Our Stories

Scholarship Sends Student to Germany

Diana Serrano '10 first lived in Germany for a year during high school, an opportunity she sought simply as a way to spend some time outside her small hometown.

The small-town escape soon became a passion as she fell in love with the country, its people and its language -- and she chose German as one of her two majors at Willamette (the other is sociology).

"I didn't know anything about Germany, but I'm really glad I went," she says. "When I came back, I wanted to keep up my German, and I read a lot of German books that were translated into English. They were amazing, and I wanted to be able to read them in their original language."

Serrano's dedication to studying the country paid off this year when she received a prestigious DAAD Undergraduate Scholarship. DAAD stands for Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, or German Academic Exchange Service. The scholarship supports U.S. and Canadian students interested in studying, researching or completing an internship in Germany. Serrano, the first Willamette student to receive this award, is spending this academic year at Ludwigsburg University of Education in southern Germany.

German is Serrano's third language. She was born in California and raised in Mexico and Woodburn, Ore., by a Spanish-speaking family, and she is the first in her family to attend college. Her family's immigrant status and her interest in sociology prompted her desire to study Germany's school system while she's in the country.

"From what I've seen of the school system there, it doesn't seem to offer much help to immigrants because people there aren't as used to seeing immigrants as [they are] in the United States. I know what it's like to be an immigrant and not know the language and the culture, and I'm interested in studying sociology in another country. Sociology helps me understand the world and my place in it."

Serrano has also dedicated herself to reaching out to other cultures while on campus. She has taken two trips through Take a Break (TaB), an alternative spring break program that allows students and employees to perform service across the country and reflect on social justice issues. She spent one semester tutoring Native American high school students at nearby Chemawa Indian School, and she tutors at Willamette Academy, a program that supports economically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse middle- and high-school students and encourages them on the path to college.

While she isn't yet certain where her studies will take her after graduation, she knows her language skills will be invaluable. "I would like to do some sort of interpreting, more with German but maybe also with Spanish. Whatever I do for a career, I want to make sure it has an international focus."

To learn more about national scholarships, contact Monique Bourque in the Student Academic Grants and Awards office on the third floor of Putnam University Center, or visit www.willamette.edu/dept/saga.