By Timothy Hein
My Go Abroad adventure took me to Johannes Gutenberg Universität – Mainz for the 2018 Mainz International Summer School “German (and) Theology” program. My purpose for doing this four-week program was to study German, gain some additional training in the German theological traditions, and complete some research on my doctoral thesis. I was both excited and pensive at this first trip to Germany: would inadvertently say something offensive? get lost? how would things go with my host family? Nor was I excited about leaving my wife and four small children behind for those four weeks. [cue Whitney Houston: “I can’t live, if living it without you. . .”]
The schedule in Mainz was fairly straightforward: mornings were spent translating German theological texts into English, the afternoons attending lectures. JGU’s academic term was winding down, so there were still several optional lectures around the university to attend, further enriching my immersion into the German scholarly community. The research library was fantastic for my research— students and faculty eagerly helped and enriched my research. Plus, I was honored to present my research at the Seminar für Kirchengeschichte und Territorialkirchengeschichte and met one-on-one with several faculty members, too!
However, not everything was translation, research and theology. On Saturdays, the program had arranged tours of various kinds. We toured the city of Mainz (founded by the Romans in/around first century), saw ruins of a mystery religions temple in the basement of a shopping mall, and visited the Johannes Gutenberg museum. I had the privilege to help perform a live demonstration of a printing press in action and keep the document we made. We took another trip to Speyer to see a medieval synagogue with a ceremonial bathhouse that survived untouched by the Nazis, and the location of Martin Luther’s trial in Worms. We saw countless beautiful cathedrals and churches, several of them with foundations dating back to the second or third century. The local food was fantastic, surpassed only by generous hospitality of my hosts. They too made sure we experienced Rhineland-Palatinate life: trips to the German wine country, the Johannes-Fest on the Rhine river, and a beautiful visit to the Abbey of St. Hildegard. In the final days, my hosts treated me with one of my “bucket list” childhood dreams: a day trip to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, plus a drive down the street to the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Sehr gut!
The entire experience at Mainz would not be possible without help. My wife and children made a deep sacrifice this summer letting me go. Without the generous support of the University of Edinburgh Go Abroad Fund, as well as funding provided by Johannes Gutenberg Universität and Gutenberg Young Researchers Grant funds, this trip likely would not have happened. All apprehensions are now great memories, research, colleagues and friends to last a lifetime. I’m so thankful I got to go abroad!
PhD candidate, Christian Origins
School of Divinity, New College
University of Edinburgh