Germany 1971

Fifty years after a study-abroad experience in Germany, a group of ECU alumni got together to talk and remember

ECU student group meeting with Peter Kraemer, the Bürgermeiste (mayor) of Bonn

ECU student group meeting with Peter Kraemer, the Bürgermeiste (mayor) of Bonn in September 1971.

“It changed my DNA,” said Pamela Murphy, describing the life changing experience of living and studying in 1971-72 at East Carolina’s European Study Center in Bonn.

The experimental program, operating through ECU from 1971 to 1973, hosted 39 American students the first year and 46 in the second. We came from all parts of North Carolina, multiple universities and divergent backgrounds to live and study at a historic manor on the banks of the Rhein River, called Haus Steineck.

Seven ECU professors rotated through the program on a quarterly basis, providing instruction on all aspects of Europe, including history, political science, geography, economics, business, sociology, language, art and music. We earned ECU college credit and a minor in European studies. Two of us lived with German families and commuted daily.

The most memorable aspect was travel throughout Europe. We traveled as a group – mostly by bus – to various cities, including London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Luxembourg, Madrid, Barcelona and Vienna. Many students traveled independently over long weekends and quarter breaks.

The program was the brainchild of Hans Indorf, a native of Germany and ECU associate professor of political science, who served as resident director. Indorf also acted as parent, confidant and advisor, encouraging our growth, listening to our problems and chiding us for bad behavior when necessary.

“For me, a shy, naïve girl who had rarely been out of North Carolina, it was beyond my wildest dreams,” said Debby Mitchell Jennings ’73. “The experience opened my eyes to the importance of travel and experiencing other cultures.”

“We visited so many museums, and I – all of us – were exposed to so many of the great art masters from Rubens to Rembrandt, and El Greco to Titian,” said Paul Dulin ’73, ’76. “To this day, I still enjoy visiting museums.”

Two marriages resulted. Beverly Eubank Ayscue ’73, who met and later married fellow participant Gene Ayscue ’73 (now deceased), said: “The Haus Steineck experience was like a yearlong initiation rite into adulthood. I met some of the most important people in my life there.”

Many of us have kept in touch and participated in reunions every few years. We renew friendships, retell old stories and catch up on news of families and careers. After the COVID pandemic altered our plans to celebrate our 50th anniversary in Europe, a small group gathered in October at a beach house in Nags Head.

At the 50-year mark, we look back on our “Camelot” year with a deep sense that we experienced what it means to be a citizen of the world, “and not just an American,” as Sheila Nicholson Morehead said.

Our unofficial theme song sums it nicely: “Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.”

— Gail Benge Kent

Editor’s note: Kent was part of the 1971-72 study-abroad group. She attended ECU and then transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.