The focus of this self-designed honors experience was to explore more about my personal culture. I have grown up hearing about my heritage from my grandparents, but I wanted to learn more about other aspects of the Donauschwaben culture, including how people from so many different backgrounds came to identify themselves under the name “Donauschwaben.” The experience consisted of dance practice and performances, volunteering at the Cincinnati Donauschwaben Oktoberfest, research about the history of the Donauschwaben people, preparing traditional dishes from Donauschwaben cookbooks, and a trip to Cleveland over Labor Day weekend to meet with other Donauschwaben groups across the country.

Of the research that I completed, what I enjoyed reading most was a dissertation titled Remembering the Danube Swabians, written by Brian Ernst. It detailed the steps it took for people who self-identified as Yugoslavian-, Hungarian-, and Romanian-Germans to unite under the Donauschwaben identity. My grandparents are from Austria and Yugoslavia, but I dance with people whose grandparents are from Romania and Hungary, and even some other countries in Europe. These are some of my closest friends, and I enjoyed learning about how our separate histories led us to meet as members of the Donauschwaben.

Understanding my heritage on a deeper level is something that I wish I would have done sooner. I became involved at the Cincinnati Donauschwaben when I was four years old, but I was too young to fully understand what it meant that my grandparents were displaced by World War II. As a teenager, I began to appreciate my heritage more, but this is the first time I have pursued academic research about it. It was interesting to read about the Donauschwaben people from an outside perspective. It also meant a lot to me that a few of my friends came to Oktoberfest to watch me perform in the dance groups. The Donauschwaben is a part of who I am, and their support showed me that they understand how important it is to me. Moving forward, I plan to focus more consciously on continuous learning about my heritage.

Below are images of some of the traditional foods I made for this experience. On the left is a "nuss torte," or nut torte, and on the right is goulash soup.