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German experiences U.S. culture, law

August 27, 2011

Sean Renker, of Germany, just completed a three-week internship at the Auglaize County Common Pleas Court under the guidance of Judge Fred Pepple.

A student from Germany traveled all the way to the United States to dig deeper and learn more about law with a local judge.
Twenty-five-year-old Sven Renker, of Frohburg, Germany, just completed a three-week internship at the Auglaize County Common Pleas Court with Judge Fred Pepple.
Renker, who earned his bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Dresden in Germany, interned here before continuing his studies in the field at the University of Munster — where he will soon start back up with fall classes.
“It was fun and interesting,” Renker said of the experience, “and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it. I would like to come back.”
After Renker graduated high school, he began studying physics because that is the field he first thought he would find a job and had an interest. But, along the way, he decided that this is not what he wanted to do, so he did some research on other career paths, and came across studying law, and after doing more research and taking law classes, he enjoyed it, so he decided to stick with it.
As part of Renker’s studies, he had a requirement do an internship in a common law country. Germany is a civil law country.
Civil law proceeds from abstractions, formulates general principles, and distinguishes substantive rules from procedural rules. It holds legislation as the primary source of law, and the court system is usually inquisitorial, unbound by precedent, and composed of specially trained judicial officers with a limited authority to interpret law.
Common law (also known as case law or precedent, is law developed by judges through decisions or courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action.
He got connected to study with Pepple through one of his law professors at his school, who suggested he do an internship in Wapakoneta.
“This is my first time here,” Renker said. “Everyone is nice and friendly here.”
Prior to coming to the country on Aug. 8, Renker heard American food was not the greatest.
“The food isn’t as bad as I heard,” Renker said.
Renker confirmed that the information he heard about the food was not at all true, especially when he went to lunch with Pepple at Bob Evans Restaurant, during his internship, and he ordered turkey with mashed potatoes.
“It made the impression that it can’t be that bad,” Renker said, of the meal he enjoyed.
During his stay here, he would often grab fast food when he was in a hurry, but it was not his ideal thing to do for lunch.
“It’s not my favorite,” Renker said. “I like to prepare my own meals at home.”
He observed that Americans eat more fast food than they do in Germany.
One interesting thing that Renker said he enjoys doing, but is uncommon here, is to put corn on his pizza.
“I eat corn in Germany, and I like to put it on my pizza,” Renker said.
But, while here, was his first time trying corn on the cob.
Renker said that corn on the cob is like one meal for him, because when he eats two, he is stuffed.
Other than trying new food during his time here, Renker had an opportunity to do many activities with his host family, Janet and Rex Katterheinrich, and with Pepple.
With his host parents, he had an opportunity to attend a New Knoxville Village Council meeting, visit the New Knoxville Historical Society, where he had an opportunity to meet a few of the German exchange students who were recently here through the Sister Cities program, attend the parade at Summerfest in St. Marys and meet U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana.
“I got the opportunity to shake hands with Jim Jordan last week,” Renker said. “It was cool to meet the congressman.”
Renker also went up to Grand Rapids, Mich., with his host parents, and enjoyed his time in Michigan.
“It was nice to get out of town, and see more of the U.S.,” Renker said.
While in Germany, Renker’s main source of transportation is riding his bicycle or walking, and he said that it is much different here, because a car is needed to go place to place.
“Everything is driving around,” Renker said. “That gets me, because everything is together in downtown Munster. Travel is mostly done by bike in Germany.”
Here, he has observed that places are farther apart, so riding a bike is not an ideal way to get around.
“A bike isn’t just a sports instrument,” Renker said, “it’s a travel device. I don’t have a car in Germany, so I use a bike.”
And, Renker said that when he goes home to visit his parents, Elke and Juergen, he takes a 6-hour train ride home.
While Renker was studying with Pepple, he has the opportunity to sit in on sentencing hearings and pre-trials.
“The jury trial was neat,” Renker said, of one his favorite things he has experienced during his stay.
One difference in law, compared to Germany, is that in the U.S. there are juries, so Renker had the opportunity to experience a jury trial during his internship.
He said that while sitting in on a jury trial, the judge explains everything.
“It benefits one who observes,” Renker said. “They get a better idea of what’s going on.”
In Germany, he said many files and paperwork are just submitted to the judge, and is not explained thoroughly during the trial, like it is here.
Pepple also took Renker to see the Court of Appeals, in Lima, where he got a tour of the courtroom and met the judge there.
During his internship, Renker said that if he was not in the courtroom sitting in on a trial, he could be found in the Law Library doing research, and working on assignments that Pepple gave him.
“I’ve been learning about how things are different here,” Renker said, while studying law during his internship.
Renker’s last day of his internship was Aug. 26, and today he is heading to Washington, D.C. and then to New York City for a few days before he returns home and continues his education.
Renker said that after he completes his law education, he would like to go into specializing in tax law or civil law.

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