It is an unfortunate thing that it is only now that I had the opportunity to write about my experience here in Cottbus. I have spent two weeks here and I believe that I have adjusted quite well in the new environment.
Allow me to give you some impressions about Cottbus. Although the city is one of the biggest cities in the state of Brandenburg, the city has a quiet university town feel to it, probably similar to my sister’s university in Los Banos, Laguna (Philippines). It is an hour and twenty minutes from Berlin and the city has its medieval past as well as its more modern architecture, mostly in my university (BTU). There is a large percentage of international students here, roughly 15% of the student population, Some of them I have already met in my classes with for the basic German language. The international students come from diverse countries in Europe, Asia and Africa and I think there is a really big group of Spanish bachelors degree takers for this year.
The university is a modern campus where the IKMZ is the star architectural symbol of the campus. It was designed by Herzog and de Meuron – they were the designers of the Bird Cage for the Beijing Olympics and the Prada shop in Tokyo, both of which are amazingly designed structures. Many of the other buildings are a combination of modern glass and steel structures mixed with older buildings. It has a very pleasant pedestrian avenue that connects many of the buildings in the university.
The old city is not far from campus. It is probably a 10-minute walk to go there by foot. I hope in the future, I get to know more about the city’s personal history from medieval times, to the industrial age, the former DDR and its more modern usage now. I have yet to be acquainted with the local community, somewhat of a difficult task primarily because of the language barrier and secondly, I have only met the international students as of now because of our common language classes. There is a tandem program for learning the language that the university has set up wherein interested individuals can practice their language and learn a new one. For my case, I am thinking of participating to improve my German and explain more about English, and if there are takers, I can also share my native tongue.
Before I met my classmates, I remember having a discussion a few days ago with a friend who is also taking her graduate studies somewhere in Germany.
She asked me, “What do you want to project when you meet your new classmates?”
I asked in a startled voice, “Does that matter?”
She said to me, “I see it as a new experience where in I can reinvent myself in anyway possible, highlight the good things about myself and not discuss things that are not important to me. You can portray yourself as an athlete or an artist if you want to. You can change your name and experiment. The good thing is that you don’t have the baggage of your old self.”
With her words it made me think – who am I and what do I want to project? To be honest, after two weeks, I still do not know. The idea that I am changing my image to create a slightly different persona is strange to me for I only can be comfortable in my own perception of reality. A long time ago, I may have had preconceived notions of who I was, what I can become and what I should be but now that I really thought about it, that really wasn’t important.
Being a student, I feel like I am everyone else. There are those students who likes to party all the time, there are those who like to go to the library often and there are those who like to keep to themselves. I am all of that and none of that. I am equal to other students, the only difference that we have so far is our choice of courses. I am here without pretenses about myself and my capabilities because I am here to learn and understand new ideas. I am no longer in the stage in my life where I want to prove something to other people, that I am cool or popular, athletic or charming. I am just me, whoever that person is inside me. I have my beliefs, my experiences, my dreams but no more pretensions, no more illusions.
I am here because I want to be here. I am here because there is this burning desire to experience something new, something that will enrich my life and hopefully the life of others. I want to discover new knowledge, new people who will open up my ideas of the world and the different cultures we live in. I want to see design not just as a product of our minds but a product of our culture and beliefs. I want to see how places are engrained in memory. All other personal issues and baggage isn’t really that important.
I can’t wait for the lectures to start and I hope my German improves. Learning something new and learning a new language is a must!
P.S. A few days after this post, I came across one of those beautiful words movies sometimes throws out. This one may be most appropriate for this post:
“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early – to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit; stop whenever you want. You can change, or stay the same – there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. – Benjamin Button”