International Voices at UMSL

Christoph Schiessl

Christoph Schiessl, Germany
Associate Teaching Professor of History in Pierre Laclede Honors College

How long have you been at UMSL?

Since January 2014 full-time

Besides English, what languages do you speak?


What books, music, movies, or food from your country would you recommend to a friend from the United States?

I guess one of the few things I'm missing from Germany is the food. So, if you get a chance try German bread, German pretzels (so much better than the kind you buy at an American mall), and finally German cheeses and lunchmeats. A good movie which explores recent German history is "Goodbye Lenin," which came out about 15 years ago. It deals with the end of the Cold War and the impact it had specifically on eastern Germans.

What is one thing you expected about St. Louis or the United States that wasn’t actually true?

When I told my German friends and acquaintances that I was going to Detroit for graduate school, I heard horror stories about that city; drug dealing in school bathrooms, having to fear for your life especially at night due to rampant gun violence. Once I arrived, however, I realized how much I enjoyed the life of a graduate student at Wayne State University. I never felt as intellectually stimulated as in my seminars there. Detroit, admittedly, can be a little rough, but if you follow basic precautions you should be fine. I for one never felt in danger. I didn't know much about St. Louis when I moved here. I came from Houston and really enjoyed the somewhat cooler weather, having actual seasons, and just the smaller scale of St. Louis compared to Houston.

What is something about your home country that would surprise Americans?

Germany and the Germans have a reputation for being well organized and punctual. To a certain degree this is still true but the chaos in connection with Covid 19 in Germany should disabuse many of such notions. I even heard that about 1/3 of all trains in Germany are not on time anymore.

What advice would you give to someone from your home country traveling to the United States for the very first time?

Be ready to drive long distances in a car to see the country. The distances here are admittedly vast. I would also tell them that Germans are usually welcome here. At least, that has been my experience in the more than twenty years I have lived in the United States.

What made you choose UMSL?

My wife and I moved here because my wife was offered a professorship in Edwardsville, Illinois. I was looking for a full-time job and count myself as very lucky getting a full-time teaching job at the Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL. The seminars are small, the students usually very good and intellectually curious, and my colleagues are great also.