On February 12th of this year, Ball State’s chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta (German Club) worked alongside Dr. Laura Seset to host Staatskongress, the annual German-language student convention where secondary German students from across Indiana meet to engage in workshops, competitions and presentations on German studies and culture. This is event is conducted every February in collaboration with The Indiana Association of Students of German (IASG), which was established to promote interest in and study of the German language and culture, to promote closer cooperation among junior and senior high school and college organizations, and to provide an opportunity for extracurricular association among students and teachers of German in the State of Indiana. Ball State University has embraced the opportunity to host this annual convention, not only to support the IASG but also to highlight our excellent Department of Modern Languages and Classics and German program.
“[Staatskongress] allow[s] students who are taking German at their school in Indiana to come together and have fun by being involved in competitions involving cultural, speaking, and writing,” says Reaghan Lewis, Vice President of Delta Alpha Gamma (German Club).
This year, the event was well attended by high school students from all over the state and volunteers from BSU. This day-long event held a variety of activities including a very competitive Quiz Bowl which entails a variety of questions about German culture and language and the winning school is awarded the traveling trophy for that year. Other events include workshops surrounding music and theatre as well as other academic and culture competitions that allow students to express their knowledge. Heritage Speakers, or individuals who learned most of their German outside of the classroom, and Native German speakers are also represented in this fun-filled day. Students also participate in learning traditional German games, exploring Fraktur (old German calligraphy), and are asked to speak German as much as possible to both practice their skills and create a sense of community.
Photos from 2022 and previous years
Throughout the day, students have the opportunity to earn Sprechgeld or token Euros through winning and participating in the workshops and competitions. They are then allowed to spend their tokens at the Jahrmarkt, a market for German books and other cultural trinkets. At the end of the day, high school students spend time listening to officer nominations and vote for the upcoming year’s IASG officers. This process ensures that Staatskongress will continue to foster student’s relationships with the German cultural and language.
Turning Culture into Purpose
Jaclyn Flandermeyer, Ball State alumna ’19, first attended Staatskongress her sophomore year of high school and has attended almost every year since then. In high school she decided to take German as her foreign language due to her genuine interest in the language and culture. Her teacher, Miss Steed, always encouraged her class to go on the annual field trip to Ball State for Staatskongress.
“Staatskongress was an awesome experience for me. I got to show off my German skills in academic events and learned some new cultural aspects as well. During my first time at the event, I went to Jahrmarkt at the end of the evening, I had bought a book and cd in German. This helped broaden my knowledge and interest in the culture because in class we had only listened to one German group ever. After my first year attending, I always looked forward to going back the next year.” – Jaclyn Fandermeyer
For many high school students, participating in Staatskongress helps them decide if they want to pursue German at the collegiate level. For Jaclyn, her participation in this event was a huge factor of both what she studied and where she went. She notes, “Staatskongress definitely played a part in my decision of what to study and where to go to college. At the time I decided on pre-med, and wanted my undergrad to be something I enjoyed studying versus getting a degree in general biology.”
The impact Staatskongress has on students takes place even after their high school days. College volunteers are assigned to different aspects of the event and are tasked with creating a welcoming environment that promotes learning and cultural awareness. They are asked to speak to students in German and share their knowledge with students, which is a great way to become more comfortable speaking in a foreign language. Additionally, college volunteers said that talking with the kids really shows you how far your language skills have come. For Ball State students who study abroad in Germany, this event is the perfect time to share their experiences and how BSU supports it’s students unique interests. Volunteers also love seeing the life high school students bring to this event and the excitement that comes as soon as the students arrive.
Staatskongress is not only an event where high school students can come together to show off their skills or learn from their college-aged peers, but it is an opportunity to create a mindset of cultural awareness and a willingness to learn and understand others. It also is a chance for college students to learn how to handle extra responsibilities and teach them the importance of communication, leadership, and teamwork. Without opportunities like this, students would never get the chance to see the intersection of different cultures and pursue meaningful studies.
“I think when students see how language learning is so much more than sitting in a classroom staring at a chalkboard five days a week, that it will inspire them to keep learning. Teachers do the best they can, but a little extra cultural boost from an event like Staatskongress can be what students need to have the motivation to keep learning.” – Jaclyn Flandermeyer
Staatskongress will continue to be a pillar for German study in Indiana and Ball State will carry on providing a home for this conference that brings joy and knowledge to so many students.