Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)


In my time (I do not I know whether the school system has changed in Germany), one started school at the age of six. There was a free school, the so-called Gemeindeschüle which went from the sixth to the fourteenth year, graduated and were then sent to private school, separated by sex, until the age of sixteen. However, by the age of twelve one could follow a different track by going to a “gymnasium,” where, in addition to French and English, Latin was also taught. The final examination, the Abitur,  was taken at eighteen or nineteen; it allowed one to enter the university in a field of one’s choice. Acceptance did not depend on the grades one received in school, as is customary in America.  
In the beginning I enjoyed going to school. I loved to read, liked arithmetic, and my favorite subject was history. I can still remember my I first history teacher, who taught German history, beginning with the German tribes, as the Roman historian Tacitus described them. In my eyes she was the epitome of an Arian- tall, blond, and blue-eyed. I never realized at that time what the word would mean in the future. I had a crush on her (the German word for this attachment is schwarmen). I would scratch her initials wherever possible, wait for her at  the trolley car stop so that I could walk with her to school, and make little presents for her. In current lingo, she became my roll model; luckily we did not yet know this technical terminology.

As I grew older I liked school less and less. Arithmetic, which I had enjoyed, developed into higher mathematics and I had trouble understanding it. I had no ear for languages, and whenever my father who could read and speak Latin and Greek, sat down to study Latin with me, the session always ended in tears. Sciences were only taught superficially, but history and creative writing remained my favorite subjects. Not many girls went to the Gymnasium; at the end there were only eight students in the class. I must admit that I was not a good student. As I got into my later teens I fell in and out of love many times, which is quite time consuming, and I liked to dance, but I knew I had to graduate from school so that I could attend medical school. Once in medical school my life changed completely. I loved my courses and ultimately loved learning. The human body in all its complexity fascinated me.

That I would become a physician was almost pre-ordained, and I never questioned my decision. Looking back at this period of my life, I am deeply grateful that I had the chance to become what I wanted to be, a physician.


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