Studying history at University of Hagen

Hier geht es zur deutschen Originalfassung dieses Artikels.

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!

After the end of the Cold War, maybe history didn’t seem that interesting for a while either. Coca Cola had won against Vita Cola, the Berlin Wall had come down, and that was it. End of history.

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.

Schreibtisch Fernuni.JPG

You needn’t worry about this, please, because:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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. ðŸ˜‰

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Germany, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Studying history at University of Hagen

  1. Pingback: Studium der Geschichte an der Fernuniversität in Hagen | Der reisende Reporter

  2. mulan92 says:

    Congratulations on taking this step! It’s always good to keep learning, be it at a university or otherwise. I started a course this year too, after having graduated a year before, and to everyone who’s surprised and asks me if I “reeaally?” want to continue studying, I can only say: “yes, why wouldn’t I?”

    • I understand you! What are you studying?
      Whenever I hear people say “but I already have a degree”, as if it is only a box to check and then work for 35 years without interruption, I am saddened by that approach to life.

    • mulan92 says:

      Me too. I’m not sure which English word describes my subject best; it’s a practical course in desktop publishing, graphic design, printing processes and such. I wanted to learn how to make books. :)

  3. mulan92 says:

    But there is some theory and history to it, too. We had a lecture on the history of writing and printing, for example.

    • That sounds both interesting and useful!
      History is of course more theory, but I hope I will also learn/practice how to do better research and how to use archives. Also, I will have to learn to decipher old writing.

    • mulan92 says:

      That sounds interesting too, especially the old writing part if you ask me ;) And doing solid research is a much needed skill at all times and in all fields.

    • Indeed. I am glad I still grew up and went to school before the internet, when one had to research analytically and in a somewhat structured way.
      Now, I have the impression that for most people “research” is using Google, not realizing that not all information is digital or easily available, nor realizing what they may be overlooking.

  4. timburford says:

    I’m delighted by this. I’d like to think that there’s at least one other travel blog not a million miles from this conversation that is also historically informed… And a friend of mine has the History of England blog, which I thoroughly recommend, even if you never actually study English history.

  5. Olga Borden says:

    I was looking into universities in the Stuttgart area and found that it was hard to get admitted and there’s a lot of engineering and art degrees, which I’m not interested in nor have the background for. What other distance universities are there? On a different note, we need historians who can share/teach history for practical use. History can be very complex if it incorporates philosophy, science, culture, economics, and not just facts and events with dates and people.

    • What subjects are you interested in studying?
      The admission process for most subjects in Germany is actually not that hard. If you qualify, you get accepted. Except in very popular fields (medicine, psychology, biochemistry), there are usually enough spots to take everyone on (although the university may then weed out among the students in the first year). And even in competitive subjects, the decision is made based on high school grades (and ACT or SAT scores for US applicants) and there is usually no extra requirement like motivation letters, letters of recommendation or any of that. (Exceptions apply mainly to artistic fields where the universities will require applicants to paint/sing/dance/act).
      If you want to prepare for university and study German, the Studienkolleg might be a suitable option. This is a one-year intensive course that gets you from intermediate German to a level of academic fluency.

    • As to other distance universities, it mainly depends on whether you want to study in German or in English, and what subjects you are interested in.

    • I think there has been quite a shift in historical science and it is no longer taught as a list of events, dates and names, at least not at university (and I don’t think at high schools either). What you describe as history with all its connections is called “cultural history” in the field, an idea which first came up in the 18th century and has become more important since the 1980s.
      At university, knowledge of the facts is actually considered common knowledge (after all, everybody has been to school or they can look it up themselves) and then more complex and overarching issues are addressed based on the analysis of that knowledge.

    • Speaking so much of studying, maybe I should put up FAQs on studying in Germany, similar to my legal FAQs.

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  8. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

    You think philosophy won’t assail you with stuff like “self-referential closeness of the theory of structuralism and donquijotesque transfers of the text to decontextualized allegorical dimensions”????
    And your idea of doing an FAQ about studying in Germany will be immensely popular methinks. Especially with a South Asian audience. I’ve read that the number of students travelling to France and Germany has increased massively in the last few years.

    • True, but I am already used to philosophy. ;-)

      I am usually not very patriotic, but I think Germany is really not a bad place to study. In most states, there are no tuition fees, also not for foreigners. Of course not all degrees are offered in English, but then, German is a “Weltsprache”.
      After having studied in Germany and in the UK, it seems to me that German universities are more rigorous and more demanding, but also leave much more freedom to make your own choices. As a student in Germany, I feel treated more as an adult than I did in the UK.

    • Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Really? I did a part of my masters in the UK and it seemed like it was very liberal in terms of how the course was structured and the teaching methodology but I come from India where rote memorisation is deemed more important in school. And I know a lot of international students do tend to go to Germany because its cheaper than going to the US.
      Really interesting point you bring up there about German being a Weltsprache. My rudimentary knowledge of German has come in useful a few times I have needed to travel to Germany or Northern Europe but I would say I’ve had far more use for Spanish or French.

    • It really depends on the region. Overall, Spanish and French are really more useful, particularly because people who speak German as a foreign language usually also speak English, so there is no extra benefit for you.
      But in Eastern Europe (anything that used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but even beyond that), I am often surprised how many people speak German, often quite well. I am currently in Montenegro and I have already bumped into several Montenegrins whose German was better than their English or at least at the same level.

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