On a Butler University Honors Program and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures-sponsored “Bulldogs to Berlin” spring break trip in 2018, Addy McKown ’21 became fascinated by how the Germans had taken in 2 million Syrian and Turkish refugees, and how those refugees have integrated and assimilated.
“I saw neighborhoods that were devoted to thousands of people from Turkey and Syria and how the city swallows them up and lets German culture wash over them,” she says. “Yet their native cultures are still prevalent in their neighborhoods with their markets, with their restaurants and cafés, and how they garden. They let them adjust to their new life while retaining the fondness and heritage of their old life.”
Her observation became the impetus for her honors thesis, A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Assimilation of Twenty-First Century Refugees in Modern Cultures. It also earned her the annual Bruce and Lucy Gerstein Holocaust Education Travel Fund, an endowed fund established by Indianapolis dermatologist and friend of the University Dr. David Gerstein. The Fund, named for Gerstein’s parents, supports travel and research related to the Holocaust.
For her thesis, McKown is comparing how Germany and the United States are handling the current refugee crisis, and how the Holocaust left residual effects on Germany’s foreign policy and relief aid efforts.
McKown, a double major in Critical Communications and Media Studies and Human Communication and Organizational Leadership, is spending the spring 2019 semester at Humboldt University in Germany. She’s also traveled on weekends to Vienna, Prague, and Dresden to see how they’re taking in refugees.
In Berlin, she’s visited Tempelhof Airport, where some refugees have been housed in hangars, and she’s planning to go back to talk to people living there.
McKown, who’s from New Castle, Indiana, says she chose Butler after visiting campus and meeting representatives of the study abroad and honors programs, and her future faculty advisor, Associate Professor of Communications Allison Harthcock.
“I immediately fell in love with the possibilities,” she says. “I love to travel. I was fortunate to have parents who exposed me to that from a young age. So hearing about all the study abroad opportunities was great. I came here and you feel like a family, but a family that’s going to push you and not let you settle for mediocre. That was really important to me.”
Jason Lantzer, Assistant Director of the University Honors Program, describes McKown as “a wonderful student and a terrific representation of our Honors Program.” He’s taught her in a couple of classes and was one of the professors who led the first trip she took to Germany.
“The Gerstein Fund not only helped her achieve her goal of going back, but is helping to lay the groundwork for her planned honors thesis,” Lantzer says. “Having just returned from the second time of Bulldogs to Berlin, it was great to get to see Addy while we were in the city and see just how much she has grown in the year since she first arrived.”
McKown says she’s unsure of her plans after graduation—she might apply for a Fulbright Award, go to graduate school, or find a job. She’s interested in working within outreach programs, a liaison between the public and the organization.
“I want to be on the people side of things, whether that’s organizing training, doing research sessions in groups to find out how to better market products or word our statements,” she says.
In the meantime, she plans to keep her options open and explore the world. She thinks others should do the same.
“It’s OK to explore something that hasn’t been explored yet,” she says. “To witness this refugee crisis firsthand, to see what such a crisis is doing to the world, you can get involved and step in in some sort of way, whether that just ends up educating yourself or if you come over here and start a thesis, if you join the Peace Corps. Whatever it is, I think it’s just important to open your eyes up and see the world and see what you can do with it.”