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Meredith (Leland) Theelen

Name: Meredith (Leland) Theelen
Graduation Year: 2000
Major: Microbiology
Minor: German

I started my freshman year at Miami in the fall of 1996 having already declared my major in Microbiology. This field of study appealed to me given my interest in the area as well as my natural aptitude for science and mathematics. I grew up in a very science-oriented household (my brother and father are both engineers), and that had a large influence on my view of the world at that point in time. However, as my college career unfolded before me and I was exposed to a liberal arts education, through the Miami Plan; I came to discover more about myself and who I wanted to be as a world citizen. I had started my freshman year, having tested out of the Miami Plan language requirements via my scoring on the AP German exam, and in the fall of 1996, I thought this was a good thing. It would free up more of my time to focus on my class requirements towards my major, but the combination of my exposure to the liberal arts and the world around me widened my global understanding and perspective. Coincidentally at the time I began at Miami my parents had moved to Kobe, Japan, for my father’s job, leaving me to independently fend for myself in the new environment around me. This was a unique experience for a 19-year-old, when other students were heading south for spring break, I was heading East, to the far East. All of these factors combined and left me a very changed person by the end of my freshman year.

At the start of my sophomore year, I decided to pursue a minor in German. After having a year off, my German was rusty and I found myself immersed in an intense German literature course that pushed me to broaden my knowledge of German and also wrestle the complex, often philosophical topics covered by German-speaking authors such as Nietzsche, Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht. It was a steep learning curve, to say the least, but one I am very glad I made. Having previously spent a summer abroad in Würzburg, Germany between my junior and senior years of High school, I decided to try my hand at another round. Between my sophomore and junior year at Miami, I spent the summer on the Heidelberg summer abroad program sponsored by the Miami German department. It was an enriching experience further pushing and stretching me and increasing my love for foreign cultures and my inquisitiveness for the greater world around me. I spent my junior and senior years wrapping up my course requirements for my major in Microbiology and my minor in German and graduated in the spring of 2000.

Directly after graduation, I began working at P&G utilizing my science background and still getting to use my German every now and again. Colleagues often asked me to translate German patents and journal articles. In retrospect I would have probably taken some more courses offered in German technical or business writing, but I learned a lot given the resources I had. The quick-thinking and language problem-solving skills I developed from my German language studies and time spent abroad were instrumental in helping me overcome these types of challenges and many others yet to come. Slowly it began to simmer inside of me that finding a job within science over in Europe might be a perfect combination for me. Fate stepped in, though, and in 2003, while in the Netherlands for business, I met a Dutch man who quickly became my best friend and in 2008, we got married. I took the step to move over to Europe in 2007 and quickly found a job managing a Microbiology laboratory for a professional manufacturer of cleaning products. These days my German skills have reduced, but they paved the way for me to learn Dutch, which I now use on a daily basis in both my job and daily life. Along the way I have followed my heart and am so glad that everything worked out for me to combine both my love of foreign culture and language with my scientific inquisitiveness. For me personally, what I learned in the classroom was an extra reinforcement for what I learned out there in the real world. Both have been invaluable in making me the person I am today.