Sara Hoppe had a late start on an essay she was planning to enter a competition sponsored by the Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society.
“I could have used more time, personally,” said Hoppe, a freshman at St. Benedict’s College.
But things have worked out very well for Hoppe. His article on critical social justice – written entirely in German – placed the country’s second in the competition.
This follows second place in a separate essay competition – also in German – for an 11-state Midwestern region sponsored by the Swiss Consulate in Chicago.
This article, about Swiss author and playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt and the environmental destruction taking place in the world today, was related to “Hyenas”, a film by Djibril Diop Mambéty based on Dürrenmatt’s story “La visit of the old lady ”.
“I was really, really surprised (by the honors),” said Hoppe, an English major and German minor from Freeport, Minnesota, a graduate of Melrose Area High School. “My main goal was to write two articles in German and improve my writing skills. But I was very grateful for the rewards.
“Writing a convincing essay in any language is difficult, but writing convincingly in a second language takes extra diligence,” said Kurt Hollender, visiting assistant professor of German at CSB and Saint John’s University, who alerted Hoppe to both contests.
“It is our pleasure in the German CSB / SJU section to work closely with students on these valuable and stimulating liberal arts skills,” added Hollender.
Hoppe has followed an interesting path in writing his two essays.
“I kind of had to flush out the ideas from the English newspapers, just because my German skills are not yet phenomenal enough to think completely in German right off the bat,” Hoppe said. “But once I started writing, I definitely had to make the transition to thinking in German to be able to master grammar, because the sentence structure is not the same in German and English.
“I certainly don’t speak fluently (in German) yet, although my hope is to be fluent. This is my fifth year of studying German, and I would definitely say my reading and writing skills are a bit stronger than my ability to speak at the moment. I definitely have room to improve, ”said Hoppe.
This isn’t too surprising, given his background.
Freeport and Melrose both have strong German heritages, with Melrose having a sister city in Legden, Germany. Melrose Area High School sponsors student exchange trips to Germany each year, with German students visiting central Minnesota in return.
“My mother (Mary, who works at SJU’s Hill Museum and Manuscript Library as a digital project manager who is also a CSB graduate) was an exchange student in Germany and hosted an exchange student. They are still longtime friends. I have met her many times, and she is basically like my family now, ”said Sara Hoppe.
“When I got to high school in Melrose there was a German program, so I got involved. I hosted four students and I myself was an exchange student for about five weeks (in the summer of 2019), ”added Hoppe.
Attending CSB and SJU was a big decision for Hoppe.
“I kind of grew up coming here for various activities and sports camps,” Hoppe said. “I toured here and loved it. Heard that the programs in English and German are amazing – which they are, they are phenomenal.
“I was really thinking about trying my luck here, and I fell in love with both of these programs that I’m studying right now,” Hoppe said.
“In the CSB / SJU German section, we pride ourselves on matching students with opportunities like joining the Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society and applying for Fulbright scholarships, but these accolades usually come in the junior or senior years,” said Hollender.
“Sara’s exploits as a freshman, in which she has faced upper-class students from across the Midwest and across the country, are remarkable,” Hollender said. “It is not customary for a first year student to participate, let alone win prizes, in such contests.”
Hoppe, who noted Hollender’s help in both contests, said it was typical of the German section.
“They are wonderful. They really care about you and will do anything to help a student. I’m really grateful for their help, ”Hoppe said.