After more than nine years of service with the Murray State study abroad program in Regensburg, Germany, John Griffin, director of the program, is retiring.
Working as an adjunct German professor for the University in the 1980s, Griffin taught abroad in Bregenz, Austria before the Regensburg program was created.
When the first director backed out of the position, Griffin jumped at the opportunity.
“I realized I enjoyed the heck out of (study abroad),” he said. “It really was a stroke of luck I got the job.”
His first few semesters in Regensburg were rocky, filled with scheduling issues and advice from other program directors.
“There’s always a little bit of trepidation when you’re starting something new,” Griffin said. “You’d have a good laugh at how many ways we tried to schedule back then. It’s amazing the students stuck with us.”
As Griffin wraps up his time in Regensburg, alumni – such as Rachel Williams – said they are sad to see him leave. He brought personality and made the program a personal experience, said Williams, a member of the 2012 Regensburg group.
“He knew so much about Regensburg itself – the language and the culture and the city,” she said. “He could come up with tips and tricks unique to each individual. He knew what you were into and would tell you where to go to enjoy that sort of thing. He took care of us.”
While away from her home, Olivia Deppen, senior from Louisville, said she looked at Griffin as a stand-in father figure – someone to guide her through the struggles of being abroad.
When medical issues complicated Becca Kilby’s 2012 stay in Regensburg, Griffin transported her to the hospital and made sure her parents were notified.
Learning to deal with everything from hospital stays to finding the best trivia nights was just part of the job, Griffin said. It also was a constant work in progress, he added.
“A lot of it you just make it up as you go along,” he said. “It’s just a fly by the seat of your pants thing.”
He said getting to know the students has been his favorite part of the job, which is what kept him there for so long.
“The best part of the trip is getting to know and having free time with the students,” he said.
While the program provides specific trips to Nuremberg, Berlin, Munich and Dachau, Griffin liked to provide excursions in the Regensburg area to fill students’ weekends.
Paige Dale, senior from Bowling Green, Ky., said she was eager to participate in an activity Griffin loved – riding bikes. During her time in Regensburg, her group took a 20-30 km. bike trip,
“He came to us and basically said if you guys aren’t doing anything, I’m going on this bike ride,” she said. “Riding bikes was something John really liked to do, and doing something with him that he liked seemed like a lot of fun.”
Griffin’s days of riding bikes with the next generation may not be left behind post-retirement, though.
Once he’s not spending six months of the year in Regensburg, Griffin said he’s looking forward to getting to spend more time with his grandchildren.
Griffin hopes one day to take his grandchildren to Europe and show them where he has visited.