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Two more Ellsworth students heading to Germany

Germany exchange program

Blane Bark of Nashua (second from left) and Thomas Newhall of Dumont (third) are pictured with ECC faculty members Joerg Rochlitzer (left), a native of Germany who is coaching them on German language, customs and culture prior to their departure for a two-month work/study exchange in Europe, and Kevin Butt (right), ag instructor.

Ellsworth Community College sophomore Thomas Newhall of Dumont and freshman Blane Bark of Nashua have started preparing for the experience of a lifetime … they leave March 20 for two-month agricultural work/study experiences in Germany! Newhall and Bark were notified last month that they are the second-year recipients of Todd Welden Memorial Scholarships, which are financially supporting their educational and cultural exchanges.

Newhall and Bark will travel to and from Germany together, but will be staying at separate farms in Saxony, Germany. Both will be assisting in the day-to-day work activities at German family farms, where they’ll experience springtime German farming operations and practices from all angles. They’ll also visit agricultural schools and attend meetings in Dresden and Berlin with Dr. Peter Jahr, a representative of the Parliament of Saxony and the European Union.

“These two students are very deserving of the Todd Welden Memorial Scholarships they’ve received, and I’m as excited as they are about the agricultural exchange experience they’ll have this spring in Germany,” says ECC Agriculture Professor Kevin Butt. “Agriculture is a global business now, and our students need this kind of experience and exposure to really understand the impacts of all that. This German ag exchange program, which is just in its second year, is now opening doors for us in other countries … we’re talking about ag exchanges that might happen in England in the future. Pretty cool!”

Bark, who is majoring in Ag Business at ECC, says he’s excited about the chance to travel overseas (he’s never been on an airplane) and experience new things. “I learned about the opportunity in class, and I really jumped at it,” Bark says. “I grew up in town but have worked on a farm for the past four years. I love agriculture, and I’m looking forward to learning about the German culture.”

Newhall, who will also experience his first plane ride, echoed Bark’s enthusiasm. “I know the students who went last year, and I know what a great experience it was for them. It’s an incredible opportunity to expand my knowledge base, make new friends, and expand my professional network.” Newhall, a Farm Management major, is a fourth generation family farmer who is looking forward to bringing lots of new ideas home with him.

ECC social science faculty member Joerg Rochlitzer, a native of Germany, has been involved for several years in bringing Dr. Peter Jahr to Iowa Falls and the ECC campus, where he has visited and lectured with local and state officials. Their efforts have resulted in educational exchange opportunities for both German and ECC students, which have now have expanded thanks to the scholarship gift from the family of Todd Welden. Rochlitzer and retired Iowa Falls High School German instructor Don Rhude are meeting with the two ECC students each week to go over basic German phrases, customs and other “need to know” facts and travel tips.

“They bring their questions to our weekly meetings, and we’ll make sure they’re comfortable with the basics before they get on the plane,” says Rochlitzer. “We plan to Skype with Dr. Jahr and the farm families, once they’re chosen, which will also help by putting faces with those new names. It’s exciting!”

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