Follow along as OU students share their impressions of life in Germany over the coming weeks. And check out the website of our friends at mephisto 97.6. The students from the station are again our partners as we collaborate on a joint live radio broadcast to air on mephisto on June 6, 2013.
Travel at the Crossroads of Europe students kicked off the Summer 2013 program in Leipzig this week with several events, including a visit to the U.S. Consulate in the city. Consul General Mark Powell, who grew up in Ohio, took time to greet the students and explain the role of the U.S. consular presence in this region of Germany. Our group was joined by OU students from the Global Leadership Center as well as German students from mephisto 97.6 radio.
The coming weeks bring lots of new experiences and preparation for our collaboration with mephisto. Check back to borderlessbobcats.com for more.
With spring rapidly approaching, thoughts are turning to the summer… and the travel opportunities that the season brings. Following the successful summer 2012 program that brought OU students to Leipzig to work alongside German journalism students, and a follow-up visit to Ohio from those German students in September, a new group to Leipzig is preparing to launch. Keep watching this space for updates on the program, with new voices joining the German-American journalism collaboration.
The team from Radio Mephisto 97.6 in Leipzig is covering the U.S. elections, and stopped off at Ohio University as part of their tour of America. OU students took the opportunity to show the visitors around campus, and to deck the German guests out in Ohio shirts. Also on the agenda was a collaborative radio program on ACRN.
Mephisto students continued on Washington DC and New York, and you can check out their reporting on their special US elections blog here.
As the Leipzig-based portion of the Travel at the Crossroads of Europe program comes to a close, and participants head on to other destinations, we take this opportunity to reflect on all that was accomplished: many stories and blog posts on this site, many miles traveled, acquaintances made, and a collaborative, bilingual radio program with Mephisto 97.6. Congrats to all involved!
The success of this stage of the program would not have been possible without the generous assistance of:
Steffi Gretschel / Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH; Robert Ritzow / MDR; Sylvia Dubberke / MDR BildungsCentrum; the 2012 Volontäre of MDR; the staff of the U.S. Consulate General in Leipzig; the staff of the Akademisches Auslandsamt, Universität Leipzig; the Institut für Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft, Universität Leipzig; Johannes Schiller, program director of Mephisto 97.6; and “the Mephistos,” especially (but not limited to) Magdalena Dick, Karolin Dörner, Anne Eichhorn, Patrick Eicke, Julius Heeke, Isabell Hillmann, Kristin Kielon, Hans Jakob Rausch, Julia Schumacher, and Jan Wiedemann… see you in Athens, Ohio!
OU students from the Borderless Bobcats food team and the entertainment/culture team led classmates on tours of two significant Leipzig locales. ‘Zum arabischen Coffe Baum’ claims to be one of Europe’s oldest coffee houses, and its museum displays coffee-related artifacts from past centuries. The latter team took the group on a tour of the Baumwollspinnerei, a former working cotton factory. Today the Spinnerei houses a variety of art galleries.
In the final days of World War II, fighting broke out at the Monument of the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig. The 69th Infantry of the United States Army attempted to capture the monument for two days, using mortars and other artillery to attack the structure. Now, 77 years later, proper repairs are being made to rectify the damages that occurred during the war.
The Monument of the Battle of Nations, commonly referred to as Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Germany, was built to commemorate the location where Napoleon Bonaparte and his army retreated during the battle in 1813. Construction began in 1898 and was completed in 1913, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the battle.
The current repairs will be finished in 2013 for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Nations and 100th anniversary of the monument itself. These will be the first major renovations since the opening of the monument.
“In the beginning of the 20th century it was a new building, but in the following years there were always other important problems for the German state. World War I, the crisis in the ‘20s, World War II, and the 40 years of the German Democratic Republic,” said Steffen Poser, curator of the monument and its museum. “Germany did not have the power to reconstruct such a great monument. It was too complex and too expensive for the GDR.”
At the start of the 1990s, the reunified state decided to begin repairing and adding modern amenities such as elevators to the monument. Throughout the years, however, the Völkerschlachtdenkmal has struggled with its own identity within the city of Leipzig.
“It was very interesting for the people in 1913. They liked to watch the building being constructed and got an impression of the power of the German nation,” Poser said. “One hundred years later, it’s not that important. A lot of people in Leipzig have no idea what it is. But they like it because it is big and has a nice view from the top.”
The dynamic history of Leipzig has made it somewhat difficult for citizens of the city to grasp their own views of monument. The monument was once viewed as a source of pride and an icon of strength and nationalism before World War II. After the damaging effects of the war, local feelings toward the Monument of the Battle of the Nations changed. This could be because of the fact that the former leader of the National Socialist Party, Adolf Hitler, held planning meetings in the monument during the later stages of the Third Reich.
The German public’s sentiments regarding the monument continued to change during the GDR era. Leaders of the German Democratic Republic debated whether or not they should destroy the monument, as it represented national pride associated with a former governmental system. They also felt that the monument’s significance in the events of World War II would serve as a negative reminder of the turmoil of that time. Eventually, they decided to let the monument stand, despite their concerns. The rationale behind this pertinent decision was based on the viewpoint that the monument served as a symbol of the friendship between the Russian Empire and the German people. They felt this way because the Russians and Germans banded together during a particularly taxing battle during the Napoleonic Era. After the fall of the German Democratic Republic, new government officials agreed with their socialist predecessors and decided to let the monument stand. All of the indecision and recurring plots to destroy the monument may have contributed to the city’s sense of disillusionment with the landmark, especially with the younger generations.
Michael Bourguignon, a graduate student at the University of Leipzig, said that he has mixed emotions about the Völkerschlachtdenkmal.
“Symbolically oversized and almost – to state it in a polemic way – fascistic, representing too much nationalism and thus everything that has been shameful and regrettable throughout our history,” Bourguignon said. “However, every time I go there – mostly at sunset or at night when the atmosphere there is simply overwhelming – it gives me a sense of homecoming, that is – in a paradoxical way – an identity I somehow do not want but nevertheless have or am.”
by Chris Dobstaff, April Laissle, Ellen McIntire, Rudaba Zehra Nasir
College cities are comparable across the globe. One of the largest contributing factors to this are the food options made available to students. The students at University of Leipzig are no exception to the stereotype of the hungry and broke college student. The University and surrounding Leipzig area provide these students with delicious and affordable options to keep their bellies full. One of the most popular options amongst students is the University owned and operated Mensa. The Mensa is an à la carte style cafeteria, available for students and faculty through the use of a Mensa Card.
One of the biggest differences between the Mensa and Ohio University dining halls is the purchasing system. At Ohio University, freshman and sophomores, who are required to have a meal plan, purchase their meals for the entire term when paying for other tuition and fees. Here in Leipzig, the students have the option to load their Mensa Cards with whatever quantities they choose, and however often they need. Machines are located outside the Mensa doors to allow famished students to load up their cards before picking out meals.
Another main difference found between University of Leipzig and Ohio University, is the perception students have of eating at the university dining facilities. At Ohio University, it is viewed as a requirement and many students resent the University for forcing their food upon them. Most students, if given the choice choose the less expensive, higher quality, and more convenient option of off campus dining. However, in Leipzig, students are encouraged, and even prefer having the inexpensive option available for their convenience. Not only is the food inexpensive, but the location is easily accessible for students in all stages of their education. Even students who live off campus and have kitchens of their own often choose to eat at the Mensa, rather than cook their own meals. University of Leipzig student Peter Komarowski agreed that the Mensa is a daily stop in his routine. “So normally I am eating at the Mensa, or just buy my food at a restaurant” he elaborated.
Although the Mensa accounts for many meals, there are a few other popular choices amongst hungry students. One of the most commonly found options is the famous Turkish döner kabob. Not only are they cheap, but they also satisfy cravings and act as a comfort food for many students. Hans Jakob Rausch, a University of Leipzig student, commented “Turkish food is very popular in Germany. Döner, we eat it very often, kebob as you call it in America. I do eat that at least once a week.”
This is comparable to the popular burrito shop in Athens, Ohio, Big Mamma’s Burritos. Ohio University sophomore Haylee Pearl said “I like to eat at Big Mamma’s because I like cheap food that is delicious and has large and filling portions.”
Another reason many students at Ohio University choose to go off campus for their meals is the convenience of time and location. Various food establishments are located across the main street of Ohio University’s campus. They are often times open late into the night, if not 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, in Leipzig, food vendors tend to follow the social norm of closing before 9:00 pm.
A drastic difference between college town culture in Germany and America is the concept of food delivery services. In Athens, many food establishments survive off of their delivery services, where as in Leipzig the service is nonexistent. American restaurants such as Jimmy Johns pride themselves on their ability to deliver fast and still keep their prices affordable. When under the academic stress of finals week, students prefer to dedicate as much time as possible to their studies and not waste it on fulfilling the basic need of food.
However, in Leipzig, their mind set is much different towards spending time on meals during these vigorous academic periods. Meal time is still considered a daily social activity rather than an inconvenience. Taking a break to sit down and enjoy a meal with friends and family is viewed as a chance to relax and get away from the stressors of student life. In conclusion, Leipzig and Ohio University students are similar on many fronts. However, when it comes down to eating habits, Germans tend to lean towards the rooted traditions behind cherished meal times.
By Lindsey Brenkus, Megan Heileman, and Clare Wilson
The Borderless Bobcats Entertainment/Culture group produced this look at a classic German Schrebergarten along with MDR interns.
The Borderless Bobcats Sports Team (Carrie Rider, Jacob Betzner and C.J. Buskey) reports on friendly match-ups between the two nations on the streets of Leipzig. Watch the video report they produced together with MDR trainees: