Balkans on academic download tourism in Chemnitz?

Seven young scholars from South Eastern Europe get an insider view of TUC academic life

Enjoying a ‘typical German dessert’ after the city tour (Photographer: Marija Milojković)

Kuchen degustation’, ‘Supervised conference talk preparation’, ‘Academic resource mining’ – all to some extent ‘truthful’ headlines to announce that seven guests from South Eastern Europe participated in a study visit at TU Chemnitz (29 June – 6 July). Such ‘conflicting truths’ have been occupying the desks of three PhD students from the University of Niš and one from Teacher Training College Vršac (Serbia) as well as two MA students from the University of Bitola and one from the University of Skopje (Northern Macedonia). The team enjoyed a week of personal supervision and participated in a PhD defense and the two-day international conference Digital English World-Wide: Corpus and Discourse Analyses (5 – 6 July). The visit was part of the DAAD project Conflicting Truths in Academic and Journalistic Writing, which I reflected on in my last blog post on our workshop in Vršac.

During the campus welcome and city tours, I was amazed by how our guests were curious about student and academic life in Chemnitz: Their excitement and the numerous intriguing questions felt as if they were just about to submit their applications for the Winter Semester. The BA and MA study formats and modules were easy to explain. However, things got complicated when I received the questions: “Is there a dress code at the university?”, “Where do students hang out in their free time?“ and ”Is there a main street where people usually go out and stroll?” I found “Depends on what you feel comfortable in” to be a relatively diplomatic answer for the dress etiquette and mentioned several of our campus clubs as well as the general popularity of excursions to the countryside (which may explain the absence of people on weekends). I was also happy to meet fellow Balkans who also wonder about the different city structures and the lack of a popular main street to stroll back and forth on.

The group was eventually able to get a first-hand experience of Chemnitz student life during the Mensa lunches, the takeaway pizza party at a somewhat unusual location (our department) and the concerts part of the Kosmos festival.

A highlight of the study trip was the access to resources such as online journals and eBooks for which our university has licenses and subscriptions. The guests arrived well-armed with keywords and were very eager to tick out ‘gather sources’ from their To Do lists. I had always taken our access for granted, yet seeing how attractive TU Chemnitz journal subscriptions were for the young scholars reminded me to browse them more often. The local belongings of our university library also gained Pegasus Center a few new temporary residents and helped them in the preparation of their conference contributions.

During the research stay, the guests received feedback and support by the project coordinators Jessica Dheskali and Vincenzo Dheskali. The students were at first surprised by the strict formatting standards but quickly got used to the new formalities of academic presentations at German international conferences.

The doctoral candidates and enthusiasts also had the rare opportunity to attend a PhD defense in a relevant field, namely Vincenzo Dheskali’s final examination on hedges and boosters in Italian and Albanian academic writing. The touching speech of the new Doctor and the festive buffet sparked discussions about the perks of pursuing a PhD and academic life in different countries.

This exchange of impressions was continued at the Digital English conference, where the participants profited from contributions by researchers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Italy, the Czech Republic and Poland as well as presentations on BA, MA, PhD and Erasmus+ projects at TU Chemnitz. The talks from the research guests from South Eastern Europe illuminated the conflicting truths in environmental and political discourses on the Serbian, Macedonian and global media and the multiple truths in literature.

In the end, as we bid farewell to the guests, my colleagues and I were already receiving invitations for a conference in Niš in April and were making plans to meet a large part of the team again at the Summer School in Ohrid.

 

Marina

(Master English & American Studies, 4th semester)

 

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