Handball adds local flavor to co-op in Germany

Michael Waite

Michael Waite’s co-op work in Germany — engaging in political outreach and helping to run a small business — gave him some pretty full days. Considering Waite also played for a German handball team and bonded with his foreign teammates, the senior sociology major came away with a profound international experience.

“It was really a true two-for-one,” Waite said of the spring 2010 co-op.

Waite, a Presidential Global Scholar, worked for the Munich chapter of Democrats Abroad, where he pressed Americans working or studying overseas to keep up with politics back home and to vote via absentee ballot as the 2010 midterm elections approached. He also established the chapter’s Facebook page, and attended the organization’s international meeting in Italy, which drew representatives from chapters across the globe.

Along with his work for Democrats Abroad, Waite helped the Munich chapter’s chairman, Quaide Williams, run his small business. The publishing company, go! Language Press, has created handheld language learning tools that translate and conjugate verbs for foreign travelers.

Waite learned firsthand what it takes to run a small business. He pitched the products to language institutions in different countries, established new business relationships, and attended a major trade fair. The language tool itself even came in handy in Waite’s own travels — which in turn made pitching it a lot easier.

“I was in the midst of trying to learn German myself, so I had more of an understanding of what people might be looking for when they’re trying to master a language,” he said.

Yet his bustling days spent alternating between these two roles were only part of his global experience. Back in Boston, Waite had played on a handball team coached by a German man, who connected him with a club team in Germany. Waite established a strong rapport with his new German teammates, and regularly conversing with them also improved his German.

“Handball was the best way for me to get a real taste of German culture,” Waite said.

Joining the team also led to another remarkable opportunity that Waite had never expected. He was invited to Dormagan, Germany, to participate in a weeklong Team USA training camp in May that served as a tryout for the 2012 Summer Olympics. There, Waite wore his country’s colors while playing alongside some of the sport’s elite athletes.