A lot of people have invested in hardworking James Imes’s journey from Great Plains small town to large Midwestern city to the international capital of Berlin.
Born and raised in Williston, North Dakota, James took four years of German in high school and enjoyed his first study abroad right after graduation. James’s teacher and a Germany-based colleague “exchanged” 15 students for a month. To fund the trip, James contributed from his summer-job savings and his parents picked up the lion’s share.
Craving the excitement of a larger community, James came to the University of Minnesota. But after two competitive and stressful semesters, James’s parents told him they couldn’t underwrite his expenses anymore.
Luckily, James had learned the oil-industry job of “land man.” He knew that by working full time researching drilling rights, he could make good money fast. Back living with family, James worked 50- and 60-hour weeks. While he was bored and lonely at times, James knew working was his ticket back to the University.
When he made his “comeback” in 2007, James could finally focus on his majors in German studies and linguistics. But Germany was too big an attraction to be put off for long, so he joined the USA Goes to Berlin program. Though housing, internal transportation, and several tours were provided, James still had to come up with $1,500 for travel expenses.
This joint venture between the Center for German and European Studies and the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation placed a group of 15 University of Minnesota students in German grade schools to help teach English. In addition to trying to answer the students’ pressing questions about Disney’s High School Musical, James improved his conversational skills, renewed old friendships, and made new connections with his host family and their four daughters.
This year, thanks to the Frank D. Hirschbach Study Abroad Scholarship, next up for James is another Berlin trip. He plans to continue his linguistics research with German speakers. And, happily, James’s recent host family has offered to help with his housing.
Many students like James don’t have parents who can write a check for study abroad. Many students work long hours—often not at high-paying jobs like James’s—to make their way. Study abroad scholarships help us send America’s best young ambassadors out into the world, not only to gain experience, but also to leave their marks on it. Please help us by investing in more students like James. We need them to be America’s eyes and ears and voices in the world today.
James' first German host father wrote this farewell note: “I'm so glad to have met you. You gave me a much different impression of what Americans are like.”
Make a gift to the Department of German, Scandinavian & Dutch online through the University of Minnesota Foundation.
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CLA External Relations
220 Johnston Hall
101 Pleasant Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
For other giving options, visit the U of M Foundation.
Berthold Löffler image courtesy Minneapolis Institute of Art (The Modernism Collection, gift of Norwest Bank Minnesota)