Past international students revisited

By Mollie Gower, Copy Editor


In 1951, international students were already established on Eastern’s campus.

Without Facebook, international students would sometimes write to their professors or fellow students to update them on what they were doing after graduation. Two international students, Ritva-Lisa Aro and Berta Rasnitschek, wrote letters back to friends and professor Jeanett Cranmer, respectively.

Aro and Rasnitschek sent back a series of letters but only excerpts were printed in The Easterner.

Aro’s letter detailed her trip back to Finland via ship and was printed for the enjoyment of her friends. Aro came to Eastern to study and returned to Finland in June 1951.

Rasnitschek graduated from Eastern in 1951 with a teaching certificate, and sent letters back to Cranmer to update her and other acquaintances on campus to let them know what she was up to. The Easterner only printed an excerpt of the letters sent, but it was stipulated that Rasnitschek had returned to Munich, Germany and was currently teaching there.

Rasnitschek apologized in her letter for not writing sooner, but explained that she was working on her second state examination and was getting frequent visits to her classroom to check up on her teaching.

Between the received letters, international students were also having an impact on Eastern’s campus.

Helmet Belser was president of the German club in 1951.

On May 31, 1951, he commented on the differences of German and American education. Belser found that American teenagers were more socially mature because of their schooling.

“The German school teacher stresses that his pupils learn reading, writing and mathematics, while the American teacher has more interest in developing the personalities of his pupils.” Belser said.

Belser also said that the German education system needed some reforming, but not sweeping changes.

International students seemed to like our education system back then, but not always our coffee.

Odett Madid from Jacerei, Sao Paulo, Brazil, was interviewed and said that American coffee was “thin tea.” Madid enjoyed the variety of breakfast foods she was able to choose from, but missed the coffee from home.

On Oct. 10, 1951, Madid would give a talk on Brazil called “Brazil Talks” in Showalter Auditorium. Madid was going to present on her home country and answer questions from the audience.

Professors were also on the international scene by traveling to study under experts in their field.

Ruth Kriehn, an instructor in women’s physical education, traveled to Berlin to study under Mary Wigman, a European dance teacher, for one year.

Besides professors traveling abroad, lecturers were also invited to speak on their experiences abroad.

These lecturers consider themselves experts on their particular international country or region. For example, Kurt Singer, an expert on European counterespionage; and Henry Hart, a historian and linguist who focused on China, presented on their fields of study at EWU in 1951.

Singer would lecture on European counter espionage having worked in various European countries assisting with counterespionage. Singer published one of the earliest German underground newspapers between 1934 and 1936, and was wanted by the Nazis for his publications.

Hart delivered three lectures on Chinese education, poetry and culture of China. Hart had been studying the Far East for over 30 years, making frequent trips back and forth from the U.S. to the Far East.

Eastern has a history with the international community through professors that go abroad or are asked to teach at Eastern, and through the students who choose to study at Eastern.