As the BCA Resident Director (RD) in Marburg, Germany since 2001, Kris Riggs has helped countless BCA students get to know Marburg and German culture. We caught up with Kris to learn more about him, what he loves about his role as an RD and what advice he has for students looking to study in Germany.
Interview with a Resident Director: Kris Riggs
Q: What do you most enjoy about being a Resident Director?
A: What I like most about being an RD is the role I get to play in these young people’s lives, setting up the best possible study abroad experience for them. Their time abroad will be a key experience in their lives ahead, and I love putting the pieces of that experience in place so that the students can come over and dive into all the program has to offer. It’s also great to see them develop over the weeks and months here, generally going from some degree of disorientation to feeling deeply empowered through their experiences here. Anyone who has studied abroad knows what that’s like, and it’s awesome to observe the growth every semester.
Q: What is your favorite travel memory?
A: My first trip to Germany in the summer between high school and college. Having grown up in a very conservative setting, it was mind-blowing seeing how much could function so well and so vastly differently from my upbringing. I especially enjoyed how my German peers (17-19 years old) interacted with one another – so much more mature than what I was used to seeing. It was a different level than what I had ever seen before, truly fascinating.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give a student thinking about studying abroad?
A: Don’t worry about your life at home – it will be there when you return. This is the right time and age to study abroad. And what you will experience through study abroad cannot be substituted by quick trips or vacations abroad later in life. Roll up your sleeves and get moving NOW.
Q: When you go to a café in Vienna what do you order?
A: A breakfast specialty comprised of a muesli blend and a waffle with maple syrup and banana slices. Accompanied by a Melange, which is fairly close to cappuccino but a little stronger.
Q: Did you study abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to study abroad?
A: I studied abroad two years, one as an undergrad and one as a graduate student! The inspiration came from my first time abroad (see #2 above), when I absolutely fell in love with the language. It fascinated me to see that I could communicate in German, and I wanted to become proficient as quickly as possible. At the end of my sophomore year of college, I had my first real conversation in German, and it really boosted my confidence that I could not only get by in German, but also express myself well and understand others in normal conversation – bear in mind that German can be spoken very quickly, and there are huge differences in the language from region to region. Obtaining a high degree of proficiency requires a ton of work, but the rewards are amazing!
Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
A: Banana. Vanilla. Chocolate. Ok, I never can decide, so I usually wind up getting all three. The ice cream here in Europe is phenomenal, by the way.
Q: What suggestions do you have for the best ways to learn from the local community when you travel or study abroad?
A: You can learn best when you are taking in information, not putting yourself and your cultural background in the limelight. Especially if you find yourself judging the local culture negatively or being a loud and proud American, you are probably losing track of your goals for going abroad.
Engage and explore your local surroundings. Don’t sit in your dorm room, but also don’t imagine your language skills getting any better if you are travelling throughout Europe every weekend using English. You will feel better going home with one or two lifelong friends than a list of cities you traveled to.
Read German language newspapers and magazines whenever you can. Some are free, and they are a treasure trove of vocab to learn and grammar items to iron out; they also reveal what is on the minds of the local community and how ideas are commonly expressed. Americans converse much differently than Europeans, so it is hard for students to adjust to that in their initial weeks here.