Eben Yonnetti



Eben Yonnetti '12



Eben Yonnetti '12
Major: History major
Double Minor: German, Religious Studies
Current: Teaching Assistant and Program Coordinator, SIT Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples Program
Eben writes about his position as a Foreign English Teacher, Mianyang Middle School, Talent School in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, China

I am an English teacher in China, however, I still use German in my daily life.  I watch the German news every night online and I have regular contact with my German speaking friends and family around the world via Facebook, email, and Skype.  In my life, German seems to pop up out of nowhere - I was even approached recently by a Chinese lawyer who inquired if I could tutor him in German, as he hopes to move to Germany and study law!  While I had my "on the ground" training living in Germany, studying German at Siena gave me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of German linguistic and grammatical structures, vocabulary, and to share and express my experiences with German life, language, and culture. 

My experience with German language and culture really began when I was an infant. While my mother worked, I was watched over by my German neighbor, who I affectionately called “Tante” or Auntie. I still remember clearly chasing her two daughters around their house, and having my scraped knees and bloody noses treated by “Opa,” my aunt’s father, when he came to visit from Germany. All the while, the ‘secret’ language they spoke with each other fascinated me.

Convinced that the world was out there and waiting to be explored, I applied and was accepted as a Rotary Youth High School Exchange Student to Germany for one year. I lived with three German host families, attended a German high school, gained a firm foundation in the language and customs, and, of course, became ‘sick’ with the travel-bug. I visited Germany again between high school and college, and spent a semester in Berlin during my sophomore year at Siena. While there, I studied German history and culture and completed an independent research project (in German!) on the history of Buddhism in Germany and Berlin.

Taking that first step of moving to Germany for a year changed the entire course of my life. I became fascinated with experiencing different cultures, learning foreign languages, meeting new people, and understanding the multiplicity of ‘truths’ that guide how people all over the world live and relate with the earth, themselves, and others. With the openness to new cultures and people, as well as the self-confidence and drive I gained while living in Germany, I had the courage to travel to more remote and less-developed corners of the world, which have included eight months in Nepal, India, Bhutan, and currently China where I am living as an English teacher for one year.