longtime Professor of History at the University of Florida. The Pleasants Travel Award promotes cutting edge oral history research at UF.
Justin Schwerling, a graduate of the MAS 2006 class, returned to the US after graduating. He reports on his current professional and academic activities.
Immediately following graduation from the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (actually two months prior) I began a new adventure in law school. I graduated from Florida International University College of Law in May of 2009. Moving to Miami so soon after Heidelberg proved to be a bit of a shock. South Florida seems to demonstrate its laidback ways in every aspect of society including law and order (three consecutive years awarded “Worst City for Aggressive Driving”). I enjoy returning to Germany every year and worrying less (for example, when I ride my bike down the street).
I chose FIU because of its wide selection of international classes and renowned international faculty. Having such a positive experience at the HCA I knew I wanted to parlay that experience with whatever future career path I chose. Concentrating in international law allowed me to do just that. In fact, during my studies at FIU I was lucky enough to return to Germany via a summer internship with Rechtsanwaltskanzlei Winter, Ohr, Bock & Sylvester in Frankenthal, Germany. Currently I am looking for jobs overseas that allow me to utilize the education I gained through the HCA and FIU.
After graduating from law school I passed the July 2009 Florida bar and began practicing law in Miami. The firm I work for specializes in commercial and civil litigation. I recently was involved in a case concerning copyright infringement at Hed Kandi, a club in South Beach. It was an interesting experience because it involved actors from all over the world with arbitration in London but legal jurisdiction in Miami. I have also volunteered for a couple non profits along the way as well.
While graduating with a Masters in American Studies and a Juris Doctor rank high on my list of accomplishments, I am most happy about my two little girls (both deutschicans, i.e. my wife’s German) that have come into the world since graduating from the HCA. Currently the family and I are looking for jobs back in Germany and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Anthony Santoro, a graduate of both the HCA’s MAS and Ph.D. programs, as well as a lecturer and tutor in history, left the HCA for Michigan in 2010. He reports on his current professional and academic activities.
Following my graduation from the HCA’s MAS program, I remained in Heidelberg and began working on my doctoral dissertation. After gradually shifting away from my initial topic, I settled in on the theme—an analysis of the religious discourse on the death penalty in contemporary America. I undertook extensive field research in the United States in 2008-09 and was fortunate to receive considerable support from the HCA’s Ghaemian Travel Fund, Heidelberg University’s Graduiertenakademie and from the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC. I submitted and defended the dissertation in 2010, earning my Ph.D.
Over the last several years, while working toward my Ph.D. and since obtaining it, I have taken advantage of numerous opportunities to teach courses on American history and American religion. Through these courses, I have been able to interact with students from all over the world. Classroom discussions are interesting and instructive, for me as well as for the students, and I value these interactions.
Recently, I have also been working to help plan a major international, interdisciplinary conference on “Religion and the Marketplace in the U.S.” The conference, which promises to be very exciting and mark a major contribution to scholarship on religion in the United States, will be convened at the HCA in October of 2011.
Currently, I am in the United States with my family, conducting the first of two sets of field research for my new research project, an investigation of the sports fan base as an extended congregation. Supported by a fellowship from the German Research Foundation (DFG), the work has been fruitful and profitable, and I have benefitted from exchanges over here with colleagues and with students working on sports, religion or related issues. As well as the research is going, and as excited as I am about working through the most eventful NFL offseason I’ve ever known, I am very much looking forward to returning to Heidelberg this June.
The most important and biggest change in my life in the years since the MAS, actually two changes, were the arrivals of my two beautiful daughters—both of whom are also looking forward to being back home in Heidelberg.
“Caminos de la libertad“ (“Roads to Freedom”) is one of the most prestigious and competitive essay contests in the Spanish speaking world. It is organized by TV Azteca, a Mexican communication network owned by the Salinas Group, which actively engages in promoting ideas of individual freedom, the rule of law, constitutional democracy, and the free market. Each year between 600 and 900 authors, many of them university professors, participate in the contest. An expert commission then selects around ten essays and the finalists are invited to Mexico to receive distinctions and prizes during a festive ceremony. MAS graduate Axel Kaiser (class of 2011), who now pursues a doctorate in the HCA’s Ph.D. program, submitted an essay entitled “Inflación y libertad individual” (“Inflation and Individual Freedom”). Axel argues that the expansion of the money supply by central banks arbitrarily confiscates the fruits of our labor by devaluating the currency. He sees this as a direct attack on property rights and individual freedom because the material means to pursue our ends are partially expropriated, leaving us with fewer choices. Along the lines of Nobel laureate economist Friedrich von Hayek, Axel also argues that artificially low interest rates set by central banks are the cause of boom and bust cycles. They destroy wealth and create depressions leading to a spiral of government intervention which deepens the crisis. In addition, and following John Maynard Keynes, Axel sustains that inflation transfers wealth from the masses to governments and financial elites, who can use the newly created money to purchase goods and services at pre-inflationary prices. This enables them to take a larger share of the goods and services produced in an economy without having contributed to its growth.
This analysis convinced the selection committee. They named Axel one of the finalists in the 2011 “Caminos de la libertad” contest and flew him to Mexico City. He received his award in a ceremony attended by Mexican business leaders, intellectuals, and politicians, among them the daughter of Octavio Paz, the Mexican Nobel laureate writer. 2010 Nobel laureate writer Mario Vargas Llosa handed out the awards. Axel had the privilege of getting to know him better that evening over a long dinner with fascinating conversation. Axel describes Vargas Llosa as a friendly, down to earth person, who has made of the cause of liberty his central motivation in life. He found him not the least arrogant, a feature which Axel thinks distinguishes great men from merely successful men. They talked about living and studying in Heidelberg, a city Vargas Llosa praised for its beauty and intellectual history. In the conversation, they also discovered that they had a common friend – a small world indeed. He is a leading Latin American economist who wrote the introduction to a book on the financial crisis that Axel published a couple of months ago in Chile. Since he happened to have a copy with him, Axel presented it to Vargas Llosa and in exchange asked him to sign the German version of his novel Travesuras de una niña mala, (Das böse Mädchen), which Vargas Llosa kindly did. During the exchange, Axel couldn’t help to think, “what a great deal for Vargas Llosa.”
Congratulations, Axel, on your prize in the “Caminos de la libertad” contest – we are sure you had a great time in Mexico.
Following my graduation from the HCA’s MAS program in 2007, I worked in a variety of positions in the PR and marketing field. I started out as a PR assistant for one of Germany’s largest agency networks in Munich and then moved on to support a parliament member in her office in Berlin. Most recently, I moved to the United States where I got married to fellow HCA ’07 graduate Bobby Lee this spring. We both live in Berkeley, California now. Bobby is pursuing his Ph.D. in history at UC Berkeley and I am working for the English Department. When I moved to Berkeley, I discovered there was only little support from the university for international partners and spouses, so I founded an international women’s group called the “Berkeley Wives” which is now becoming an official program within the university.
MAS graduate Bryan Banker tells us that the HCA is not only responsible for great education but sometimes also for romances with a very happy ending. Congratulations to the couple!
Oksana Yeshyorkina (MAS 2011) and Ergün Baylan (MAS 2012) first met at one of the many events put on by the HCA. At a TGIF occasion in 2010, on a long walk on the Philosophenweg, Ergün and Oksana saw stars in each other’s eyes. After a courtship consisting of long trips on the number 5 tram to Mannheim, delicious dinners at Istanbul restaurant, and spending time with friends and colleagues in Heidelberg Ergün and Oksana decided to stay together after Oksana’s graduation in April 2011 and her subsequent move to Turkey. Later in the year, in September, on the coast of the Aegean sea in Assos, Turkey, where Aristotle founded his School of Philosophy, Ergün finally proposed to Oksana.
They married in July of 2012 in Ergün’s hometown of Karabük. At the wedding, Elif Huntürk (MAS 2011) and Bryan Banker (MAS 2012) were thrilled to serve as Oksana’s Maid of Honor and Ergün’s Best Man, respectively. Currently, both Ergün and Oksana are doctoral students at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.