The Crailsheim experience: College student spends two months immersed in sister city
For Gordy Moore, one of those “aha” moments during his internship in Germany came when he was walking through the streets of Heidelberg. Feeling more German than American at that moment, he was slightly annoyed by the throngs of tourists and had difficulty expressing himself in English when he was broached by a trio of Americans, who were frantically searching for a restroom.
“There were these three bemused people from a band somewhere in America, and I guess they could tell I spoke English,” he related. “So I stopped and almost started speaking in German to them, couldn’t get the words out in English. It felt like a success moment — I was so immersed in German that it was difficult to speak English.”
Now back on American soil after a two-month stint in Worthington’s sister city of Crailsheim, Gordy — the son of Gordon and Jane Moore of Worthington and a junior at Macalester College — has a hint of a German accent and unbridled enthusiasm for all he learned and experienced during his stay in Crailsheim.
As a geography major with German and environmental studies double minor, Gordy began to check out study abroad opportunities during his sophomore year at Macalester. The only program that would help him hone his German language skills was six months long, and he didn’t want to invest that much of his time off campus.
But having visited Crailsheim with his family as part of city band delegation a few years ago, Gordy decided to use those sister-city connections to see if he could have an immersion experience there with host families. With the help of Carola Schnabl, who coordinates the Worthington-Crailsheim partnership in Crailsheim, as well as other German acquaintances, the arrangements were made not only for host families, but also for a full slate of internship experiences.
“I was just blown away with the wonderful connections. In April, I got an email with whole schedule with multiple places they had put together for me — a rotating internship with city entities and a couple of private firms,” Gordy explained.
On May 30, Gordy flew from the Twin Cities to Stuttgart, Germany, where he was greeted by the first of his two host families, the Leibls, with whom his siblings had stayed on that previous trip. Later, he would move to the Etzel home, whose son, David, became a friend when he was Crailsheim’s student ambassador to Worthington.
It was a short walk from the Leibl home to Gordy’s first “job” at Crailsheim’s Rathaus (city hall), where he wrote up an introduction of himself for the city newspaper, the Stadtblatt, and helped with translation.
“I was plunging in the first week to writing and speaking,” Gordy noted, “so it was a good first stop.”
His second two weeks were completely different, spent observing the district court based in Crailsheim. There are five judges, each specializing in different kinds of law, Gordy explained, and he was privileged to spend time discussing the law with all of them.
“I also spent a lot of time with a Romanian intern who had studied law,” said Gordy. “We were in the actual court proceedings and everything going on there every day. We were able to read the actual case files — the German legalese was a challenge.”
Because of his interest in environmental studies and renewable energy, Gordy’s next stop was the city’s municipal utility — the Stadtwerke. It was a real eye-opener.
“Crailsheim is a leader in renewable energy among small cities,” he said. “For solar energy, in particular, they have won awards for what is the largest solar thermal heating project in Germany — Hirtenwiesen II. Something like 2,000 inhabitants are supplied by this very large solar array. It is a brand-new development.”
The solar installment is located on a noise-reducing berm in a new development area, as well as on the roofs of the barracks buildings in the former U.S. military base in Crailsheim.
“It supplies heating year-round,” Gordy described. “People from all around the world come to see it, because there are very few in the world with this kind of technology to store (the energy). In addition to the two above-ground storage tanks, they can store it long-term underground by pumping the heated water to a rock layer that absorbs all the heat, and later pumping cold water back down there to transfer the heat back up.”
Because of all the interest in the project, a brochure was being developed to explain it, and Gordy was able to help with the English translation.
“They already had a good English translation, but I sent two of my days there comparing the German and English and improving it. The last day, the person who had translated it, and we went over it together, especially the German words that are not easily translatable.”
The Stadtwerke stint cemented Gordy’s interest in renewable energy, and his belief that the U.S. needs to put a stronger emphasis on exploring such efforts.
“It’s just a fascinating thing,” he said about the Crailsheim project. “I was also able to visit and talk with the owner of a biogas operation, went out to the bucolic countryside. They drove me out to this farm … and I had the opportunity to ask whatever questions I wanted and took notes on my phone.”
Several times Gordy got put on the spot about U.S. environmental practices, fracking in particular, he said, since the Germans fear it destroys the landscape.
“That’s something I hope to take back and advocate,” Gordy said. “At college, I’m involved in an environmental student organization, MacCARES. I kept saying we have lots of work to do in America to get closer to Germany in the renewable energy sector.”
As a break from his internship, Gordy went to visit David Etzel in Biberach, near Ulm, where he is studying civil construction management at the university.
“I was able to meet his friends, see university life,” described Gordy, “and we also visited a beautiful natural lake and museum there.”
Next stop on the internship cycle was NOW — a private water utility that supplies water to 600,000 people. Gordy’s experiences included watching real-time data from around the region come in to the control center, checking out a construction site for a new water line and helping test the waterflow from a spring.
“I was able to observe and learn and go around Schwäbisch Hall and see a lot of the countryside,” said Gordy. “I was there for a week and a half and wrote a report on my time there in German, to reflect on my time.”
Gordy really got his hands dirty and built a few muscles during a week with a private solar installation firm located in Jagstheim, a small town south of Crailsheim.
“Having been in the theory side of renewable energy, this was an opportunity to dive in completely to the practical side of renewable energy, do some real work with the people installing solar panels,” said Gordy, who found himself on top of a roof hoisting solar panels into place. “That one put me out of my physical comfort zone the most.”
Finally, it was back to city hall to wrap up Gordy’s intern schedule with another article for the city newspaper and some final research gathering.
While the internship rotation was the focus of his stay, he found ample time to do some sightseeing and socialize with the people he met along the way. Notable experiences included seeing Ulm Münster, the largest cathedral in southern Germany; the medieval city of Bamberg; Heidelberg, with its castle and its Philosopher’s Walk; attending a community theater production as well as “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Dinkelsbuhl; and participating in three musical ensembles,The Kammerton Choral ensemble, the Johanneskirche church choir and the Jugendkapelle band.
But for Gordy, it was the people who stood out during his time abroad.
“The people are the most genuine people I’ve ever met,” he said. “... I was just blown away with the wonderful connections. … I can’t believe all the wonderful people and different opportunities I was afforded.”
Gordy will not receive college credit for his time spent in Germany, but he counts it as one of his most valuable educational opportunities. He returned home with much-improved German language skills, a wealth of information about renewable energy, an enhanced perspective on the world and many new friends. He is grateful to the many people in Germany who went out of their way to facilitate the internship opportunities and make him comfortable.
“I was feeling at home in a week or less,” he reflected about his stay in Crailsheim. “It astounded me how much I felt at home with the atmosphere, the people. … It would be a stereotype to say I’m a different person, but I’m definitely not the same guy, and how could I be, when I’ve had these experiences?
“I can’t imagine a wider variety of meaningful experiences. It really was remarkable, and I’m thankful to so many people for that.”