Clad in a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt and a head full of curly, red hair, Tristan Korff might look like an average American college student. But Korff, freshman in economics and finance, wasn’t raised, nor was he born, in the states. He grew up in a small town in Germany, but he holds both U.S. and German citizenship. He lived in what’s termed the Eifel, a low mountain range occupying portions of Germany and Belgium.
Korff was born from two very different worlds. His mother grew up in America, and attended Kansas State University herself, which is part of what brought Korff to Manhattan. His father is German born and raised. His mother moved to Germany for a job, and also to travel.
“[My mother] was in northern Germany for a while, which is where my dad was, and they met through mutual friends,” Korff said. “She didn’t speak German when she went over there, but my mom and my dad taught each other their languages, so now she’s pretty good at German.”
Despite living his entire life in Germany, Korff said he is not very fluent in the German language. He “knows enough to get by,” but native German speakers can often hear his American accent when he speaks.
Speaking German wasn’t necessarily critical throughout Korff’s schooling. He attended school on American military bases, where his mother taught — and this has a lot to do with why he is better at speaking English.
He said coming to America was a big transition for him. The culture is quite different and the flights to and from Germany can be lengthy — which is difficult for Korff, who has a fear of flying.
Korff said he noticed a lot of differences between his home country and America. For one, fast food in the states is much more prevalent. He is also often startled by the number of guns that populate the country. He also thought the social environment was different.
“The connections people make here [are different] — you make your friend group and you stay with that friend group and that’s just normal, but over there, people are a lot more interconnected,” Korff said. “If there’s no seats at a restaurant you’ll literally sit with a stranger — you just kind of have small talk with them.”
He does enjoy America, though, and likes the college experience he gets from attending K-State.
“It was really the whole college lifestyle [that brought me here],” Korff said. “You see it on T.V. and I kind of wanted to live that lifestyle. I’m enjoying it — you couldn’t get an experience like this in Europe at all.”
Despite living in America now, Korff has lots of memories of Germany to hang on to. He’s driven on the Autobahn, experienced the culture and been immersed in the history throughout both Germany and the rest of Europe — which is relatively open for him to travel because of the European Union. He’s been to Spain, France, England, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium and Croatia, the last being his favorite.
Korff said he is still deciding what he wants to do in his life, but he knows for certain he wants to expand the list of countries he’s traveled to.