Posted on Nov 26, 2001

Legend has it that Professor of German Frederick A. Klemm was traveling in Vienna in 1968 and, while visiting the Museum of Art, turned to his wife, Eleanor, and said, “Wouldn't it be wonderful to bring the students here?”

The program was approved in a matter of weeks, and the following spring Klemm returned to Vienna with students in tow. Terms Abroad, which was to become one of Union's most popular programs, was under way.

Klemm, writing in 1970 about the start of the program, said requirements were kept to a minimum – an intermediate level of achievement in German, good academic and social standing, and the approval of the departmental advisor. The total cost was not to exceed $1,200 per student, or roughly the same as the spring term on campus, and all scholarships applied.

“With great expectations, and some trepidation, at least on my part, we left Kennedy Airport late in March,” Klemm said. “For twenty-six of the twenty-eight students this was the first trip overseas.”

An overnight flight took them to Hamburg, where they caught another plane for Berlin. Klemm remembered, “Berlin, on a raw, cold day was somewhat of a shock, with its ugly wall and its beleaguered air. A trip through Check Point Charlie to the gray bleakness of East Berlin only added to the somber feeling.”

After a brief visit to Munich, the group arrived in Vienna where, among other orientation activities, they were briefed by the American ambassador on conditions in central Europe as seen by U.S. intelligence sources. After the orientation sessions ended, the work began, two hours of German per day, four hours a week of the history of art, and work on an individual study project.

Klemm said the latter seemed the most educationally rewarding part of the experience. Projects had to have educational merit; should appeal to the personal, although not necessarily the professional interests of the student; and should pertain to the Austrian scene. Whenever possible, the project should get the student out among people for interviews, opinions, and the exchange of ideas.

“I was delighted and frequently amazed at the quality of the work and ingenuity of approach that developed,” Klemm said.

He also noted that as important as the formal studies were, “a very real value lay in the fact that our students were being forced to look at many things from the other side of the fence. We were constantly being reminded that there was a different history, tradition, culture, in short, a different way of life around us.”

The new program proved popular, and the result was predictable: a demand for new or modified programs both by students, who had their own destinations in mind, and by faculty, who wanted programs that reflected their teaching and research interests. Professor Alan Roberts (French) took thirty students to France in the fall of 1969, William Bristol (history) took thirty to Colombia that winter, and Alfred Thimm (Institute of Administration and Management) took twenty-four to Vienna the following spring.

Klemm, in that article he wrote thirty years ago, said the College was making plans for further projects, and, the day may soon arrive when we can truthfully say, “The sun never sets on Union College.”

Prophetic words, indeed; today, more than 330 students a year take part in international study, and their destinations range from Vienna to Nanjing to Nairobi. In fact, the sun doesn't set on Union.