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By HOLLY TABOR
They say the best way to learn a language is to become immersed in it.
That was all the motivation James Lutz needed to board a plane earlier this week bound for Munich, Germany. The 18-year-old Elizabethtown High School graduate will spend five weeks studying the language and culture of the country from which his father’s grandfather traveled to the United States in the early 1900s.
If German is Lutz’ language of choice, Breanna Gaddie of Hodgenville has chosen a different means of communication: photojournalism.
A 2003 graduate of LaRue County High School and senior at Northern Kentucky University, Gaddie will travel to Scotland next week to participate in a multi-media class titled, “A Look Under the Kilt: Producing Digital Media in Scotland.”
Both students are traveling overseas to participate in college courses that will apply toward their majors, but the real education, they know, will be in the experience.
“Time and money dictate most aspects of life,” said Gaddie, a photography and journalism major. “I may never again have the time or money to do this. I don’t want to be one of those people saying I always wanted to go but never got the chance.”
Thanks to financial aid, Gaddie has her chance.
Her class will allow her to research and produce a multi-media presentation about the ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee or kay-lay), a centuries-old informal gathering involving music and dance, along with occasional storytelling and food. She will post her final project on her Web site at www.studenthome.nky.edu and hopes to keep a blog about her travels at norsebre.livejournal.com.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “It’s a story I can keep telling.”
Ancestors on her father’s side link her even further to Scotland, having traveled from the country to the United States in the 17th century.
“Scotland is in my blood,” she said. “It’s my heritage. I love hearing bagpipes.”
Gaddie and her classmates will live in Pollock Halls at the University of Edinburgh during the three-week class, orchestrated through the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad.
Lutz will live with a host family in Munich, an arrangement made through the Kentucky Institute for International Studies, which organized his study abroad trip.
He plans to travel to Heidelberg, Berlin and Austria. But the majority of his time likely will be spent in activities associated with his classes, German 201 and 202 — a continuation of classes he took in the language as a senior dually enrolled at EHS and the Gatton Academy of Math and Science at Western Kentucky University.
“I’ll be focusing mostly on schoolwork,” Lutz said. “I’m really looking forward to the excursions.”
It was at Gatton Academy that he learned he wanted to pursue language and culture as his fields of study. Lutz intends to double major in German and political science at the University of Kentucky. In the fall, he will apply for a year-long study abroad program at the University of Heidelberg.
“When I went to the academy, I thought medicine, but it turns out, medicine and math and science are not really for me,” he said. “I’m more history, English and politics.”
Time at the academy also prepared him for being away from home — he came home one weekend each month — as well as helped him understand the construct and expectations of college courses.
“I’m excited about the independence,” Lutz said.
Although a few days before leaving, he was most nervous about getting everything packed.
“Of course, I have the pre-trip anxiety of going,” he said.
Both Lutz and Gaddie said they have been warned in preparing for their trips to remember to keep their possessions close and always to be aware of their surroundings. “They still have crime, still have terrorism, still have accidents,” Gaddie said of the European countries.
Precautionary measures in mind, both students plan to fill every second of their trips with life-shaping experiences. Between museums, libraries, class, scheduled excursions and independent research, “every bit of the trip is planned,” Gaddie said.
Neither Lutz nor Gaddie anticipates having much time to research genealogy while in their families’ respective homelands, but they both expect to come away with a stronger connection to their pasts and memories to last a lifetime.
Holly Tabor can be reached at (270) 505-1745.