New Friends: a Kendal Senior and an Oberlin Freshman

BenchThis is an intergenerational story about a friendship between a Kendal at Oberlin resident and an Oberlin College student. Their friendship has grown around their love of the German language. 

What do a freshman at Oberlin College from South Carolina, and a Kendal at Oberlin resident from Germany have in common?  While their backgrounds are quite different, they share a love of the German language. 

Gerlind was born and raised in Germany.  Her university studies in History and German Literature were interrupted by World War II, and as a result, she settled for a degree in physical education.  After the war, she married a physician/chemist, and they and their two sons lived in Hamburg for 7 years, barely making a living, and hoping to emigrate to Canada.  In 1954, Gerlind’s husband was offered an opportunity to move to Detroit, Michigan where he began the process of obtaining a medical license in this country.  Gerlind and their sons followed two years later, and a third son was born in the United States.  She worked in the capacity of a physical therapy assistant, and in other positions in a Detroit hospital until retirement.  Her real passion was working with a dealer in the restoration of Pre-Columbian textiles and other works of art.  Gerlind moved to Kendal in 1998.

Bradley Hamilton calls Central South Carolina home.  He yearned for a place where he would find new and different perspectives from his life in the south.  Bradley said, “I chose Oberlin because I wanted to grow more than my factual knowledge.”  He is a bright, mature, focused young man.  Upon meeting him, you can sense his eagerness to absorb all the knowledge he can, and experience life to its fullest.  He was looking for a small school, where there was an opportunity to develop relationships with his professors and engage in research with them.  He has definitely found that in Oberlin College.  He plans to major in Neuroscience and he runs cross country and track for Oberlin.  In his first semester he already feels the college has offered him a wonderful experience.

A Friendship Begins

Gerlind Bradley

Gerlind and Bradley

It was quite accidental how they came together.  Bradley happened to overhear a conversation that his pre-med advisor was having with a fellow student about volunteering.  She was looking for someone, who spoke German.  After the conversation, Bradley approached her and mentioned that he spoke German, and was looking for opportunities to serve the community.  She told him that residents, who were living at Kendal, spoke German, and Bradley was delighted at the thought of conversing in his second language.

On the first day, that Bradley and Gerlind  met, communication was challenging.  Bradley thought Gerlind spoke only German, and he was having a difficult time explaining his reason for meeting with her.  Gerlind finally said, “I speak German. You speak German.  We should speak German together.”  Learning that she is also fluent in English has helped for clarification at times.  From that day forward, things have gone smoothly.

Bradley explained, “I  have learned not only how to deal with the gap in our language skills, but also how to explain things that are just very new and that Gerlind does not really understand.  I think the most memorable is how I took the better part of a visit explaining what a 3-D printer was and how it works.  I teach her the things she doesn’t understand and she teaches me what I don’t understand.  In this way, we both help each other grow and have developed a strong friendship.”

Both Gerlind and Bradley look forward to their weekly visits, and have fallen into a comfortable relationship.  While Bradley refers to Gerlind as a friend, it’s obvious when they’re together, that Gerlind is quite fond of him.

Story by Nancy Freed