Hands-on learning: German interns experience common law

Between cheering on the Olympics with their host families, trying fried pickles at the Auglaize County Fair, and learning about the common law system, three German interns have a lot to share with friends and family when they return home.

Three students from the University of Muenster, in Germany, came to Wapakoneta to study common law and complete a three-week internship with Auglaize County Common Pleas Judge Fred Pepple.

Laura Pund, 21, Stefanie Heinemann, 22, and Sophia Egen, 20, had the opportunity to work with Pepple, observe court cases and visit different court systems in Ohio during their time here.

“The big difference I noticed is we don’t have a jury system in Germany,” Pund said. “it’s interesting that people who don’t have a legal background can give their opinion.”

So far, Heinemann was the only student to sit in during a jury trial, and she said it was interesting, because she has never seen one in action before.

“I think that many of the things I’ve learning in Germany make sense now,” Heinemann said. “Class was good preparation for the internship.”

The class Heinemann is referring to is the one she took with Pepple when he was in Germany teaching this spring at the university.

The three students, who are majoring in law, had to complete at least one internship in a country that studies common law to complete their program.

Heinemann said she chose to come to Wapakoneta because it was recommended by a teacher.

“One of our teachers is a close friend with Judge Pepple and said other students had a good experience here,” Heinemann said. “Everyone wants to come here.”

Heinemann said once she returns to Germany, she will have a lot to talk about with fellow students, as many of them have traveled to Ohio to study common law.

“He’s really motivated to show us everything here,” Heinemann said.

Pund and Egen agreed, and said they have learned a lot from Pepple during their stay.

“He has many stories and experiences to tell us about,” Pund said. “And he takes the time to explain something if we don’t understand. He is willing to help.”

Egen, who will be in the country for a 6-week stay, noted that the judge really cares about the interns and he makes sure they learn all that they can during their short stay for the internship.

Heinemann, who will complete her three-week internship Friday and return home this weekend, said the group has seen the Ohio Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, in Lima.

The girls agreed that they enjoyed having one another share the experience with them.

“I think it’s great sharing the same experience, and working on the same assignments,” Pund said. “We always have someone to talk to.”

The reason Pund, who will complete her internship next week, got into law was because it was fascinating to her.

“I think law is very interesting because it has so much to do with life and people’s personal problems,” Pund said. “People influence law and law has an influence on people.”

Egen said studying law gives her many possibilities for her career.

“Every door is open,” Egen said.

When not studying at the Auglaize County Administration Building or taking tours, the interns have been experiencing American culture.

“Here you can buy food and clothes at the same store,” Heinemann said. “In our town, you can only buy five kinds of something, and here you could buy 100.”

Pund gave an example of potato chip brands.

“Here you have a whole row of them,” Pund said.

She said her favorite food here is ice cream, while Heinemann’s favorite is B.L.T. sandwiches.

“We don’t have those in Germany,” Heinemann said. “They are very good. We had them a couple times.”

Heinemann said she tried fried pickles at the Auglaize County Fair and enjoyed them.

“They were interesting, but I liked them,” Heinemann said.  She said she also enjoyed the fair because she does not have anything like it at home.

“We have rides, but not animals,” Heinemann said. “I liked seeing the animals.”

The group planned to go to Cedar Point for Heinemann’s birthday today, and they all were looking forward to the trip.

“We do have smaller roller coasters, but nothing big,” Pund said. “I am very excited to go.”

During the evenings, the girls said they watched the Olympics with their host families, and it was exciting for them.

“People were always talking about the Olympics,” Pund said.

“I watched it every night on TV,” Egen said.

Egen said she also had the opportunity to do some shopping in Cincinnati and Dayton.

“The clothes are so much cheaper here,” Egen said. “There are so many places to shop.”

Egen, who visited the Cincinnati Outlet Mall and Easton Mall, in Columbus, said the shops were in a little “village.”

“In Germany, they are scattered here and there,” Egen said.

Egen said outdoor stores could be found across the town where she is from, but here they are in clusters, but her favorite place to shop was the IKEA store.

“It was really fun, and very similar to the one at home,” Egen said.

Pund said IKEA is big in Europe, so they are used to shopping there.

While in Ohio, the girls had to adjust to new things, including the weather.    

One thing Heinemann had to adapt to was air conditioning.

“We don’t have air conditioning at home,” Heinemann said. “We have it in the car, but not many people use it.”

Heinemann said she was always cold while at her internship.

“It’s hard to get adjusted to,” Heinemann said.

Pund said they had a cloudy, rainy summer in Germany, and the temperatures do not get as high as they do in Ohio.

“It’s not that humid in Germany, either,” Pund said.

Both Heinemann and Pund have been to the United States before when they were in high school as exchange students, and Pund had the opportunity to reconnect with her host family in Ann Arbor, Mich., before she arrived in Wapakoneta.

“It’s fun to come back and visit,” Pund said.