KhalfaniI arrived at Candler School of Theology in Fall 2014 without giving any serious thought to an academic exchange during my studies. Much of what comes in the first year in pursuit of a degree at Candler involves excitement for membership in a community striving towards vocational discernment, preparation for coursework, and engaging the community. The latter led me to Dr. Steffen Lösel and former Göttingen exchange student Brandon Maxwell 14T. What followed was a year’s worth of study in the nationally ranked German Studies department at Emory, as well as preparation to apply for the exchange at University of Göttingen. After learning I was selected, I began preparing for my time abroad.

Candler is a seminary that supports and promotes contextual education through-and-through. I would go so far as to say that thus far there has been no more rewarding experience than living and studying within an international context. I’ve considered my journey in Göttingen to be a “Contextual Education III” of sorts that has proven to be beneficial beyond measure. Among the benefits of studying abroad are learning a new language, engaging with and exchanging ideas, and making new—potentially life-long —friends in the process. As an American it becomes apparent immediately how often our universities function in a linguistic and intellectual vacuum of sorts, whereas a ‘new’ language and context provides access to a broader world and broader understandings of one’s vocational discernment.

Studying within the Theology Faculty in Göttingen has been magnificent, challenging, and, most of all, rewarding. The theology faculty has several world-leading scholars with which one can study under in seminar or lecture format. It is written, too, that in the early development of the American system of higher education, many burgeoning universities held in high prestige today, looked to the German research university. Among these, prominently, was the University of Göttingen (see: James Axtell, Wisdom’s Workshop: The Rise of the Modern University, “The German Impress,” p. 228-229).

There are many courses one can benefit from that help contextualize and broaden the already rich course offerings at Candler. For example, I completed a course with Dr. Jonathan Strom in the History of the Reformation in Spring 2015. It proved to be an eye-opening experience to learn similar information, in another language, from Dr. Martin Keßler’s Kirchengeschichte IV: Neuzeit (Church History IV: New Times) within the context in which the history studied derives (especially now, during the 500-year celebration of Luther’s Reformation). This is one example of many where the courses intersect and complement each other between the two universities several thousand miles apart.

Göttingen is a wonderful city, too. It is a traditional and old university with all the modern offerings of what would be considered a ‘college town.’ Most places one might need to visit are no more than a 10-minute walk away, and a bike is often one’s best friend. Göttingen is also located in central Germany in the southern part of Lower Saxony, so every major city is accessible by a reasonable trip on one of many, frequent, trains. (Students of Göttingen can travel for free by Regional express within Lower Saxony!).

Khalfani and studentsThe Theological Stift, housing gifted to the Theology Faculty of Göttingen in 1836, provides further opportunities for contextual education and co-generative dialogue. In the Stift we live, eat meals, worship, and study together. It is, by all accounts, the actualized version of a REAL (if I may) community. The Stift is run by Ephorus Dr. Bernd Schröder, Stift Inspector Dr. Heiko Wojtkowiak, and House Master Malte Rosenau.

Such an experience would not be possible without the support of Bröt für die Welt (Bread for the World) and the Deutsches Nationalkomitee des Lutherischen Weltbundes (German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation). I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve on the executive team of scholarship holders who organize, assist in facilitating gatherings of fellow scholarship holders, and assist staff in their planning for the coming year. Though I am Baptist by tradition, these organizations have shown their dedication to supporting ecumenical and multi-faith dialogue, sustainable development in the world, and centralizing the German role in these advancing these endeavors.

I would also like to extend my thanks and gratitude to Candler's Dr. Jan Love, Dr. Ellen Ott Marshall, Rev. Shelby Haggray, Rev. Dr. Greg Ellison, Rev. Dr. Steffen Lösel, and Dr. Jonathan Strom for supporting me in my journey to Göttingen and back. More broadly, I would like to thank the Candler faculty and staff for their tireless work towards creating a worldwide reputation for Candler and Emory University. There is a recognized prestige, both here in Göttingen and the world over, of the tireless work and dedication to theological education at Candler.  

For any current or prospective student, I would strongly suggest pursuing an academic exchange—not only the Göttingen exchange, but one of the many offerings that Candler provides, as I am sure that any would be an equally transformative experience.

All the best, from Göttingen: Stadt, die Wissen schafft (Play on words: “City of Knowledge/City of Science”),