On July 1, students started arriving for this year’s ECLA International Summer University (ISU) devoted to “Montaigne and the Making of the Modern Self.” The quiet residential neighborhood was awakened by the sound of young people talking excitedly, eager to get to know each other and their new summer home. ISU 2009 began even before the first lecture was held, as the students started discussions on topics ranging from philosophy to the history of their home countries to where in Berlin to go first. This year the 34 students come from 20 countries.
At the end of the first two days, most of the ISU participants ended the day enjoying a drink in the middle of the grass-covered football field between the two residence halls. Several ECLA alumni, Igor Letina (ISU’07, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Snezhina Kovacheva (AY, ISU, Bulgaria) and Daria Coscodan (PY, AY, Moldova) joined the newly arrived and offered advice on the summer university and getting around Berlin. For the ones who stayed out the latest, Daria played several beautiful Portuguese and Moldovan songs.
Part of the first week’s activities was devoted to helping the students explore the beautiful city. On the first weekend, students were taken for a walk in the central neighborhood Mitte. The tour was led by art historian Aya Soika, who gave short talks about different historical sites. Ms. Soika led the students through picturesque city Hofs (small squares within the walls of a residential complex), streets with interesting historical stories, and the imposing Museumsinsel (Museum Island). At different times during the first days, students ventured into the various areas of the city on their own, armed with their city guides. Many discovered that getting a little lost in a big city can be quite a challenging and bonding experience.
On July 3, the students officially met the professors at an introductory lecture and a delicious barbeque at which students and faculty broke the ice and informally began their academic dialogue. The introduction was opened by one of ECLA’s Co-Deans, Thomas Nørgaard, who encouraged the students to fully enjoy the interdisciplinary approach of ECLA and take the most out of it. Most of the students had not experienced the liberal arts system before. Traditionally for ECLA, the faculty members, just like the students, come from various educational and cultural backgrounds, which makes the exchange of ideas all the more interesting. The ISU 2009 faculty are: Ewa Atanassow (Bulgaria), ECLA faculty; Daniel Andersson (Sweden) who joined ISU this summer; Bartholomew Ryan (Ireland), visiting faculty at ECLA and part of the ISU faculty for the third time, Max Whyte (USA), returning for his second ISU, and the ISU director for the past three years, David Durst (USA).
After the relaxed orientation days, the students focused their attention on their first readings for the following week. This gave the neighborhood the chance to catch its breath and enjoy the silence, but only for a short time. Come back to the ECLA News section in the coming days to find out what happened next.
By Nora Georgieva (ISU 2009, Bulgaria)