Bridging Borders, Changing Lives
Thanks to the Stanley A. Hamel Traveling Fellowship, UNH graduates are getting the chance to see Europe — and making connections they never expected.
Jeanne Sokolowski, director of the UNH Office of National Fellowships, explains that the fellowship, which is open to graduating seniors and recent alumni, offers approximately $3,800 for recipients to complete "self-designed travel in Europe with the aim of understanding the culture and history of Europe as it influenced American culture and history.”
Rebecca Hiltz '16 just completed her 2016 fellowship in Germany, and Tony Hamoui ’14 has received the 2017 fellowship to travel to central Europe.
Hiltz, who grew up in Falmouth, Massachusetts, was drawn to UNH because of the excellent pre-veterinary program and marching band. Her interest in veterinary work drew Hiltz to the Hamel Traveling Fellowship, which enabled her to spend two months in Germany working on a dairy farm and with veterinarians at the University of Hannover.
“I think my most unexpected experience came from working with Karin and Hartwig, who own the dairy barn that I worked in. They spoke maybe three words of English, so I had to scramble to learn the German words of daily life in the barn,” Hiltz says. “In the beginning, the language barrier intimidated me, but as the weeks went on, I found myself more and more comfortable with speaking German, even to a point where I could make jokes or contribute to a story.”
As the weeks passed those perceived barriers disappeared.
“On my last day, Hartwig, normally a gruff man, wept as I said my goodbyes,” Hiltz says. “Karin embraced me and said, ‘When you leave, you all (the volunteers) are our children.’ I learned that day that there is no language barrier to love and friendship. I am happy to say that I've found a second family in Germany, in a way that I never imagined.”
After two months in Germany, Hiltz not only learned a lot about the work she hopes to do after graduate school, but also, “if I could make it in a new country with a new language, all on my own, then I can do anything,” she says, noting, “What was amazing about my Hamel Traveling Fellowship trip was that I was able to prove to myself that I could survive in that big, scary world. By traveling on my own, navigating cities, planning my travel and learning to speak a new language, I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone.”
In Her Own Words
Rebecca Hiltz '16 is taking what she learned on a small dairy farm in Germany to veterinary school as she pursues her graduate degree.
Before she left Germany, however, she wrote about this life-changing experience, the lessons she has learned and what she will carry with her into the next phase of her life.
When asked if she would like to share any thoughts with those who made the Hamel Traveling Fellowship endowment possible, Hintz didn’t hesitate.
“You change lives,” she says. “It may sound cliché, but I am not the same person I was when I first arrived in Germany. Through my experiences I have gained confidence, resilience and a greater appreciation for a culture and language that are not my own. I have gained a new family in my hosts and have found new friends and memories besides. Do not take what you do lightly — this opportunity was once-in-a-lifetime, and I am so honored and grateful that I was chosen to represent UNH on this international adventure.”
The next step for Hiltz? “I am excited to continue my studies in graduate school at the University of Idaho, where I will pursue a master's degree in animal science — cattle nutrition, starting this May,” she says. “My experiences in Germany will certainly impact my studies, as I was able to see firsthand the impacts of cattle nutrition on a small scale.”
Hamoui will also visit Germany as part of his Hamel Traveling Fellowship, but his trip is for a very different reason.
“My plan is to immerse myself in the culture that has had a significant impact on modern music,” he explains. “My journey begins in Austria for the Salzburg Music Festival, a famed music and drama festival.”
From there, he will travel to Berlin, Germany.
“On the way, I've planned a stop in Frankfurt, the birthplace of trance music, where I'll be exploring the city and visiting some of the museums dedicated to electronic music. In Berlin, I'm touring renowned microphone and speaker companies such as Neumann, Sennheiser and Adam Audio,” he says. “I am also touring studios like legendary Hansa Studio and attending the Pop-Kultur music festival.”
During his undergraduate years at UNH, Hamoui was very involved with the Memorial Union Student Organization (MUSO) and worked on a research project in the communication department. “I graduated with a dual major in communication and international affairs,” he explains. “MUSO showed me how to embrace art. Communication showed me how to observe people. International affairs showed me how to see the world in all of its complexities.”
Traveling to Europe to immerse in music and culture fits right in with Hamoui’s work and interests. In addition to continuing courses, Hamoui has been teaching music technology classes while working as a music producer with HipStory. “Music follows no rules regarding language barriers, and through this ignorance, cultural difference becomes an object of beauty rather than confusion,” he says.
With his fellowship, Hamoui hopes “to interact with music and sound in a way I never have before. I'm curious to see how the central European culture has influenced this musical excellence. I'm most curious, however, to see how this experience will advance my growth as a human being.”
Interested in research or study abroad?
Check out the many resources UNH offers to help get you where you want to go.
The Office of National Fellowships helps you apply for and receive study abroad scholarships, including fellowships like the Stanley A. Hamel Traveling Fellowship.
The Center for International Education and Global Engagement is your one-stop shop for all things study abroad, including scholarships.
The Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research funds international research grants.