German exchange student Sabrina Breeck, age 23, has immersed herself in American culture ever since she enrolled at Dickinson State University for the semester. She helps students practice speaking German in the language lab and she is preparing the curriculum for a CommUniversity course titled "Modern German Cooking."
Her most recent endeavor was baking Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) with lab director Dorothy Renner. The cookies were to be served at a Germans From Russia Chapter Christmas party, but since it was postponed, friends in the Department of Language and Literature were treated to the Christmas cookies instead.
"I went online to find the recipe, but the cookies are really popular in Germany," Sabria said.
The star-shaped cookies are made with almond flour and flavored with lemon zest and cinnamon.
"We needed a recipe for CommUniversity that was not so familiar around here, but is common in Germany," Renner said.
"Most people buy cookies in Germany because they’re a lot of work," Breeck added.
Doubling the batch, the cookies were made on a Sunday afternoon at Renner’s home.
"We had lots of fun," Renner said. "It was wonderful to do together and we are looking forward to the demonstrations during the ‘Modern German Cooking’ class.
The four demonstrations will be held every Saturday morning in February. The details must be finalized, but the Dickinson Research Extension Center office, 1041 State Ave. N., has been reserved for classes. Other German cooking demonstrations will include pastries, noodles, a meat dinner and a vegetarian supper.
Breeck plans to prepare rouladen, which features thinly sliced flank steak that is filled with another meat and vegetables.
"My family fills them with ground meat, carrots and celery, then they go into the oven," Sabrina said.
CommUniversity will feature a second cooking class titled "From Garden to Plate" by Pat and Pattie Carr in the afternoon. Other humanities programs will be offered on Sunday afternoons. CommUniversity is a month of non-credit courses related to the humanities, daily living and public issues designed to stimulate thought and enrich lives, as stated in a press release.
Breeck is spending a year in Dickinson through a new agreement that DSU has made with the Congress-Budestag Youth Exchange. The international program provides for 75 young German students to visit the U.S. and another 75 young Americans to visit Germany each year. The CBYX was founded in 1983 to strengthen ties between Germany and the U.S. through citizen diplomacy. The program was founded in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the first German immigration to the United States, Breeck said.
Learning about the CBYX program, she went through the interview process and was assigned to Dickinson.
Breeck is the first German student to participate in the program at Dickinson.
"They asked me if I would be happier in a smaller community or if I wanted a big city," she said. "I said from the beginning, I’m a small-town girl and that’s what I would like."
She arrived in Dickinson during August, enrolled at DSU and has been living with the Alvin and Richelle Azores family.
While meeting local families, she learned that many of their names have German roots, but that’s where the similarities end.
"When I talked to Germans here, we’re not always on the same page," she said. "They mention food which I never cooked, but they say they are German dishes and I don’t know what they mean."
It’s believed the differences are influenced by German contacts from Russia, Hungary and Ukraine, Renner added.
For the semester, Breeck audited classes in international business and accounting, but the credits don’t count toward a degree. The classes are intended to help with vocabulary related to her interest in business.
"I think the program benefits your ability to speak English, but I think the experience is more important than the language," she said.
After completing her part-time job as a language lab assistant, she will start working in January for the city of Dickinson accounting department. When the job ends in June, she will travel a month before returning to Germany.
Breeck grew up in the town of Melle, near Osnabruck in northwest Germany. She has a twin brother, Thorsten. Her father is retired and her mother works for the Deutsche Post (postal service). She received an associate degree in business and economics, and completed a three-year apprenticeship, working as an industrial management assistant.
When she returns home, she plans to study international business, with hopes of earning a bachelor’s degree.
"I’d love to do something with international business and work in a job where I can speak English," she said.
Breeck has taken advantage of several DSU opportunities. She has participated in the Accounting Club and Students in Free Enterprise chapter. She also met friends from other countries - countries she hopes to visit in the future.
Renner is currently looking for DSU students who would like to experience a similar exchange opportunity to Germany. She can be reached at her office at 701-483-2832.