IU faculty research exchange program with Universität Hamburg has student study abroad roots

As a university with a rich history of international engagement, Indiana University has relationships with leading universities and institutions around the world that form a special piece of the fabric of IU's nearly 200-year history.

Today, IU ranks seventh in the nation in its number of students who travel overseas to study and boasts two of the oldest formal study abroad partnerships in the country: in Bologna, Italy, and Madrid, Spain. IU's Global Gateway Network also connects members of the IU community to key regions of the world and has further expanded cultural and research opportunities for faculty and students.

This year, IU will celebrate a 40-year anniversary of partnership with Universität Hamburg that has grown from student study abroad roots into a strong international research exchange for IU faculty.

Students studying in the grass at Universität HamburgView print quality image
Students studying in the grass on the campus of Universität Hamburg. Photo provided by Universität Hamburg

IU's official agreement with Hamburg in 1977 established a study abroad program for undergraduate students. However, IU's relationship with Hamburg University stretched back 12 years earlier, when the first student exchanges began.

Claus Clüver was the first director of the Indiana University-Purdue University Studienprogramm an der Universität Hamburg, an undergraduate academic program that began in 1965.

Clüver got the program off the ground by renting and furnishing an office, making sure all the students had proper housing, establishing contacts with the university authorities and creating the framework for enrolling the students in university courses.

"And, of course, I had to be counselor and comforter for the students, especially when their spirits went low in the unfamiliar country," said Clüver, who has been professor emeritus of comparative literature since retiring from teaching at IU in 1996. "But at the end of the year, they all agreed that this was a most valuable experience."

Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch, IU professor of English and comparative literature beginning in 1962, was a resident director in Hamburg in the 1990s. He saw firsthand the advantages offered to students who studied abroad through the exchange with Universität Hamburg.

"The most significant advantages for IU were the rapid development of the students, both in their proficiency in German and in terms of their maturity and their gaining perspectives beyond the relatively parochial one with which they arrived," he said.

Bernhardt-Kabisch credited the opportunities for students not only to the universities but to the city of Hamburg, which he described as both a metropolis and a gateway to the world due to its vast harbor and its leadership in media and the arts.

Troy Byler, who is currently a senior lecturer and outreach coordinator for Germanic studies at IU, was one of Bernhardt-Kabisch's students. He chose to study at IU Bloomington because of the overseas opportunities, and his choice of college as well as his participation in the Hamburg exchange altered his life.

"My senior year in Hamburg helped me to uncover the true passions that I had for literature and cultural studies," he said.

In addition to finding his professional passion, Byler met his future wife, who was a fellow participant in the exchange.

"Without the IU Hamburg Program, I would not have my wife, Jenny Bowen, associate director of student services at the IU Office of International Services, my professional position, my many invaluable memories and lifelong friendships."