Prettany Overman studied abroad as an undergraduate student in Munich, Germany, with the Junior Year in Munich program. Originally from Abingdon, Md., she graduated from Hood College with a major in German and a minor in political science in May 2015.
Now she is back in Germany for a yearlong internship. She pursued the internship because she wanted to spend another year in Germany, gain valuable work experience and give back to the country and its people.
“(My year abroad) was honestly the best year of my life, and I wanted to experience another year as amazing and eye-opening as that one,” she said. “My study-abroad year in Munich gave me so much confidence and taught me so many new perspectives that I didn’t want to end my experiences with Germany without giving something back.”
She is volunteering for one year, September 2015-September 2016, through Action Reconciliation Service for Peace in Berlin and Oranienburg, Germany. On Mondays, she works with the Jewish community in Berlin and spends the day visiting two Holocaust survivors. Tuesday through Friday, she works in Oranienburg in the Sachsenhausen memorial and museum. There, she gives tours in German and in English, translating German to English and English to German. She organizes and runs study day trips, and she works on her own research, which currently involves American prisoners of Sachsenhausen.
“I knew I would enjoy having another year abroad, but I wasn’t sure about how much I would enjoy doing the work that I am doing,” said Overman. “To be honest, I was worried that I wouldn’t be strong enough to handle the subject matter or the unique encounters with survivors and their families. In that sense, I have been challenged in a way that I didn’t know I could be. While I have learned so much about others and their lives and work, I have learned so much more about myself.”
The week of Jan. 22-27 was a special experience for Overman as she was invited to participate in the 2016 German Bundestag Youth Encounter and International Holocaust Remembrance Day when all victims of National Socialism are commemorated. During this program, she traveled and worked with other young people whose line of study and work focused on the period of National Socialism in Germany. Their main subject of focus was forced labor. They visited Mittelbau-Dora, a former concentration camp in Nordhausen, and they spent time in Berlin. While in Berlin, they worked within the Reichstag—the German equivalent of the White House—and other vital buildings where members of the German Parliament work. The highlights included talking with a former forced laborer; participating in the Hour of Remembrance in the assembly room for the German Parliament; and participating in a podium discussion with the president of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, and Holocaust survivor Ruth Klüger. During the Hour of Remembrance, Overman sat in the same room with Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, and other members of the German Parliament, as they reflected on the victims of National Socialism from all over the world.
“When I was younger, I used to think that I couldn’t have an impact on history,” said Overman. “I felt so separated from the events that took place before me. Through my service, I have learned that even as a young person, I can have an impact and be an active participant in history. I can influence how experiences and stories are shared in the future. I hope that I can play a role in how future generations look at National Socialism, the Holocaust, racism, hatred and intolerance. The story won’t stop with me.”