May 8, 2015, by Oliver Thomas
Second-year undergraduates Karina Field and Tom Ingram describe their experiences hosting German students on Nottingham Classics’ exchange with the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.
When asked why we signed up for the Q-Kolleg programme, everyone gave essentially the same answer: to meet new people, and further our understanding of ancient art by experiencing German scholarship. And of course to go to Berlin – though nobody admitted out loud that that was actually a core reason. We achieved all three things!
The exchange began with us waiting in the Humanities building, spying through the doors for potential tired and/or lost groups of German students. After meeting and a bit of nervous silence, any awkwardness broke down and the visitors’ startlingly well-spoken English conversation began to flow.
It soon became apparent that we were working with very talented students, which made for some really interesting collaboration. The basis for our work together was the Ara Pacis. We had had to choose and prepare a topic before the exchange students arrived; we were then paired up with Berliners of similar interests, and gave a joint presentation. All the presentations were really interesting; topics ranged from particular reliefs on the Ara Pacis to a comparison of the portrayal of the Furies there with their portrayal in literature. The varied subjects meant that we could all learn a great deal from each other.
Of course, the exchange wasn’t all business, and in the moments not spent changing the face of scholarship we tried to show our guests a good time. To show them a bit about Nottingham (and to learn something new ourselves!) we went to the Nottingham Caves – an exciting and enjoyable trip on which we learnt some games from World War 2 and had a go as archaeologists digging up artefacts in the sandpit.
On the Sunday we went to the British Museum, where we were split into small groups to find pieces of art or architecture to discuss and present to the other groups. Again, these presentations were interesting and we learnt a huge amount from the Berlin fellows. The days were long but rewarding and, to the approval of everyone involved, often ended in a pub, slaking the thirst that can only come from a hard day’s classics.
The Berlin students also had the opportunity to visit our university museum and to handle some of the ancient coins and discuss their iconography. Unfortunately, we still had lectures at the same time so we weren’t able to join them, but we heard all about it and saw pictures when they returned.
What had at first seemed to be a slightly daunting experience turned out to be exhausting and challenging but also great fun. Whoever said work is work and schnapps is schnapps was obviously doing the wrong degree: Q-Kolleg is something I would strongly recommend to any student who has an interest in visual culture and wants to meet some great people!
Image credits: (c) Jette Engel.