Our journey back to Munich

Twenty-five years later two JYM alumni return to Munich with the State Department. Andy and Emily (Davis) Utz (1995-96) met in their junior year and ended up joining the foreign service as a married couple.

We are pleased to have them share their story here with JYM of how they ended up at the U.S. consulate in Munich.

Andy and Emily at the StuSta Stop in Munich
CaptionRevival Tour – Andy and Emily revisit Studentenstadt two decades later!

It all comes full circle

As my future husband and I boarded the Lufthansa flight from Chicago O'hare to Munich's Franz Josef Strauss airport in August of 1995, neither one of us could imagine how the next year would change our lives. During our JYM year, 1995-1996, we met, fell in love and built the foundation for a relationship that would define who we were as individuals, as a couple and ultimately as parents.

Like many alumni before and after us, we enjoyed so many amazing events and experiences that ignited life-long passions. On our final night, as we strolled through the city one last time, Andy and I made a promise to one another to return to our favorite city. Twenty-five years later, we did just that!

Andy and Emily at Oktoberfest
Andy and Emily at Oktoberfest in Munich!

Following JYM, we returned to our respective universities, graduated, started our careers and got married. As a young couple, we continually thought about the promise we made to each other on our final night. As we matured and continued on with our respective careers, we also realized we wanted this same international experience for our children.

While living in the U.S., we traveled as much as we could. Our passion for travel was supported by one of my earlier positions at Lufthansa as their Marketing Manager for the mid-Atlantic region. I was regularly traveling with top customers to overseas destinations experiencing a variety of foreign lands. Fast forward several years and we joined the State Department.

The foreign service lifestyle has provided us the pleasure of moving every two to three years to a new country and a new challenge. Our two sons were born during our tour in Vienna, Austria and we've since moved to Vilnius, Lithuania; Kyiv, Ukraine; and Colombo, Sri Lanka, giving us experiences of a lifetime. Our current assignment, working at the Consulate in Munich brought us back to where it all began!

Utz Family Photo in Bavaria
Utz family in Bavaria.

As we reflect on 25 years since JYM, we are constantly reminded of how important that year was to us. We made life-long friends and later attended weddings, reunions and stayed in touch through annual holiday greetings.

On August 21, 1999, in Old Town Alexandria Virginia, Andy and I tied the knot. We were thrilled that so many of our JYM classmates could share our special day with us. Cody and Kelley Mast; who were also JYM sweethearts, Brad Dyer, Ryan Bergmann, Nina Gemassmer and Beth Parker all made cross-country trips to attend our wedding. It was like time stood still and we were back at the Hochhaus; dancing and imbibing, albeit a little bit older and somewhat more mature.

Group of Alumni reunite at wedding.
Nina Proctor (Gemassmer) Emily Utz, Kelly Mast (McGrath) Beth Grappone (Parker)
Group of JYM Alumni reunite at Emily and Andy's wedding
Cody and Kelly Mast, Ryan Bergman, Andy and Emily Utz, Beth and Tony Grappone, Brad Dyer, Nina and Colby Proctor.

Those reunions provided opportunities to reminisce about memorable events such as trying to keep each other awake while watching Wim Wenders' film "Paris, Texas;" following HP like lost cattle on a hike which ended us up on the Austrian autobahn rushing back for the last train to Munich; and supporting one another while attending long lectures in the LMU Aula.

These were indelible moments that provided laughs and memories and taught us a lot about strength and grit. Navigating Munich city living, young adulthood and achieving the confidence to succeed in a foreign country will forever remain the foundation of who we have become today.

One theme that was also very important during our JYM year, was Fußball! Andy arrived to JYM an avid soccer player and fan. Together, we attended over a dozen F.C. Bayern matches at the Olympiastadion. This was our first taste of the European football culture and we were both hooked. One of our fondest memories of the JYM year was the night Germany defeated the Czech Republic to win the Euro 1996 Championship, thanks to the Golden Goal by Oliver Bierhoff. It wasn't only the unlimited complimentary Maß handed out at the StuSta bar that left a fond memory, but also the public celebrations along Leopoldstrasse that lasted until early the next morning.

Group of students in 1996 in StuSta
Beth Grappone, Emily Utz, Kelly Mast, Nina Proctor, Ki Kim. Front row from right to left: Dave Gamble, Any Utz, Cody Mast, Brad Dyer.

These experiences convinced us to return to Germany in 2006 to watch Germany play Sweden and later Argentina in the World Cup. Being in the stands in Berlin's Olympiastadion as Germany defeated Argentina in penalty kicks was a moment that we both will never forget. Our passion for German soccer is evident in our home daily; our first son, Oliver is named after Oliver Bierhoff- and his famous golden goal!

Utz boys in front of Neuschwanstein
Vollbayerisch - The Utz boys at Neuschwanstein in Bayern München Tricots.

I have had the pleasure of reconnecting with HP since returning to Munich and also getting a chance to meet Sommer and some of the JYM class of 2019-2020. We hope to instill in our children the same sense of wonderment, excitement and adventure that were in these students' hearts – just like we had so many years ago!

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