Devon Emig of Tupelo has felt a connection to her German roots her entire life. A junior German language major at the University of Mississippi, Emig is making her second trip to Germany this fall and will spend the school year studying at the University of Trier, exploring the language, people and culture of the area.
“My last name is German, and my great-grandparents emigrated from a little town outside of Stuttgart, Germany,” Emig said, adding that she still has relatives in that country.
Emig, who moved to Tupelo from New Jersey when she was 7 years old, is a member of UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. The opportunity for her upcoming sojourn came when she received a $1,000 Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Grant to help defray expenses. The grants are designed to help support undergraduates as they seek knowledge and experience in their academic fields by studying abroad. Forty-five such grants are awarded each year.
Emig will study German, Russian and linguistics and research speakers using dialects versus standard German.
“My hope while I am there is to become fluent in German, and I am really looking forward to the experience,” she said. “I love the culture, and the country is beautiful, but it’s really nothing like America. I love the castles and the cobblestone streets and the centuries-old cathedrals.”
Emig was introduced to the German language when she was a junior at Tupelo High School. It was the first year for the language to be offered there, and she jumped at the opportunity to take classes, even when friends were taking Spanish or French.
When she arrived at UM in 2007, Emig decided to major in German and signed up for the Language Initiative. She participated in the four-week, on-campus intensive language immersion of German. The following summer, she went to Germany for a month with six students to study and earned six hours of credit at the 300 level.
“We were completely immersed in German and it was a fun, close-knit group,” she said. “We were exposed to a different side of German culture.”
She has also taken a German cinema class and a German news coverage class. “In the news coverage class, we discussed current events and focused more on speaking than writing, which was terrifying, but that class is the reason I feel prepared to go to Germany now.”
Her mastery of the language also earned her a modern languages award at Honors Day this spring.
Dru Ashoo, academic counselor at the Honors College, encouraged Emig to apply for the Phi Kappa Phi award because of her gift for languages. Ashoo received the Phi Kappa Phi scholarship in 2005 to study in Jordan and has since encouraged other students to apply.
“Study abroad allows students to realize that the world is a classroom and that learning is just as much about what you are doing with friends at dinner as it is about what you are being taught by a professor,” Ashoo said. “Study abroad elicits wonder and desire, and I think that is special.”
Emig will not be traveling on her German journey alone. Her 3-year-old daughter, Alydia, will accompany her. Alydia will stay in the university-sponsored day care while her mother is in class. “Being a mom and a student means I am completely sleep-deprived – just like any other student,” Emig said with a laugh.
While Emig would like to connect with her German relatives, she doubts that will happen on this trip. “My grandfather has told me where to find our relatives, but they’re on the other side of the country. He is excited that I am going, and he tries to remember German from his childhood and speak with me.”
In her limited spare time before she heads to Trier in September, she is helping coach the color guard at Tupelo High School. She previously coached the show choir at Tupelo Christian Preparatory School. “It’s good to have something in Tupelo because it helps keep me connected there,” Emig said.