Growing in German Jackson Ellis '19 is working with a German consulting agency to help international student-athletes navigate the college application process.
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia
Major: Global Politics
Q. What are you up to this summer?
I am working with a consulting agency called Uniexperts in Cologne, Germany. The internship is organized through the German American Exchange. The German American Exchange aims to “offer internships that help the participants to become aware of and understand the growing importance of the economic relationship between Europe and the USA.” My company focuses on helping international student-athletes, mainly Germans, with the college application process. We help them connect with coaches, complete the complicated paperwork, and find colleges that are right for them. I work in the admissions department, but I am active in other departments like event planning and social media outreach. At the end of July, Uniexperts hosts their annual tennis showcase, where nearly 100 youth tennis players compete in front of around 40 division I and II college coaches.
Q. What made you want to be part of this work?
I wanted to work abroad, and especially in Germany. It gives me a practical way to grow my German skills. Not only will I return to Lexington with a more in-depth knowledge of the language and culture, but I will have gained professional work experience. I had no idea what company I would intern for, but I was excited to work for Uniexperts. The company values culture exchange as an essential part of personal and professional growth.
I value being able to build relationships with people in a way that you cannot do as a tourist. Having to work on projects and attend meetings in a different language is a unique challenge, but it provides me the opportunity to learn about the similarities and differences of another culture’s way of thinking.
Q. What did an average day for you look like?
I usually wake up and take the S-Bahn (tram) to work. I complete various tasks like converting German GPA scores into America equivalence, calling American universities admissions offices, or representing our company at local or national sporting events. My entire office eats together at lunch, which I think is interesting. There is a strong family feeling to the company. I am certainly never bored. People are always asking me to do things like proofread documents, help give presentations and attend important meetings. My company doesn’t have many employees, so even though I am assigned to admissions, every department has asked for my help.
Q. What is the most exciting knowledge you’ve picked up while doing this work?
I’ve learned a lot about how education in other countries and Germany works. I have been surprised about how many students want to come to the USA to play sports. Two things I have learned have been very refreshing. First, people are still enthusiastic about coming to the USA. Second, there are a lot of people who still don’t know about our country. Many times I feel like our culture has penetrated so many different aspects of life here in Europe, so I always get excited when I get to explain something at work.
Q: How does the project relate to your broader experiences at W&L regarding student-faculty relationships?
In addition to the work in the office, my summer includes a summer course with German professor [and new associate provost] Paul Youngman. I keep a blog about my experiences and we Skype about what is going on and what I am learning. These video chats are more than instruction since he always checks to see if things are going smoothly. Being in a new city can be hard, especially when it’s in another country, so it is nice to know someone has your back if things go wrong. It is the type of support I have come to expect from professors at Washington and Lee, but after talking with interns from other American universities, I realized how unique and special that support is.
Q. Has your work this summer impacted your future plans in any way?
It has grown my confidence in my ability to work abroad. After this experience I am sure that not only could I live and work in a foreign country, I can also work with people from various cultures and backgrounds. My job has had me interact with co-workers, business partners and customers from all around the world. This experience has deepened my interest in seeking out a career that allows me to interact on the global stage. Additionally, the German American Exchange has strengthened my conviction that building and maintain international connections, whether they are economic or personal, are crucial to business success and global peace. It has made me want to work for a company that contributes to this idea.
Q. How did W&L prepare you for this experience?
My German classes helped me a ton. The professors have not only provided me with help outside the classroom to improve my grammar and vocabulary but gave me a more in-depth look into German cultures. Courses like professors Youngman and Hess’s Spring Term class, German Business Culture in Berlin, were beneficial. Additionally, the cultural events hosted by the department, the German Club, and the native speaking teaching assistants helped me come to Germany better accustomed to specific nuances. The native speaking teaching assistants were most helpful because we have to have a conversation with them once a week. There I grew my confidence in speaking to a native. There is a considerable difference between speaking a language in class and speaking it in the native country, but I was well prepared when I started working.
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More About Jackson
What extracurricular activities do you do?
I am involved in Peer Counseling, the German Club, Greek Life and Kathekon.
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
The entire German Department inspired me to stick with the department and explore different things on campus. Some of my closest friends were made through the tightly knit German Department.
Favorite place to eat in Lexington?
My favorite restaurant is Mano Taqueria. I love getting a beef burrito there, but on Saturday sometimes they have special meat like rabbit or goat, and I love trying something new. I also really like their Carolina Reaper Salsa but in small amounts. But my favorite place to eat is my fraternity house kitchen. I love our chef’s food, and I miss lunches on Friday, especially Buffalo chicken sandwiches.
What one film/book do you recommend to everyone?
“Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut. The book is a journey and left me exhausted at the end. It showed me a new way to see the universe around me.
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
I wish I had known how to swing dance better.
Favorite W&L memory:
Playing my radio show once a week, for an hour. I love WLUR.
Professor Adam’s Introduction to Film.
Favorite W&L event:
I love going to the Activities Fair at the beginning of the year. It’s a great place to bump into people you haven’t seen since last spring, and there is always a new club to consider.