Comments from our alumni:

Christopher Hench, '11

(Research Scientist, Amazon)

I came to Middlebury with the intention of double majoring in Economics and German (in that order). In my first few German courses, I was drawn in by the welcoming professors and the many learning opportunities the department afforded me. Going to language tables, summer language school, and eventually studying abroad were key experiences that all contributed to my interest in the German program. By senior year, I had returned from a year abroad in Mainz with a newfound obsession for breaking down the linguistic properties of German, which led me to double major in German and Economics (in that order) and a memorable J-Term spent writing my senior thesis on didactic recommendations for German modal particles.

After graduating in 2011, I spent my first year teaching English through the Fulbright program in Lübeck before returning to the States to continue studying linguistics and literature. A few years later, my graduate studies at UC Berkeley exposed me to the fascinating computational approaches to literary analysis and, more broadly, to natural language processing (NLP). Upon completing my PhD, writing my dissertation on computational models of medieval poetry, I continued as a postdoctoral fellow at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science before moving to work at Amazon. At Alexa, I am lucky to combine the interests I have developed in linguistics and computing to work on exciting NLP challenges. Although my focus has evolved over time, I can thank Middlebury for developing my strong passion for language and the foundational skills to dissect language that have been invaluable in all my pursuits.

Elizabeth Gordon, '09

(German teacher, Olentangy school district in Ohio)


Coming to Middlebury, I planned on majoring in International Politics and Economics or French or History or Religion or Political Science... it was all very nebulous.  I signed up for a German class in my first semester because I wanted to keep my linguistic options open - I'd taken German in high school and didn't want to forget it, just in case - and was immediately overwhelmed.  I was one of three freshmen in a 400-level seminar, the only student in the class who hadn't spent any significant time in Germany.  Thinking to improve my German, I signed ...[read more]

Pascale LaFountain, 03.5

(Assistant Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures, Montclair University)


When I came to Middlebury, I was determined to major in international environmental studies, but in my first year, I was so excited by the German professors, German Club life, the German House parties, Kaffeestunde, and the language table, that I switched majors and even moved into the German House.

Studying abroad in Mainz was amazing and I met my best friend, Heike, while I was over there.  After loving German theater with Bettina (Matthias), critical theory with Roman (Graf), and my independent study on Green Party politics with Michael Geisler, there was no turning back...[read more]

Philipp Darjes, 01.5

(carrying the Olympic torch in Beijing, 2008)


Middlebury was an awakening.  It was my first year seminar-- a course in literature-- and my first year adviser that awakened a liking for the arts and languages.  So I took more literature and language courses and broadened my exposure to the arts by sampling music and art courses.  Slowly, my choice of courses revealed patterns and took on the shape of a major. I graduated from Middlebury with a double major in Literary Studies and German and a minor in Music.  I decided after Middlebury to pursue a second BA in music.  A series of internships and involvement in extracurricular activities helped me to apply my skills and see potential career paths...[read more]


Department of German

Freeman International Center
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Middlebury College
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