Liberal Arts and walking dogs in the Metro-Tram or: Our first week at ECLA

It is October and it feels like winter. The weather is getting worse. People prefer to stay inside. We are beginning the academic year at ECLA Berlin, the European College of Liberal Arts.

We arrived on Tuesday, the 3rd of October, and on Wednesday, the 4th of October, from all over Europe, Asia and other corners of the globe to be bound together in an international community. To put it in a more concrete way: to move into either Kuckhoffstraße 24 or into Waldstraße 15 or 16; to discover whether you have to go down into the basement for washing your hands or if you are lucky to have a bathroom on the third floor. In turn, other people don’t have a kitchen as big as yours. Hello, are you my roommate? And there have been house meetings. There are some rules, of course, there are. There are always rules.

Many things needed to be figured out on Thursday and Friday: Cafeteria? Lecture hall? Which level in your German class?  French or Spanish? At ECLA people wear many different hats, they tell us. For example, the hat of a tour guide when it comes to a city walk with Tomaz. And well, we know, it is really cold outside, but let’s still have a barbecue…

And by the way, what does “Liberal Arts” mean exactly? We will find out, but first we have to read three articles on that over the weekend. To be honest, in the first week it felt like at ECLA it was all about liberal eating. Only a day after the barbecue, we had the opening reception with a meal. A delicious meal. A very big delicious meal. That’s how you can get started.

But don’t relax, because there is work to be done. Tasks to be completed. I’m not talking about Homer or Plato or Julie Kidd. I’m talking about the Scavenger Hunt on Saturday night. You have no more than three hours to outdo the other houses. Otherwise, you will be forced to prepare desserts for the International Dinner the week after by the winning team who will be delegating the responsibilities. Be quick, but be creative, too. Both will count.

And we got out into the Pankow night, watching out for:

  • foreign embassies to sing the national anthem of our home country,
  • bridges (true and false),
  • people to lend their beloved dogs,
  • strangers who just came out of the sauna and we had to explain why we desperately needed that yellow wristband to be signed by them.

But Athena and Hera decided to give glory to House 15 and spurred strength in the hearts of each of its members.

And then it was just another rainy Sunday… good for reading, though, as it was called the Reading Weekend. Homer and Plato were waiting. On Monday, classes would start.

By Judith Schmid (AY 2007, Germany)

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