They were pioneers, even if it didn’t particularly feel that way.
“I don’t think it occurred to any of us,” said Bob Shandley ’85.
But Shandley and the 12 other Simpson students who accepted Professor Glenn Buhr’s invitation to spend a semester studying in Schorndorf, Germany, were making history: they were part of Simpson’s first formal, semester-long Study Abroad program.
“He was quite a character, a very charismatic guy,” Shandley says of Buhr. “He was very good at convincing people to go on that trip.”
Buhr had one strict rule: When in Germany, Simpson students must speak German, even in private conversations with one another.
Shandley said Buhr chose Schorndorf because of family ties there. Students stayed with host families, and Shandley found lodging with one of Buhr’s friends.
“The host families took us around and did lots of things with us,” he said. “My host family took me on weekend trips around the region, to see things we might not ordinarily see.”
“We spoke German the whole time. My German skills just skyrocketed, and that was heavily influential for me.”
How influential? Shandley currently is a professor at Texas A&M University. He teaches film studies – and German.
“That never would have happened without that trip,” he said.
But that first Study Abroad semester wasn’t all about classwork and improving German speaking skills.
“We had free time,” Shandley said, then laughed. “Most of it was spent sampling German beverages.”
Then there was the pretty spring day in April in which Shandley and a classmate decided to skip class, board a train and head to Munich, where they stayed a couple of days.
“We told them where we were,” he said. “Buhr was really mad at us, but we had the time of our lives. He didn’t speak to me for a few weeks after that. I know now that I would flip out if one of my own students did that.”
But the program survived, and continues to this day. Its success has led to many other opportunities for Simpson students to live in, and explore, other countries.
“Buhr did all the legwork,” Shandley said. “We were the first guinea pigs. It was a pure pleasure.”