A 72-year-old German woman is busy in her Hamburg home crafting yuletide trinkets for the holiday packages she sends out every year to friends and family. This year, Hannelore Schäfer will be sending a gift to Maisie Saganic, a journalism and political science student at Northeastern.
Maisie and Hannelore met at the beginning of the semester as part of a virtual intergenerational exchange program in her Intermediate German II class led by teaching professor Carolin Fuchs. Fuchs began the exchange program in the spring of 2021 after partnering with Freunde alter Menschen e.V., an organization in Germany that coordinates visitor partnerships and social events for German seniors. At a time when lots of elderly people are isolated because of the pandemic, Fuchs thought the program could benefit both her students and the elderly community in Germany.
“It turned out there were more Germans interested than I had students in my class,” Fuchs says. Right away, Fuchs expanded the program to the Intermediate German I class with help from her community partner Kerstin Hoffmann and her colleagues in Germany, and from Northeastern’s part-time teaching instructor, Sandra Ward.