“The Iconic Trio” (left to right) of Heidelberg Academic Coordinator Christina Wuttke, Program Director Daniel Daugherty and Program Assistant Martina Drefs smile in Drefs’ office in July 2018. Daugherty said he enjoys working with the Heidelberg Program staff because they make a great team, especially while they experience life during a pandemic. Photo courtesy of Daniel Daugherty
In his 28th year as the Heidelberg program director, Daniel Daugherty said he has never seen International Programs suspended.
Life at Pepperdine’s first and oldest international program site has been different since its suspension in March 2020. Since then, Daugherty said he strives to find a balance between navigating the uncertainties of the pandemic and finding joy in the present.
“The story of what happened this year is unique — I’ve never had anything like it,” Daugherty said. “I’ve had crises in the past; there was 9/11, there was the Iraq War. Obviously, there were moments that were tense, but never in my career did we have to make the decision: We’re suspending a program, sending everybody home.”
When Students Left
Students left Heidelberg on March 5. Daugherty said he is grateful for the University’s leadership during this time and for making the decision to suspend the program when it did.
At the time of the students’ departure, local restaurants and businesses were confused as to why the students were leaving; however, the locals quickly understood when only 11 days after the students’ departure, Germany closed its borders as COVID-19 spread throughout Europe.
“They thought we were nuts,” Daugherty said. “They said, ‘What? You’re evacuating? Isn’t that a bit extreme?’ And those same people two, three weeks later, were telling me, ‘You were so wise to do that, at the beginning of March,’ because already mid-March, it was so bad.”
After the students left, Daugherty said he felt like nothing was changing. Then on a Saturday in March, Daugherty, his wife Karin, English Professor Julianne Smith — the faculty-in-residence — and her husband David Smith went to go see a movie together following new social distancing health measures.
A day later, the country shut down all movie theaters and, soon after, indoor dining.
Daugherty wrote in an email that the Smiths remained in Heidelberg in the faculty apartment during the pandemic until the end of the spring semester when they returned to the U.S. While in Heidelberg after the students’ departure, Julianne Smith taught her classes online, and her husband, who has experience in IT, helped the Heidelberg program transition from teaching classes in person to online.
Germany also closed its schools as well as shops, churches and other various entertainment and cultural sites in March, banning large gatherings. This closure, except for the schools, has extended to the end of the year.
Since July 3, travelers arriving from high-risk countries, including those coming from the U.S., may enter Germany only with compulsory testing. Starting Aug. 28, all visitors from COVID-19 hot spots must face testing and self-isolate for 14 days when entering the country.
Health authorities and government officials are also discussing the possibility of shortening the 14-day quarantine period to one week on the condition that a COVID-19 test taken after the fifth day would come out as negative. Daugherty wrote in an email the final decision on this is yet to be made.
Daugherty compared the measures taken in Germany to stricter French regulations. His mother lives in France, and he said people there have to fill out a document before going to the grocery store. He said Germany did not have a lockdown, but health authorities urged people to work from home and maintain social distancing.
Although COVID-19 infected more than 100,000 people in Germany from January to April, the country maintained a low death rate, especially compared to its neighboring countries. Authorities’ early and widespread testing helped to slow the spread of the pandemic.
“Germany did well, relatively, because they started testing quickly,” Daugherty said.
More recently, Daugherty said the atmosphere feels tense because in August, the number of cases rose again when more people went on vacation and crowded certain areas.
Local universities, including the University of Heidelberg, are or plan to be online for the rest of the year. Daugherty said his daughter, who studies in Marburg, is taking classes online as well.
“They’re reinforcing much stricter rules — and just a few weeks ago,” Daugherty said. “So everybody is always thinking, ‘So what’s going to be tomorrow?’”
Daugherty said although he hears people in general complain about various precautionary measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks, he sees people consistently following the guidelines when they can.
Staff and Faculty
Since the end of the spring 2020 semester, Daugherty wrote in an email that he and the staff and faculty work from home, but they have had Zoom meetings.
Since the end of June, when the number of infections per day declined and Germany began reopening, the faculty and staff have met in person only a few times while wearing masks and social distancing in Heidelberg Hall, the program’s largest classroom. The administrative staff also meets once a month in the Moore Haus Reception Room while following all safety procedures required by law in Germany, Daugherty wrote in an email.
“Heidelberg is a real team program,” Daugherty said. “I’ve been there for 28 years now, so we all know each other well, and we’re just used to being together a lot.”
This semester, three of the Heidelberg Program’s adjunct professors teach Pepperdine courses online, Daugherty wrote in an email.
Without students in Heidelberg, Daugherty — who also teaches literature — said the empty classrooms and Moore Haus saddens the program faculty and staff.
“Books only come alive when they have readers, and I feel much the same about the Heidelberg International Program,” Daugherty wrote in an email. “It is when students are here that it comes alive, and the Heidelberg faculty and staff miss the presence of students tremendously.”
Heidelberg Academic Coordinator Christina Wuttke wrote in an email that the staff and faculty thrive on witnessing students’ intellectual and personal growth while studying abroad in Heidelberg. She hopes they will welcome students in Moore Haus again soon.
“Not having students in the Heidelberg Program feels like missing our purpose,” Wuttke wrote.
Martina Drefs, Heidelberg Program assistant, wrote in an email that she finds joy in and misses sharing students’ life-changing experiences of studying abroad.
“Every time when students arrive in Heidelberg, there is magic in the air,” Drefs wrote. “Moore Haus is dressed up, the fridges are filled with tons of food, the pantry overflows with cereals. We, the staff, are so excited, but we have to wait! Finally, the relieving phone call from Herr D, ‘The eagle has landed!'”
This semester, Daugherty said his job has changed from primarily teaching, interacting with and planning programs for students to focusing more on preparing for spring 2021 and working on curriculum and other various projects.
“All of our efforts are geared at ensuring students can return to Heidelberg in a safe environment as soon as possible and enjoy the wonders of Heidelberg,” Daugherty wrote in an email.
Finding Joy in the Present
When he’s not busy working, Daugherty said he is intentional about finding a healthy balance during this new normal by going on walks and playing music. He values staying active, and he does so by Nordic walking, for which uses specially designed walking poles, Daugherty said.
“You’re walking with the sticks basically as if it were in snow,” Daugherty said. “It really makes you move your upper body, and then you just power through, and it’s quite exhausting.”
One of Daugherty’s greatest pleasures includes enjoying live music, but with many concerts postponed or canceled, he said he also finds joy in playing guitar and singing.
Daugherty said his wish for students is that life will soon allow them to go back to pursuing their passions without having to constantly worry about their health.
“We really feel for you guys, and we hope things will get back to a certain normalcy, so you can have those times where you’re playing music together, when you’re in the dorms together, when you’re having fun together doing sports. I’m sure you’re missing that a lot, and so that’s my prayer,” Daugherty said.
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