Germany

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Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger raises the trophy after the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday. 

Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Martin Meissner | Daily Texan Staff

The 2014 World Cup broke records. It defined excitement. It showed us the country of Brazil in a way we’ve never seen it before. And it brought us one of the best soccer tournaments in recent history. But now, it is gone. In its absence over the next four years, we will have these memories:

The fall of the greatest

It will be written in books and shared down generation lines, but nothing will ever compare to witnessing what happened on Tuesday, July 8. Brazil, the host nation and greatest international soccer team that has ever existed, lost worse than anybody could have ever thought was possible. The 7-1 dismantling by the eventual champions Germany was two hours that stopped the world and will probably never happen again.

A superb host

Many factors made this World Cup great but at the root of it all was the host country, Brazil. The soccer-loving culture fit perfectly, as expected. The atmosphere of games was unmatched. The scenic views of surrounding mountains and the iconic “Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio De Janeiro topped it off. There was little doubt left of the impact a South American host can have on a World Cup. It’s where soccer is religion and where international tournaments clearly belong.

The surprises

Who could have predicted the superstardom of Colombia midfielder and World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodríguez? Or the unbelievable surge Costa Rica, a nation of roughly 4.5 million, made to the quarterfinals stage? And what about the last minute victories, the improbable loses, the penalty shoot-out finishes and the consistently close games? Add the social media frenzy with each game and the dramatic story lines that followed marquee names like Luis Suárez and Neymar, and nothing was left out of this tournament.

A showcase of perfect play

In June, we witnessed what perfect basketball could look like through the NBA champions San Antonio Spurs. And in this World Cup, we got to experience what that looked like on a soccer pitch. It shouldn’t be surprising that Germany tied the 2002 champion Brazil team for best goal differential in World Cup history, or that the team’s worst game was a 2-2 tie against Ghana in group play. Their play against Brazil put them on another level, and the way they picked apart teams with their defensive, but aggressive, style was incredible. It was soccer at its finest. Germany will be remembered as 2014 champions, but they’ll be more revered for the way they did it.

The tides possibly turning

Yes, a powerhouse German team did win. And all four of the semifinal teams are considered soccer greats, but down the line, other groups are emerging and ready to take the grand stage next World Cup. This tournament showed true promise of what the next World Cup could look like. Sides like Colombia, Belgium, Mexico, Costa Rica, and even the U.S., demonstrated the potential for less historic countries to make an impact. So many of these games were great because the margin of talent has come closer together between nations. This makes for a 2018 World Cup that should draw heavy attention. Because more than ever, the golden trophy could end up in the hands of first-time champions.

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger raises the trophy after the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday. 

Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Martin Meissner | Daily Texan Staff

Germany, on the verge of a penalty shootout ending with Argentina for the FIFA World Cup title Sunday, earned a victory from a strike delivered by substitute forward Mario Götze in the 113th minute of extra time, making them the first European nation ever to win a World Cup hosted in the Americas.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Götze, the FIFA Man of the Match said afterwards, “I don’t know how to describe it. I just took the shot and didn’t know what was happening. For us, the dream has become a reality.”

Germany dominated throughout the tournament. They had won their group, cruised through the round of 16 and quarterfinals and dismantled Brazil to reach the final. But against Argentina, it was a struggle.

There were times it appeared that the South American country would be the one hoisting the golden trophy. Moments like the 47th minute, when Lionel Messi was just feet away from the goal before he struck the ball and missed by the closest of margins.

There was also forward Gonzalo Higuaín’s miss in the 22nd minute, a shot that was taken from twenty yards out in a one-on-one situation with German keeper Manuel Neuer. The goal could have given Argentina the early lead in a very defensive contest.

But Germany had already proven many times this World Cup that if you let them stick around they will find a way to come out victorious. And that is exactly what happened at Estádio Maracanã in Rio De Janeiro.

They had put up their previous chances too. Defender Benedikt Höwedes’ header in the 46th minute was inches away from crossing the line, but bounced off the right goalpost instead. In the 91st minute, forward André Schürrle was just outside the box when Argentinian keeper Sergio Romero deflected his right-footed strike away from goal.

The scoreless draw was broken when a perfect lob pass from Schürrle in the 113th minute of extra time came down feet away from the goal line on Götze’s chest, from there he volleyed it past Romero for the latest goal in World Cup Final history.

A German side that had been awaiting this moment since their last World Cup victory in 1990 rejoiced, while Argentinians, who dominated the crowd inside of the stadium, saw their hopes of victory slip away. There would be no reliving the Diego Maradona 1986 glory days. 

“They left everything on the pitch,” Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said. “These are very close matches and, when you make a mistake, you know it’s difficult to turn it around. But in general terms, I’m very proud and my boys played an extraordinary World Cup.”

With the heroic goal, Götze became the first substitute to ever score in overtime of a World Cup final. And for Germany, the team that played as sound and organized as any soccer team ever has, the World Cup title is now their fourth, only one behind all-time leader Brazil.

“We started this project ten years ago,” German coach Joachim Löw said. “We’ve made constant progress, we believed in the project, we worked a lot and, if any group deserves it, it’s this team. Every player in this team gave everything they had.”

Brazil vs. Germany – Tuesday, July 8 at 3 p.m. CT

No Neymar and no Thiago Silva. What will this mean for a Brazilian team that is making its 10th World Cup semifinals appearance? Brazil has yet to show their best, having made it to this point without any decisive victories. But perhaps that is where they find their peace going into Tuesday’s game against Germany. They know they can do better, which should be quite frightening for the opposing team. Replacing two of the most important players will be tough, but Brazil also has history on its side. The country has not lost a competitive match at home since 1975. And as shaky as they’ve been, they’ll need every ounce of advantage that they can get. Germany plays organized and disciplined, a style of play that has frustrated Brazil all of this World Cup. With a hard defensive line, Germany beats opponents by neutralizing attacks and striking when the opportunity presents itself. Players like Thomas Müller have been creating plays for the German side all tournament long. If Brazil hopes to reach its 7th World Cup final, scoring early, just as they did against Colombia in the quarterfinals, will be vital. The last time these two powerhouses met on such a grand stage was in 2002, when Brazil beat Germany 2-0 to win the World Cup.

 

The Netherlands vs. Argentina – Wednesday, July 9 at 3 p.m. CT

Through superstar Lionel Messi, Argentina is as close to winning the World Cup as it’s been since the days of the great Diego Maradona. The team has looked steady and Messi has been living up to his famed name. The country has yet to lose a match this World Cup, seeming to somehow always find a way to win. On the opposing side is the 2010 World Cup runner-up Netherlands, which has appeared to be the team of destiny so far. While they too have not lost a match this tournament, they have beaten opponents in nail-biting fashion, as they did in the penalty shoot-out victory over Costa Rica. Argentina has not made a semifinal appearance since 1990, and historically, they have only beaten the Dutch once. The Netherlands have the better numbers in both shooting and scoring for this tournament, with forwards Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie each having scored three goals so far. But they also do not have a player like Messi. Nothing will be as important for this Netherlands team as keeping the Argentinian striker at bay. Messi has the second most goals in the tournament with four, but has also constantly created scoring for teammates, which is where the true danger lies. The Dutch will need to disrupt Argentina’s world class passing attack. A more wide-open type of match can be expected from this second semifinal, and based on how both teams have played; a penalty shoot-out would not be surprising. 

As his 2014 World Cup journey came to a close, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann had plenty to think about after the Americans 2-1 defeat at the hands of Belgium on July 1.

He could begin with the positives, and there are plenty of them.

His team played with an effort that is worth being proud of. They played with more grit and confidence than ever. They weren’t just the same old Americans that weren’t really feared. No, this time they had really earned some respect.

They had taken down old nemesis Ghana and imposed their will on powerhouse Portugal. They had held Germany steady enough to not lose decisively and had been outplayed by Belgium, but through Tim Howard, still showed that their country could also be a home to one of the best soccer talents in the world.

They had played with more toughness, wisdom and poise than ever, while making sure that after this World Cup, the clichés and jokes about American soccer were all but silenced.

They had also made a nation believe. They had made a country come closer together for soccer than ever before. Maybe it was because of the social media craze that’s sweeping America or maybe it was something else, but either way, “I believe” began to feel as patriotic as the red white and blue of the flag.

Klinsmann’s group did not come close to winning the World Cup. In fact, they lost in the exact same way as in 2010, a round of 16, 2-1, extra time loss. But even in losing, the American side was able to capture the attention of their fans at home.

“Many people watched this competition, maybe more than South Africa,” Klinsmann said the day after the Belgium loss. “We are all in this together. We all try to make this game grow in our country and get it to the next level.”

Klinsmann has begun to inspire belief in his national program, but he must also be pondering what needs to happen for his team to take the next step.

A marquee striker is needed with a game that reaches further than anything Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey ever did. The U.S. needs a feared striker that the team can find its identity in – a Suárez, or Neymar or Messi type of player.

Right now, the best chances lay with 19-year-old Julian Green, whose goal minutes after making his World Cup debut against Belgium made a promising statement for the future of U.S. soccer. With four years to develop until the next World Cup, Green could be ready to lead this team and be supported by other young promising players like defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin.

Defense should be the bigger focus, though. A big time goal-scorer won’t make up for the lack of defending the U.S. had throughout the entire World Cup. This is their biggest task at hand to take the next step. Strong defenders are needed desperately. In the Belgium game alone, the U.S. allowed 26 shots compared to nine given up by Belgium. If it were not for Howard’s 15 saves, they would have been completely dismantled.

Great defending won’t necessarily win you a World Cup, but it can neutralize teams like Germany and Brazil in their attacking. If reaching a World Cup victory is possible for the U.S., it will have to start with learning how not to lose.

It’s something that Klinsmann will need to figure out. He will ultimately have to align a group that defends well and creates better counterattacks than the U.S. had in this World Cup.

Klinsmann surely knows this and he has likely already began pondering what his next group of guys will look like.

Older players like Dempsey and Howard might have seen their last World Cup. The U.S. will look completely different in four years. But they also might be more ready. Their time to really make a run at it might be only a few decisions away.

Already, the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been historic in many ways, and we’re just 29 games in as of Saturday night. Here are the five biggest takeaways so far from the tournament, as well as a preview of the USA-Portugal matchup tonight at 5 p.m.

  1. South America has dominated

Teams from the host country’s continent have obliterated the competition, going 8-1-1 combined so far. But it’s not just South America, though, that has taken charge. The entire Americas have played well above their opponents at this point of the tournament. Combined, North America and South America have an 11-2-0 record. It could be a changing of the guard or it just could be that the Americas, especially the Southern continent, feel more comfortable playing closer to home. Whatever it is, teams from this side of the world are showing no sign of slowing down.

  1. Is this soccer or the NFL?

But really, the kind of offense we have seen from World Cup teams in Brazil has been incredible, and its comparison to the offense-heavy league we see in our American version of football might not be that far-fetched. The point is that this World Cup has been about scoring, and the numbers back it up. There have been 80 total goals scored so far. Compare that with 2010’s World Cup number with the same number of games played (29) and the result is 23 more goals this year. 23. That’s about one more goal per match so far at this World Cup.

  1. Star play has come from non-marquee names

We heard so much about big names like Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi before the World Cup, and while two of those three have already made an impact, they have not led the pack. It has been players like Germany’s Thomas Mueller, who’s in a four-way tie for most goals so far with three and leads FIFA’s Castrol Index: Top Player rankings, a statistic that measures the overall impact a player is having on the game. Then there’s Mexico’s keeper Guillermo Ochoa, who’s four world-class saves against Brazil were the reason El Tri was able to stun the host country in a 0-0 draw. In total, Ochoa has a World Cup-leading seven saves and zero goals allowed in what has been a surprising Mexican run so far. And speaking of surprises, there have been plenty of them already. Besides countries like Mexico playing well, not many predicted teams like Spain and England to already be out of contention. 

  1. Technology has made what’s already entertaining, even better

For those on social media, especially Twitter, the fun has existed beyond the pitch. Whether it’s the hundreds of memes that have been shared or the cool flags that twitter has created to go alongside each team’s country abbreviation, it’s safe to say this has been the most interactive World Cup to date. Never before has this sporting event been almost as easy to follow online as it has been watching live. But technology has not just been about the tweets or Facebook posts. It has also directly affected the games. This World Cup introduced goal-line technology that has eliminated any question of close-called goals. Situations like what happened in the 2010 World Cup, when a clear goal by England’s Frank Lampard was not counted as his team was trailing 2-1 in a second-round match against Germany, have been eliminated. Any close call has been easily resolved in this World Cup. Tracking player’s fatigue, among other playing factors, with specially designed chips inside of their jerseys, has also affected the overall quality of play during games. This technology has been important for team’s use in Brazilian host cities like Manaus, where the high humidity and temperatures can affect play.

5. No Vuvuzelas deafening every other noise

Everybody remembers the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and how much the loud, annoying Vuvuzelas became a part of the headlines. This time around, Vuvuzelas have been replaced with what we’re used to hearing at World Cup matches – screaming chants from fans. Brazil has provided stadiums filled with unbelievable atmospheres. For all of the talk of problems with getting the facilities ready before the games began and the safety concerns plaguing host cities, Brazil has, from a far, looked like a solid host. The fans have shown up with passion and the culture of South America has been ever-present. Between the high scoring and energizing crowds, this World Cup has been worth the four-year wait.

Quick Preview: USA VS Portugal, 5 p.m. CT at Arena Amazonia stadium in Manaus, Brazil –

Very simple. Win, and the U.S. is in to the knockout round of the World Cup. Not so simple, is how this game could play out. The Americans come in with pure confidence after their 2-1 victory over Ghana six days go and feel even better that they are facing a hobbled Portugal squad. 

The European team got dismantled by Germany, 4-0, in their first match of group play and lost one of their key defenders, Pepe, to a red card and suspension for this game. Cristiano Ronaldo’s injured knee is a concern for Portugal and a factor that will determine how powerful the team’s offense can be in attacking, based on how he’s feeling. 

But, with all that’s happened to this squad, they are still Portugal, and this is still the “group of death.” Portugal will not go out easily and they certainly won’t allow the U.S. to walk into the round of 16. Argentina’s Lionel Messi proved on Saturday, when he scored the game-winning goal for Argentia in the last minutes of the game against Iran, that if you have one of the best players in the world on your team, anything can happen. Ronaldo will try and second that notion Sunday evening. 

This matchup will be won in the midfield and in the counterattacks, where the U.S. could take advantage of a weaker Portuguese defense. Historically, the U.S. and Portugal are as even as you can get, each having two wins and one draw against each other with five total goals scored by each country as well.

Already, the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been historic in many ways, and we’re just 29 games in as of Saturday night. Here are the five biggest takeaways so far from the tournament, as well as a preview of the USA-Portugal matchup tonight at 5 p.m.

  1. South America has dominated

Teams from the host country’s continent have obliterated the competition, going 8-1-1 combined so far. But it’s not just South America, though, that has taken charge. The entire Americas have played well above their opponents at this point of the tournament. Combined, North America and South America have an 11-2-0 record. It could be a changing of the guard or it just could be that the Americas, especially the Southern continent, feel more comfortable playing closer to home. Whatever it is, teams from this side of the world are showing no sign of slowing down.

  1. Is this soccer or the NFL?

But really, the kind of offense we have seen from World Cup teams in Brazil has been incredible, and its comparison to the offense-heavy league we see in our American version of football might not be that far-fetched. The point is that this World Cup has been about scoring, and the numbers back it up. There have been 80 total goals scored so far. Compare that with 2010’s World Cup number with the same number of games played (29) and the result is 23 more goals this year. 23. That’s about one more goal per match so far at this World Cup.

  1. Star playi has come from non-marquee names

We heard so much about big names like Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi before the World Cup, and while two of those three have already made an impact, they have not led the pack. It has been players like Germany’s Thomas Mueller, who’s in a four-way tie for most goals so far with three and leads FIFA’s Castrol Index: Top Player rankings, a statistic that measures the overall impact a player is having on the game. Then there’s Mexico’s keeper Guillermo Ochoa, who’s four world-class saves against Brazil were the reason El Tri was able to stun the host country in a 0-0 draw. In total, Ochoa has a World Cup-leading seven saves and zero goals allowed in what has been a surprising Mexican run so far. And speaking of surprises, there have been plenty of them already. Besides countries like Mexico playing well, not many predicted teams like Spain and England to already be out of contention. 

  1. Technology has made what’s already entertaining, even better

For those on social media, especially Twitter, the fun has existed beyond the pitch. Whether it’s the hundreds of memes that have been shared or the cool flags that twitter has created to go alongside each team’s country abbreviation, it’s safe to say this has been the most interactive World Cup to dat. Never before has this sporting event been almost as easy to follow online as it has been watching live. But technology has not just been about the tweets or Facebook posts. It has also directly affected the games. This World Cup introduced goal-line technology that has eliminated any question of close-called goals. Situations like what happened in the 2010 World Cup, when a clear goal by England’s Frank Lampard was not counted as his team was trailing 2-1 in a second-round match against Germany, have been eliminated. Any close call has been easily resolved in this World Cup. Tracking player’s fatigue, among other playing factors, with specially designed chips inside of their jerseys, has also affected the overall quality of play during games. This technology has been important for team’s use in Brazilian host cities like Manaus, where the high humidity and temperatures can affect play.

5. No Vuvuzelas deafening every other noise

Everybody remembers the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and how much the loud, annoying Vuvuzelas became a part of the headlines. This time around, Vuvuzelas have been replaced with what we’re used to hearing at World Cup matches – screaming chants from fans. Brazil has provided stadiums filled with unbelievable atmospheres. For all of the talk of problems with getting the facilities ready before the games began and the safety concerns plaguing host cities, Brazil has, from a far, looked like a solid host. The fans have shown up with passion and the culture of South America has been ever-present. Between the high scoring and energizing crowds, this World Cup has been worth the four-year wait.

Quick Preview: USA VS Portugal, 5 p.m. CT at Arena Amazonia stadium in Manaus, Brazil –

Very simple. Win, and the U.S. is in to the knockout round of the World Cup. Not so simple, is how this game could play out. The Americans come in with pure confidence after their 2-1 victory over Ghana six days go and feel even better that they are facing a hobbled Portugal squad.

The European team got dismantled by Germany, 4-0, in their first match of group play and lost one of their key defenders, Pepe, to a red card and suspension for this game. Cristiano Ronaldo’s injured knee is a concern for Portugal and a factor that will determine how powerful the team’s offense can be in attacking, based on how he’s feeling.

But, with all that’s happened to this squad, they are still Portugal, and this is still the “group of death.” Portugal will not go out easily and they certainly won’t allow the U.S. to walk into the round of 16. Argentina’s Lionel Messi proved on Saturday, when he scored the game-winning goal for Argentia in the last minutes of the game against Iran, that if you have one of the best players in the world on your team, anything can happen. Ronaldo will try and second that notion Sunday evening.

This matchup will be won in the midfield and in the counterattacks, where the U.S. could take advantage of a weaker Portuguese defense. Historically, the U.S. and Portugal are as even as you can get, each having two wins and one draw against each other with five total goals scored by each country as well.

When I told people in Germany my plans to study in Texas for a year, they all had the same reaction: “Be careful with those cowboys, don’t get shot!” While I haven’t met many cowboys, the warning about getting shot turned out to be a legitimate concern.  

One day after my arrival, three people were shot at Texas A&M in College Station, a mere 100 miles away from me. Four more mass shootings have occurred since then across the United States, the most terrifying one in Newtown, CT. The number of mass shootings in the U.S. in 2012 totaled 16.

Every year, about 15,000 people are victims of homicides in the United States, and 12,000 of  those victims are killed by firearms. Compared to the approximately 4,000 annual homicide victims in Western Europe (which has a total of 360 million inhabitants), the U.S. figures are shocking.

Every American has read or watched news reports about mass shootings. Comparatively few have witnessed one on their own, though I’ve met many UT students who were on campus during the 2010 shooting. Some were outside in the campus area but only found out about the shooting later, some had to stay in their classrooms, some didn’t know what was really going on but heard shots, some were actually in the library. Although no one besides the attacker himself was hurt in the end, no one has forgotten being in such close proximity to the possibility of death. 

For many Europeans, including myself, it is unbelievable that, in spite of such traumatic episodes, many Americans continue to defend today’s laws that make it relatively easy in most states for an unlicensed anybody to acquire an unregistered weapon with 20- or even 30-round magazines.

I understand that America is in many ways different from Europe, both culturally and geographically, which complicates the case of comparative gun politics. And there are indeed countries on this planet that have stricter gun policies than the U.S. but more people killed with firearms. But these are countries entirely different from the U.S. in terms of wealth, education and development. In countries as developed as the U.S., more guns generally go along with more people being killed by them.

Europeans are actually not totally unfamiliar with not-so-strict gun policies. I study in Freiburg, less than an hour away from the Swiss border. We go there on weekend trips every now and then, but no one was ever afraid that I could get shot, even though Switzerland has a very liberal gun policy. In contrast to the U.S., however, many guns are kept in depots rather than in private households. Additionally, in Switzerland everybody must have health insurance, another European institution most Americans dislike. Without going into that discussion too much, it is important to mention because it contributes to a significant problem in the U.S.: Mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can lead to mass shootings. Medical treatment can prevent that, but it is expensive, and if you don’t have health insurance you are unlikely to get it.

If you do not check people’s backgrounds when they buy firearms — in Germany, for instance, you won’t get a gun if you have a criminal record or a mental illness, you must re-register your gun every three years and of course you must carry a license — and if treatment is unavailable for a lot of mentally ill people, you invite a massive amount of gun homicides. That’s what the U.S. has been doing for decades.

You cannot absolutely prevent all shootings, just like you cannot prevent car accidents. They happen in Germany and Switzerland as well as in the U.S. One of the most terrible mass shootings ever occurred two years ago in Norway, a country that is considered one of the safest and most tolerant in the world. However, you can reduce their frequency.

I know that when it comes to gun politics, the U.S. is highly unlikely to change, no matter how many men, women and children die, but I would not at all be upset if this prediction was proven wrong.

Hardt is an English junior from Freiburg, Germany.

When I was 12 years old, I told my family that I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. A sports journalist. By 2022, I announced, they would all be able to watch me on TV, commenting on the final match of the soccer World Cup. My family expressed skepticism and quietly hoped that I would change my mind and switch to a more promising career — medicine, perhaps, or at least teaching.

But my career path was set. Well, at least the beginning (being 12 years old and deciding to become a journalist) and the end (reporting on that match in 2022) were set. Everything in between was vague and blurry. There is no set path — at least not in Germany, where I grew up.

In contrast to the United States, studying journalism at university in Germany is very uncommon. Only a few universities offer degrees in journalism. Besides that, there are only a handful of renowned journalism schools — you don’t have to pay fees, but the entry is extremely competitive (about 2000 applications for 20 spots). Most people have completed at least a bachelor’s degree before they enter these schools, and those who get in are very likely to land a very good job afterward. Out of the 40 graduates of the last two classes at the most renowned journalism school, 30 got a permanent job with major newspapers and magazines, and the other 10 found work as freelance journalists and foreign correspondents.

The vast majority of aspiring German journalists, however, never makes it into these schools and instead enters the field through other routes.  If there is anything that one could call the “usual way,” it would be this: Study anything you like, start working early on for whatever type of media interests you, try to get extra qualifications outside of university and try to find an area to specialize in. After university, you will probably still have to complete a practical training for 18-24 months at very low wages and hope that someone will offer you a job afterward.

These are not exactly the prospects to ease your constantly worrying parents’ minds. Believe me, I am sometimes worried myself. I have completed four internships, two with newspapers, one with a major radio station and one with a TV production company. I have worked for an online magazine for two years, and I made it into a very good scholarship program that not only adds to my monthly budget, but also provides an excellent cross-media training with hands-on workshops during school holidays. It could be much worse. And still, sometimes I have doubts because I am aware that knowing the tools of journalism is not enough and that this truth is not country-specific but universal. Having a degree from a journalism school, be it from UT or any other school in the world, is not enough. It’s not about how to become a journalist, it’s about how to become a good one.

I think that the best thing you can do to improve your chances is to start writing, and keep writing. The same goes for photography, radio and television. If you can do all of them, even better. Do it as often and as intensively as you can. Meet people. Lots of people. They increase your likelihood of finding a job. They also enhance your chances of making a living as a freelance journalist. Build a network — and by network, I don’t mean the old guys who are running media today, but the passionate aspiring journalists around you. Their ideas and potential will change journalism, and you’d better be one of them when it happens.

I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but I think it’s going to be possible, and most of the time I think it’s going to be worth it. There are still too many stories out there, and we need to tell them.

Hardt is an English junior from Freiburg, Germany.

Ten years ago, no one would have predicted that I would someday write for an English newspaper, get along in an English-speaking country or study English literature. As a German grammar school student, I was made to believe that English just wasn’t my language.

I am doing all those things I previously presumed impossible now because I found the motivation to learn English, spent long  hours working through grammar rules and vocabulary and worked as hard as I could when other people asked for a bit more than what I thought was capable of.

In America, being fluent in two or three languages is extraordinary. In Germany, it’s average. So what is it that American students lack? Do they lack motivation? Are they unwilling to do the hard work it takes to become fluent in a foreign language? Or is there just no one who pushes them?

Motivation to learn a foreign language is indeed higher in Germany — and in Europe in general — because large populations speaking different languages reside so much closer. Within a 12-hour drive from Germany you can easily pass through five or six countries and read road signs in seven or eight different languages — an experience difficult to replicate in North America.

But that’s not the only reason why Germans and Europeans learn more languages than their American counterparts. In German universities, unlike at UT, where even majors in popular languages like French start with a beginner course, students enter college-level language courses more or less fluent. They acquired their language skills in primary and secondary schools. Studying French at the college level in Germany means studying French linguistics or literature; it means gaining an understanding of the language and the culture that goes far beyond a fluent coffee shop conversation.

At university in Germany, the languages that are not taught in the earlier grades start with very tough introductory courses. Language courses are two hours a week, which is just enough to cover grammar topics. Learning vocabulary, practicing speech and writing are things you either do at home voluntarily or you don’t. Failing to do so, however, means that you won’t make it to the second year.

So the biggest difference between learning a foreign language in Germany and in the United States is not the level of motivation but the quality and style of teaching in grade school and at universities.

In Austin, I have taught German to pupils at a middle school and I have experienced language instruction at the University as a student. Both groups seemed motivated to learn a foreign language. At the elementary school where I taught, the nine- or ten- year-olds were at the perfect age to acquire a language. But the advantages of their age and their motivation were wasted because the teaching lasted only a week. Those students probably won’t hear or read any more German until college, if ever. And longer-term attempts to teach language in grade schools in the United States appear ineffective too. I’ve met many Americans here who studied French or Spanish for years in school but can now barely remember how to order a coffee. They readily admit that the language programs at their primary and secondary schools were ineffective.

Things seem a bit better at the university level. I’ve met quite a number of people who study a foreign language in college and, within two or three years, have gained a decent knowledge of that language. Unfortunately, I ended up in a less effective department.

I wanted to continue my study of Portuguese — a language that I had started to study in Germany — and the intermediate Portuguese class I am taking offered promise. It’s a small class with a motivated professor. When the semester began, most students were equipped with a sound knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, and I was quite optimistic that this course would help me improve. I was wrong.

Rather than moving on, the course repeated introductory grammar topics. We’re not improving; we’re just chewing on bits of knowledge most of us had already digested last year.

Learning a foreign language is hard work, and there are moments when I hated every language I’ve learned so far because I was afraid that I would never get it, or because I thought my head was too full to learn a single word more. But in these moments of self-doubt, I had teachers who said, “Yes, you’re good, but you can be better.” The Portuguese class doesn’t challenge like that. This is not the teacher’s fault, she just follows through with the curriculum the department has decided upon. It’s not the students’ fault either. It’s the fault of the department’s curriculum, which does not adequately challenge the students. UT’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese has good equipment and good teachers, but rather than asking that their students go the extra mile, which is necessary in order that they really make progress, they demand far too little.

Schools and universities that don’t make use of their students’ motivation waste their talent, time and so much potential. They miss out on equipping young people with the tools they need to successfully go out into the world, communicate, understand and come back with a broadened horizon. I entered the world of the English language a long time ago, and at some point I discovered the beauty of it. I am still walking around in it today and so far it has never ceased to amaze me.

Hardt is an English major from Freiburg, Germany.

Imagine a university where you did not have to pay any fees other than around $300 a year for administration costs and your bus ticket. Universities like this exist, and I’ve been a student at one of them. I studied Freiburg University in Germany before I came here as an exchange student.

Imagine a university without Gregory Gym (or any other well-equipped gym, for that matter), without a Student Activity Center, without academic advisers. Imagine that many rooms are still equipped with an overhead projector instead of a computer. Imagine sitting in a lecture hall with 700 or 800 people most of the time, especially in your introductory classes. Imagine considering teaching assistants who give tutorials in these lectures a luxury.

How do European students manage without the luxuries American college students have come to expect? Well, we go running outside. We hang out in the lobbies of libraries. We look at our exam regulations and figure out for ourselves what courses we have to take that semester. Instead of preparing PowerPoint presentations, we give presentations that work without them, and maybe print out important graphics on transparencies.

We wanted it that way. Several states (Germany is a federal republic and education is managed by the 16 states themselves, not by the federal government) introduced fees a couple of years ago. Students went on strike. Even professors told their students to go out on the street to protest instead of attending lectures. The 1,000 euros (about 1,300 dollars) students were supposed to pay per year might not seem like an awful lot to American students, but people were afraid that fees, once introduced, would be easy to raise.

State elections came, and governments changed and got rid of the fees. Right now, there are two states with fees left, and one of them decided last week to have a popular vote on the issue.

In the absence of fees, our universities are financed by taxes. The taxes are assessed relative to income while fees do not take into account if your family makes $20,000 a year or $200,000.

Universities without fees are not as nice as their expensive American counterparts, but they have their benefits. I think European college students are more independent, less afraid of failing and more likely to study what they are actually passionate about than some of the students I encounter at UT. At a German university, you have to take care of yourself because no one is going to do it for you. You learn how to look after yourself, what strategies you have to use to be successful, and also that it is okay to fail. You can repeat any course the next semester without having lost hundreds of dollars. People have more freedom to study what they are passionate about because when you know you will not have debts after finishing your degree, it is much easier to live with the risk of not snatching a well-paying job because you studied, say, English literature.

Education should not be a question of money. It’s certainly nice to have a computer in every room, but it’s not necessary. After all, the success or failure of any education depends on the quality of the professors, not the fancy convenience of the school’s amenities.

Hardt is an English major from Freiburg, Germany.