Image from article, with caption: TnBank President Thomas Tuck, from left, and tellers Lorraine Loy and Nadine Herron join German exchange student Dana Terhaag at the counter inside the bank's main branch on South Illinois Avenue. Terhaag has worked part-time at the bank for the past year.
WORLD RELATIONS: The International Exchange Student program at Roane State Community College strives to give students a competitive edge in a growing global economy. The program is in need of participants and local host families to help support the students who travel to Oak Ridge.
Some of the most memorable things Dana Terhaag will remember about her year-long visit to Oak Ridge are the views in the city and Southern hospitality.
“I really like the Southern hospitality,” the German exchange student said during an interview with The Oak Ridger on Monday. “I come from a flat part of Germany and love the mountains.”
Terhaag is part of an exchange program called Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX). The program is co-sponsored by the U.S. Congress and its German equivalent, the Bundestag. It is designed to immerse 18- to 25-year-old college students in the cultures of the U.S. and Germany. In Tennessee, U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann is the sponsor while his German counterpart is Congressman Udo Schefner.
Terhaag, in her early 20s, has spent the last year working part-time for Thomas Tuck and Leslie England at TnBank in Oak Ridge and attending business classes at Roane State Community College. In Germany, she completed her 13 years of “Gymnasium” (high school), at 19 and went to work at a large German bank, Sparkasse Bank, for two and one-half years while she learned the business. Not only did the bank employ her, but they paid for her to receive her training.
“I am going to go to university when I get back to Germany,” she said. “I want to do more than just learn the job.”
Terhaag came to the United States in August of 2015, one of 75 Germans in the exchange program. After a three-day stay in New York for orientation, the students began their travels to their host cities and families. It took Terhaag roughly a day to arrive at the home of Gene and Rosalyn Ice in Oak Ridge, where she would spend the next year. She said she calls the Ices her “host parents” despite her status as an adult.
“Next month we are going to San Francisco, so I can meet my 'host grandma,'” she said.
She has explored much of the South and the East Coast while she has been in Oak Ridge and although she hasn't had the chance to visit many of Oak Ridge's star attractions she did find some places she likes
“I like Razzleberry's, Dean's (restaurant), Gallo Loco and The Soup Kitchen,” Terhaag said.
Although she never went there, she did get the chance to enjoy some Big Ed's Pizza and learned she isn't the biggest fan of barbecue
“I am not much of a meat eater,” she said.
One of her favorite places to visit has been New Orleans and all it had to offer — from culture and history to cuisine.
“I like crawfish and beignets,” she said.
Beignets are fried, French donuts and are a staple of breakfast tables across Louisiana.
When asked what she missed most about home she said her friends and family and Turkish kabobs, a bag containing different meats and a Mediterranean tzatziki sauce.
“If you go to Viersen (her hometown) ask for a kabob,” Terhaag said.
Viersen is located in Western Germany on the Dutch border, she said.
One purpose of the CBYX program is to learn about U.S. culture and that there aren't many differences between the U.S. and German cultures, she said. One difference, however, is transportation.
“I am trying to sell my car,” Terhaag said. “You have to buy a car in the States, but not in Germany.” (If anyone is looking for a 2002 green Honda Accord … .)
The Roane State coordinator of the CBYX program is chemistry professor Adolf King. Terhaag encourages anyone interested in hosting an exchange student to reach out to King.
“They really need host families,” she said.
During a phone interview with The Oak Ridger, King said the international exchange program at Roane State has been operating for about 10 years. This year was what he called a “light” year with 60 Roane State students participating in five trips to different countries.
“We usually have seven trips,” King said.
The current participants have had three trips to Costa Rica, a trip to Ecuador and a trip to Sweden. The value of developing international relations, understanding and goodwill is critical to King.
“I had one student who, on a trip to Costa Rica, went into Nicaragua,” King said. “When she saw the poverty she said, 'I will never complain again.' Students were in tears and giving anything they could, including clothes, to the people there.”
Terhaag will return to Germany at the end of July, but will embark Friday on a whirlwind tour of the western United States. She will start with visiting her host grandma in San Francisco and then go to Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash. There she will meet other students and they will begin a trek down the Pacific Coast back to San Francisco and then on to Los Angeles and Hollywood.
After that, they will go to where Terhaag spent Christmas — Las Vegas, and then the Grand Canyon before heading to Washington, D.C., and home to Germany.
The CBYX website, www.cbyx.info has detailed information about the program, past participants and ways for people to help. The eligibility is also listed for students to participate.
Candidates for CBYX for Young Professionals must:
• Have U.S. citizenship or permanent residence;
• Be between ages 18 and 24 at the start of the program;
• Possess a high school diploma;
• Exhibit clear career goals and some relevant experience in their career field (experience can be work, internship, or volunteer);
• Have a strong interest in German and international affairs, as well as a strong sense of American identity; and
• Be flexible, independent, and diplomatic.
CBYX for Young Professionals is open to candidates in all career fields, and applicants from a broad range of backgrounds are selected for the program each year. Candidates in business, vocational, scientific, engineering, technical, and agricultural fields are especially encouraged to apply. Prior German language knowledge is not required, but is strongly preferred. Previous recipients of Congress-Bundestag scholarships are not eligible to apply.
In accordance with the public diplomacy goals of the CBYX program, the selection committee aims to select a diverse group of 75 American participants each year. Participants are expected to act as "young ambassadors" of the United States in Germany, and to represent the diversity of the United States in factors including, but not limited to, career field, educational background, geographic location, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, socio-economic status, disabilities, etc.
Russel Langley can be reached at (865) 220-5514.