Eva Kovacs Zewdie (Jennifer Kovacs): 1988-1989 Exchange Student
Crailsheim gave Eva a lot - but her favorite thing is curiosity!
Donor services manager for an international humanitarian organization
Fondest memory of my year in Crailsheim:
Choosing a single fondest memory is pretty challenging! So many community members made the experience a safe and supportive way to grow. Host families shared mealtimes, holidays and humor. The Volkshochschule members shared bus seats and their enjoyment of the opera. My classmates at Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium impressed me with how many subjects they had each week (multiple science classes, multiple languages) and their enthusiasm for throwing open the windows between each class. Those whose activity connections made early communications flow more smoothly: Students in the orchestra and on the basketball team, people whose recreational swimming times aligned with mine. The staff at the Rathaus who arranged documents and logistics with such warmth. The Crailsheim committee in Worthington who planned so thoughtfully and ensured that the sister-city connections would remain strong.
More than three decades later, it hardly seems possible to have been so far from home as a teenager. The internet didn’t exist yet, phone calls were prohibitively expensive, and letters written on thin, blue, airmail paper took weeks to travel home. How did my parents allow that? How did I trust myself? The answer is all of the relationships that surrounded me during that year in Crailsheim, all the people that shared their lives with me. I’m so fortunate to have been a part of the friendships between Worthington and Crailsheim through the years.
How the year abroad changed me:
In concrete terms, my time in Crailsheim (1988-89) was an inspiration for other international experiences: Study and work in Germany (1993-94), study and work in Hungary (1994), an international MBA (1996), and service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania (2003-05). I met my husband in Ethiopia (2010), where we travel with our kids to spend time with family. I work now with Alight, a humanitarian organization that works with displaced people in more than a dozen countries.
One of the most valuable skills that has grown in me through the years is to remain curious about differences. What does it mean for families if the main meal is at midday rather than in the evening? If fresh foods are accessible and refrigerators small, so that you purchase foods in smaller amounts more often? What is family life like if stores are closed in the evening and most of the weekend? What is it like if schools are mainly academic, and sports and hobbies for kids are organized through community organizations instead? These are among the things I remember noticing and considering while I was in Crailsheim.
Curiosity and a sense of adventure took me to quite a few places for study, work and volunteering. Only nearer to 40 did I get married and have kids. A multicultural marriage is a great way to have built-in cross-cultural exchange, even just chatting over coffee on weekends! At 6 and 9 years old, our boys are regular tent campers who know how to check the weather forecast and pack a bag for a weekend or a week. The enjoyment of exploration I experienced in Crailsheim is carrying forward into the next generation!