Good news: I am a student again!
Because I am constantly reading, thinking and writing, I thought that I might as well study once again. After all, I always enjoyed university more than work, and everybody needs a hobby. I prefer browsing books over bar brawls and lounging in libraries over listening to loud Latin lyrics.
I had always wanted to study history. Immediately after high school, I only didn’t do so because other subjects had attracted my curiosity as well. Due to family imprint (to blame somebody else) and the neoliberal zeitgeist of the time, I thought that job prospects had to be a relevant factor when choosing one’s field of study. Thus, history was relegated. The finals between law and economics were then decided by a fear of higher mathematics and probably also by a predisposition for arguments and discussions.
The possibility of studying two subjects at the same time had not even crossed my mind back then, for I was under the misguided impression that I had to finish my studies as soon as possible in order to become a productive member of the national economy. Well, that’s how we thought in the 1990s. You have to remember that back then (at least in Germany), the radio played songs every day encouraging you to “increase the Gross National Product”. But, dear young readers, take your time! It really doesn’t matter if you start sitting in an office or standing at the assembly line at age 24 or age 26. Study as long as you can!
But now it’s 2017, the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the peripety of World War I and the actual beginning of the 20th century. I have also regained an interest in pursuing the academic study of history because I find it misinterpreted and misrepresented in political debates more and more (“slaves came to America looking for prosperity”, “terrorism is a new phenomenon”, “this area was always Armenian/Palestinian/Hungarian”). Whether we are talking about monuments to Confederate generals or to victims of the Holocaust, the future of Palestine or Abkhazia, we can hardly discuss such issues seriously without an informed look into history.
As you know, my life is modeled on the Migration Period, so I didn’t have the heart to make a decision for one fixed location for several years. Therefore, because of flexible time management and because I didn’t want to sit next to giggling teenagers, the best option was the University of Hagen, Germany’s distance university.
Apart from MA and PhD (but we don’t want to think quite that far this semester), this university only offers history as part of the BA in Cultural Studies with literature or philosophy as a minor.
I don’t mind that at all, I thought – until I held the introductory course books for literature in my hands and stumbled, or indeed tripped and fell, over such seemingly unliterary concepts as self-referential closeness of the theory of structuralism and donquijotesque transfers of the text to decontextualized allegorical dimensions. I like literature and I would like to enjoy it further. The first and possibly overhasty impression tells me that to this purpose, I better stay away from the study of literature. Maybe it’s like food, which also tastes better when you don’t know how it was prepared. So I will choose philosophy as a minor and hope that my MA in philosophy will be recognized to a large extent, allowing me to focus on history in the coming years.
The majority of you who don’t read this blog as an ersatz-Bildungsroman but for its travel reports, will now worry and wonder if the roving reporter will only be sitting at his desk for the next four to six years and not experience any more noteworthy adventures.
You needn’t worry about this, please, because:
- Most of my travels haven’t been journalistically exploited yet. About a dozen notebooks with chocolate stains and bullet holes are still waiting for a hungry audience that they could feed for years.
- I should remind you that many of my travel reports have already been enriched with historical knowledge, which sets my blog apart from the standard sun-beach-caipirinha travel blogs. This information shall henceforth be even better researched and substantiated.
- Because I can carry out the distance studies from anywhere, I will move around a few times during the project. The next move will probably be to Eastern Europe again.
- Although most classes are virtual, the university also offers regular seminars in person. For example, I have just been to a whole intensive week of history lectures and seminars in Hagen. After Haifa and Hanga Roa, you are surely dying to read something about Hagen in North Rhine-Westphalia. For the next seminar in December (“Crisis of European modernity – changes and departures: the epochal year 1917”), I will have to go to Frankfurt.
- In June 2018, there is even a field trip to Krakow (“Politics of remembrance and of history in a Polish metropolis 1900-1970”). I am looking forward to that in particular because, to my great shame, I still haven’t been to neighboring Poland. (Heck, even my grandfathers have been there, albeit on invasion.) Maybe I will add a few extra extra months there.
- Because of a seminar on Mesopotamia (this one without an excursion, unfortunately), I’d like to travel to Iraq. But unfortunately, international flights to Kurdistan were suspended after the independence referendum (take note, Catalonia!), making everything more complicated and expensive and thus less likely. We’ll see if I find a way. I’ve already discovered that there are regular buses from Amman to Baghdad, and now that ISIS has gone bankrupt that should be super-safe.
- And then there is the Erasmus program! When I was sharing a flat in Bari with Erasmus brats who were partying more than they were studying, I was still making fun of it. But now I am looking forward to EU subsidies for one or two semesters abroad. I don’t need to go to the stupid parties, after all.
- I am confident that I will also think of something interesting and exotic for the internships. You know me. I can’t stay glued to my desk for that long. I haven’t put the backpack in mothballs yet.
Studying can be a thrilling journey of discovery, too.
Because I have already been writing about history in this blog, you hopefully won’t mind if I report from a seminar from time to time or turn one of my term papers into an article. And maybe some of you can be motivated to return to university yourselves. I notice that there is a trend to a second or third degree. (Or maybe that’s mainly among my lawyer friends who are hit with a burnout.)
Lastly, I have extended my wishlist with a list of books specifically for my studies, which may be more useful for Christmas than yet more socks with elks. 😉