Keeping in touch… Conny Osswald

Editor’s Note: As part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the Hans Joohs Sister Cities Exchange program, the Sister Cities commission has asked past visitors to update us on their lives. Here is a letter from the 2011 Hans Joohs Sister Cities Intern, Conny Osswald.

Conny in New Ulm

In October 2011 it was time to say “Goodbye Ulm, Germany” and “Hello New Ulm, Minnesota USA.” I was selected for the exchange program between the Sister Cities of New Ulm in the USA and Ulm/ Neu-Ulm in Germany. What a great luck.

My hosts were Ellie and Terry Sveine, Mary Lou and Brian Serbus and Kathy and Gary Rubey. They are all very nice people who made my time in New Ulm wonderful. I was with every family for around 4 weeks and had the chance to experience American family life and to meet wonderful people.

During my time in New Ulm, I learned about the city itself and the places you have to see while you are in New Ulm for example, Herman the German. I also travelled throughout Minnesota. Of course I didn’t travel on my own but with Rick Isbell. Rick is very dedicated in his support of the Sister City exchange program. We did several trips together. In Minnesota we went to the Mall of America where we did some shopping, and afterwards we went to a Minnesota Wild hockey game. One of our other trips we took was to South Dakota where I got to see the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. On our way we saw buffalos and hiked to the Harney Peak. During that trip we also went to Crazy horse monument, Sylvane Lake and Devil’s Tower. It was my first trip through Minnesota and parts of the Midwest and it couldn’t have had been better.

Seeing that I was in New Ulm in October I got to experience American style Halloween. We celebrate Halloween in Germany too but it is different than in the US. For example in New Ulm I went to work at Parker Hannifin with a costume. The purchasing team, where I worked, had the motto “The wizard of Oz”. Therefore I was disguised as a Munchkin. Later that day I was invited to the Serbus’ house where a lot of children came to get some sweets. It was funny to see all the decorations in front of the houses because that is something you can hardly find in Germany.

I guess football in the USA is the equivalent to soccer in Germany. Terry and Ellie took me to my first tailgating party in Minneapolis. Unfortunately we were too late for the game but it was fun to be part of the party. Later on during my time in New Ulm I had the chance to go to a Vikings football game. Even though I don’t know a lot of the rules, it was fun to be in the Metrodome for this great event.

On the next trip with Rick our destination was Duluth. On the way the first highlight was the stop in Rochester and here at the “Civic Theater” we saw the Musical “Spamalot”. Duluth itself was wonderful. We stopped at the Aerial Lift Bridge, did a tour through the Maritime Museum, went to the Gooseberry Falls, the Split Rock Lighthouse and the Wolf Center in Ely where we learned to whine like a wolf. ? On our way home to New Ulm we toured the “Glensheen Mansion” to see the beautiful premises of that old property.

Very popular in Germany and especially in Baden-Wuerttemberg is the so called “Fifth time of the year” or better Fasching. In New Ulm there is also a Faschings-group the “Narren of New Ulm”. Kathy Rubey, one of my host-mums, is a member of the group. I was invited to celebrate the beginning of Fasching with them on November 11. It felt like being at home. ?

Mary Lou and Brian Serbus took me to Brainerd. There we stayed in a beautiful house on Gull Lake and I experienced my first snow of my trip. It was a great weekend, full of fun.

In November was the holiday “Thanksgiving”. I was with the Serbus’ at this time and it was my first “Thanksgiving” and my first turkey. We had a delicious meal and a very relaxed day with football, food and a lot of fun. That same weekend I rode in the New Ulm Parade of Lights Christmas Parade.

As mentioned before, during my time in New Ulm I worked at Parker Hannifin in the Purchasing Department. It was a great time. I was fully integrated in the Parker team and it was fun to work on several projects as well as in different areas (for example Purchasing, Ware House, Production).

Besides working and traveling I did some speeches for some New Ulm organizations. At Martin Luther College I spoke to the German classes about Christmas in Germany or the German School System. I also participated in several German “Stammtisch” in the evening in the MLC cafeteria. I spoke in front of the people of the Oak Hills Home for the elderly which was a lot of fun because there were people who still spoke German or at least remembered some German words. It was interesting and nice to see how interested the people are in German traditions. At Oak Hills I met Elisabeth Zickler who originally came from Bochum, Germany. I visited with her a few times and enjoyed conversing with her in German.

Since I was leaving New Ulm at the end of December, I spent Christmas with the Rubeys’. We had a really nice and relaxing time together as I learned more about some of the American Christmas customs and activities.

Jack Minch took me to the Christmas Concert put on by the music department of Martin Luther College. He also took me to a German Christmas service at St. John’s Lutheran church where Professor James Danell led us in worship. On Christmas Eve afternoon I saw the children’s Christmas service at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and then later that evening we went to the Christmas Eve mass at the Cathedral. It is nice to see that an original German city still tries to keep some German traditions.

After a brief trip to New York I returned to Germany in January 2012. I started to work in the Supply Chain Management at an American Company where I work. On several projects I have to deal with foreign suppliers. My time in New Ulm was helped improve my English which makes it easier to talk and negotiate at work in a foreign language.

As it was time to say goodbye it felt hard to leave a city where I felt very much at home. It was a great time in New Ulm and one of the best experiences I ever had. A lot of people made that time unforgettable and I want to thank them all for their geniality. The Hans Joohs Sister Cities exchange program is a great opportunity for young people and for the support of intercultural exchange.