By Jorge Cantu
At an early age one of Ulli Schraml’s friends told him “You’re an American soul trapped in a German’s body.” Always having a strong connection with some American friends while living in Germany, Schraml, as of 1996, is now over-seas here in Bellingham. He is the head of International Affairs here at Whatcom and also teaches a history class.
Born in Augsburg, Germany, Schraml was determined to join the military straight out of high school, and at age 17, he joined the German military. He was part of the tank batallion there, as well as working in personnel. He did this for four years until his contract was done.
“I then worked in the economy, working different regular jobs for about five years,” he said. The Cold War called for more Germans in the air force, and Schraml answered the call.
“Joining and serving in the air force was the most interesting of my military experience,” he said. “It is unusual for a German to serve both in the military and the air force.”
He always wanted to fly, but his eyes were too poor for flying, so he went to work as a non-commissioned officer for an American unit in Augsburg, Germany. Although he did get to fly as a co-pilot a couple of times, Schraml mainly worked as part of the ground personnel.
He was in the air force for nine years, where he was honored as air force sargeant of the year by the USO (United Services Organization). He made several connections through his work with the American Unit in Germany, and one of his friends lived in Bellingham.
“I visited Bellingham several times before moving here,” said Schraml.
Always wanting to teach history and English, the Germany military provided money for him to go to school. Having a contact in Bellingham, he moved here in 1996, and attended Whatcom, then transferred to Western Washington University. He obtained a degree in history, and later went on to get his masters in history too.
“I always wanted to teach history,” Schraml said. Although he taught English and training skills in the military, he taught his first class at the college in the summer of 2009.
When making the move to Bellingham in 1996, Schraml made a good contact immediately at Whatcom with Linda Cooper who works here at Whatcom. With his background, he has worked in the International Programs office for more than 12 years as a coordinator for various things, including Study Abroad and Special Programs.
He did not leave his military career, though. Every summer Schraml has been serving in the German air force unit in Washington, D.C. “It’s a military unit, but it’s more like helping German officers take courses in America and get used to the U.S. and find housing and stuff for their family,” Schraml said.
Now settled here at Whatcom, he teaches a Western Civilization class and is the head of the Study Abroad Program, the International Friendship Club, and all International Affairs.
“I love Bellingham, and I love Whatcom Community College,” Schraml stated