With the Environmental Studies & Sustainability Program beginning earlier this week, it's only fitting to put the spotlight on IES Abroad Freiburg. This spring also begins the second semester that Alexander Breisacher is serving as Center Director.
Breisacher joined IES Abroad in 2003 as the Academic and Administrative Officer of the Freiburg Center, and was promoted to Assistant Director of the Center in October 2007. Learn more about his background and philosophy as the leader of this German city’s two IES Abroad programs, as well as a few reasons students love studying there.
How long have you lived in Freiburg?
I was actually born in Freiburg. After high school I spent one year traveling/working in North and South America. Back in Freiburg I studied at Albert-Ludwigs-University, interrupted by one year of studying at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. After finishing university my first job took me to Frankfurt, where I worked for the Christian Blind Mission and then to India with the same organization. In 2011 my family and I were very happy when we had the opportunity to move back to Freiburg. For us, [it is] the ideal place to live and work in a lively city, surrounded by beautiful nature, and very close to Switzerland, France, and Italy.
Explain your role and daily responsibilities, especially how you interact with students.
As the Center Director I’m involved in many administrative duties and responsibilities. It’s actually the very friendly Freiburg staff of Joanna King, Merle Peitsmeyer, and Katie Kraker who interact most with the students on a daily basis. I myself try to accompany students as often as possible on field study trips or advise them on things to do in and around Freiburg. My most favorite trip with IES Abroad is the hiking trip to the Swiss Alps.
What do you like about working in study abroad? What makes it meaningful?
I consider myself very lucky having had the chance to study and work in many different countries. I learned so much from interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Helping American students have similar experiences is a very satisfying job. Some weeks ago I received an email from a former student writing, “I hope Freiburg is still inspiring students like it did me.” Getting this kind of feedback shows us how wonderful our job is and how the work we do is received by our students.
What do students love most about Freiburg?
Students love to be in a typical German university town where it is fairly easy to meet people, and where distances are short. In the city center everything is within walking distance, from the dorm to the center it’s only a couple minutes with public transportation or by bike. Plus Freiburg is right in the center of Western Europe, making it the ideal starting point to explore other countries such as France, Italy, and Spain.
What is the most interesting course offered at IES Abroad Freiburg?
I think it is our Medieval Mindset course. Students live in a medieval town. Even today students can visit many buildings and objects (cathedral, cloister, city gate, sewage system/streams, cellars) that date back to medieval times. The course examines the question of how people lived in Medieval Europe and how they experienced their environment. How did they orientate themselves in time and space, and which cultural forms of expression did they create for themselves, and finally, which links exist between the present world and the medieval world? The historic scenery in the area of the upper Rhine, Lake Constance, the Black Forest and the Alps offers various and very real opportunities of visualizing the meaning of these questions. Visits to a castle, monastery, libraries and archives are included.