Despite being a second year student, enjoying the luxury of being familiar with the ways of life that characterize ECLA, I must confess that the first days of campus life felt more or less chaotic. Naturally, a bunch of people trying to settle down in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people is bound to generate a peculiar mix of tensions.
Collective curiosity and anxiety blended into an overall feeling of restlessness. Our social capacities were pushed to extremes as new impressions and acquaintances required us to constantly stay alert and keep up conversation. And of course the attractions of the city of Berlin no doubt added to the already overwhelming first weekend.
When returning to ECLA, my mind was also preoccupied with trying to comprehend what it means to be part of an international community. I felt that I needed to return to my prior reflections on the matter. I guess every entrance into a multicultural sphere will inevitably provoke these kinds of thoughts, no matter how many international communities one may have previously been a part of.
It is obvious that ECLA is stretching, literally. Not only has the student body grown to unprecedented proportions, but also, the grounds for claiming ECLA as an international community have been seriously boosted. This academic year, five continents are represented amongst the ECLA students. Our community is a motley patchwork of nationalities, bringing together people with at times radically contrasting cultural and social backgrounds.
I thought the riches and peculiarities of the international community would somehow hit me with a little less intensity compared to last year, when just about everything about my life as an ECLA student had a stirring novelty to it. It turned out I was wrong.The effects of the expanded geographical and cultural scope of the ECLA community are very much present even in the seemingly most trivial dealings of day-to-day life on campus.
Every year at ECLA is distinctly shaped by the very characters found among the student body, faculty and staff. This year, however, I do believe that the abundant cultural diversity manifest in the student body has an impact on ECLA life that reaches beyond that of its phenomenal personalities. Distinct ways of life simply come to a crossroads where we find ourselves abruptly caught in sheer astonishment, or in conflicts that require us quickly to come to mutual understanding.
There’s plenty of asking and explaining to be done – and it’s great fun. This is what makes me feel so good about being an ECLA student. Despite initial social chaos and restlessness, the outlook for the upcoming year is most enticing.
by Emma Hovi (2nd year BA, Finland)