Konrad Lautenschlager

Konrad belongs to an immigrant family from Munich, Germany. Read Konrad's story, which is full of learning and helping his immigrant parents.

Interviewed by Tirth Patel

5/13/20233 min read

My name is Konrad Lautenschlager, I am a recent graduate from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI, I majored in Neuroscience and got my minor in Biochemistry. I am currently on my journey to become a physician and will soon be applying to medical school.

Both of my parents grew up near Munich, Germany and lived their entire lives there until my dad, an engineer, got a job assignment that would send him to Michigan. My older brother was already born at this point, but shortly after moving here I was the first of my entire family to be born outside of Germany.

As a result of living in America, learning English was of utmost importance, and so early exposure to English in preschool was integral to becoming bilingual, as German was the language spoken at home. A few years later my father’s career brought our family back to Munich, where I continued to go to kindergarten and was exposed to the German language more directly in everyday situations. I value this period of my life greatly because I believe that having this exposure at a young age was important for the development of my bilingualism. In 2006 we moved once again to Michigan for my dad’s work, and this time the move was permanent, we have lived here ever since.

From this point on I attended English speaking schools and was therefore constantly exposed to the English language. This change certainly took some time to adapt to as I was still young and English was still relatively novel. Sometimes my poor English was the source of jokes and bullying. These difficulties while assimilating to the American culture, while difficult, made me who I am today and have given me a glimpse into the life of an immigrant.

My parents enforced strict rules in order to maintain my brothers and my German. We would go to school and speak English all day, but as soon as we were picked up from school and got into the car we would have to immediately speak German. Gratefully, my mother took it upon herself to also teach us German grammar, literature, reading, and writing at home on Saturdays, so these days were often like another day of school taking a German class at home. While this was often stressful, it was an effective method to continually improve my German.

Given that only my direct family lives in the U.S. (brothers and parents), the remainder of my paternal and maternal relatives still live in Bavaria. The distance between us was often a source of sadness because of the lack of contact we had with them, however, with WhatsApp it has been possible to remain close with loved ones. Additionally, during breaks from school we would go visit them every few years.

The experience of having learned German in and of itself is valuable as it is an additional skill, however, I do believe that there is much more to it. Being part of another culture and having been immersed in it, has given me a more global understanding of the world that I may not have otherwise experienced. It has allowed me to be more accepting and understanding of other cultures and value other’s ideologies and beliefs. Additionally, having family in another part of the world and having the opportunity to visit them allowed me to be more open to experiencing new things, from food to rituals to norms.

Through all these experiences I have met many others that have also immigrated and have had similar experiences, allowing me to realize that I am not alone in my journey. When I notice that others are having similar struggles, I feel honored to welcome them and accept them for who they are. Everyone comes from different walks of life and carries with them different identities, these make everyone unique and these differences should be cherished, making them qualities for inclusion instead of exclusion. The things I have learned are irreplaceable and have helped me become a more inclusive person. I hope to continually apply these across all facets of my life.

As a result of all the things I have learned and my story of moving to America, I find that my values align closely with those of the mission of ImmiHealth and are the reason that I feel blessed to be a part of this journey where we can help immigrants and refugees find healthcare in a stressful time as they settle into a new life in a new country.

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