Biology major Laura Roesch ’21, from Glen Cove, New York, has been selected to represent Stony Brook University in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for young professionals (CBYX), a professional development fellowship funded by the U.S. Department of State and the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament.
Seventy-five American students and an equivalent number of German students are chosen to live with hosts and have an immersive experience in that country. The program consists of two months of intensive language school, one semester of classes at a university, and a three-month internship in the student’s field of study.
Roesch, who majors in environmental sciences in addition to biology, is combining two interests acquired in their childhood: the study of the natural world and the love of the German language.
“I originally heard about the program from alumni who spoke to my elementary German class my sophomore year here at Stony Brook. Since then it has been an exciting possibility to apply to, so I was ecstatic when I found out I had been accepted,” Roesch said.
“Fit is so very important when students are considering nationally competitive awards,” said Director for Fellowships Advising and Professional Development Jen Green. “Laura thought critically about this and found CBYX to be the perfect opportunity to combine a deep interest in environmental studies and the German language. Laura is a whip-smart and highly motivated student who did their homework, and then took the time to put together a highly compelling application.”
“When I was younger my love of nature manifested as flipping rocks at the beach in search of crabs and a desire to learn everything I could about the animals I saw around me,” Roesch said. “As I’ve gotten older those interests expanded into also wanting a deeper understanding of the way the world works on an ecological level.”
Roesch began working at Freight Farm, a hydroponic farm inside of a recycled shipping container, as a junior, sparking an increased interest in sustainable farming and living. Roesch is currently working at another Freight Farm on Long Island, learning more about hydroponics and the possibilities it has for creating a more sustainable present and future.
Roesch was a rehabilitation intern last summer at Volunteers for Wildlife in Locust Valley, New York, seeing firsthand the direct impact humans have on local wildlife while learning ways to prevent harming the wildlife we share our world with. Roesch is also researching invertebrate species diversity in the waters surrounding Long Island under professor Robert Thacker, and is in the process of finishing up their thesis. Roesch said the research opportunity “has opened my eyes to the importance of biodiversity in our local communities and as well learning more about the threat invasive species play in these communities.”
“Learning about the invertebrate diversity in the waters surrounding Long Island made me realize how there is so much more to learn about in the field of ecology,” Roesch continued. “There are experts who have spent their entire careers studying that organism and I find that simply amazing. I’ve always found that the more I learn in ecology, the more questions I have, and the deeper I want to dive.”
Roesch said she first became interested in learning German when she was younger, when their grandmother visited from Germany. Although most of their extended family is German, Roesch did not learn the language. To fulfill the college language requirement, Roesch chose German with Professor Emeritus Robert Bloomer, whom Roesch said was “born to teach.”
An interest in the language, as well as the culture, blossomed. “Professor Bloomer made learning German fun, easy, exciting, and most importantly light-hearted and low- pressure, which I think is often undervalued in an educational setting,” Roesch said. “He incorporated snippets of the culture throughout the course to enhance our language learning and also told tales of his own time in Germany, which sparked my interest.”
“Although the application process is competitive, I am not surprised that Laura has been selected,” said Bloomer, adding that Roesch “embodies excellent academic and personal qualities that Cultural Vistas, the administrator of this program, has recognized and rewarded with the opportunity to live and work in Germany for one year.”
This is not Roesch’s first academic sojourn in another country, having studied abroad with Tara Rider on the Ireland and England summer program two years ago, learning environmental history.
“This experience made me realize that we have so much to gain by learning the history of other countries and then by seeing and hearing from the locals you could better understand why people felt a certain way about the land around them,” Roesch said. “What clicked in me was the realization that we need to get people to actually care about the world around them and see how they are part of it in order for them to understand why we need to do as much as we can to prevent destroying it.”
While in Ireland, Roesch saw how caring for the environment was incredibly important to so many of the people there, noticing things like the quality of produce and an emphasis on locally grown and harvested food, with stricter regulations on farming.
After graduation, Roesch will be attending the CBYX program, pending COVID-19 restrictions, and hopes to find a job in the field of ecology that will allow for continued learning and growing.
“I know that I will have grown so much going through this program by putting myself completely outside of my comfort zone,” explained Roesch, who will be taking courses in ecology, sustainability and agriculture depending upon the coursework offered. “For the internship portion of the program I hope to find an internship in the fields of ecology or sustainability, and also possibly a position that I have not already held so I can explore more career options.”
— Glenn Jochum