The Swiss adventure
Moritz Faist studies comparative modern history at the University of Freiburg. The 25-year-old uses Eucor mobility and attends courses on Swiss European policy and the history of European integration as well as a Danish course at the University of Basel. We talked to him about his experiences as a cross-border student.
Mr. Faist, why did you want to go to Basel through the Eucor program?
Moritz Faist: Last semester I had an exciting class on Switzerland’s transnational history. It is a completely new field of research in which Switzerland is not just presented as a hibernating animal, as isolated as possible from the outside world. Instead, we examine the interdependencies that Switzerland has had with the outside world since it was founded. That was when I first came into contact with Switzerland. There are hardly any events on Swiss history, or events with a Swiss connection in general in Freiburg, although that is actually very obvious. I also wanted to gain experience abroad. Since I moved at the beginning of the year, I missed the application deadline for Erasmus by two days. And unfortunately, because the Erasmus application is only possible once a year for both semesters, that was no longer possible. I then became aware of Eucor and thought that I should give it a try. What was particularly exciting for me was the opportunity to combine my academic interest in Switzerland with the program itself.
You commute to Basel Tuesdays and Wednesdays. What is it like to switch to another university on a weekly basis?
It is always exciting to get an internal look at a foreign university, even in a country that is supposedly very similar such as Switzerland. There are a few things that work differently. But the differences are rather subtle, not so obvious. I think the Swiss are more reserved than Germans when it comes to interpersonal relationships. At the same time, the culture of discussion in the course is stronger than I was used to; there is a lot of interaction. In Germany, a lot is already set: you get all the literature at the beginning of the semester. You get the first texts on the e-learning platform. And in my seminar in Basel there was simply nothing at all, much like a clean slate.
At the beginning of the semester you tweeted “Off on a #Swiss adventure. To be a freshman in the 10th semester has a certain something to it.” How was your start at the University of Basel?
If you don’t know what to expect, you’re not necessarily excited, but curious. On the first day of my semester I was surrounded by a horde of 18- and 19-year-olds and as a 25-year-old I was right in the thick of things. Their motivation is rather infectious. On the first day I wanted to go to the cafeteria and had relied on the fact that you can pay without using cash in Switzerland like you can everywhere else. But that’s not possible in the cafeteria. I already had my food, but I couldn’t pay for it. By the way, you also have to look quite hard at the money. If you go to the cafeteria, for example, a meal costs between eight and eleven francs. These are all things you fumble with, but somehow it always works out. However, I would have liked to attend a Schwyzerdütsch course in between. Although their accent is beautiful, it’s a bit complicated to understand everything, especially outside the seminar, when it’s no longer about technical matters.
Eucor – The European Campus network has the goal of developing into a European University. What do you think of the initiative and where do you see room for improvement?
I think it’s very good that more emphasis is being placed on cooperation. On the one hand, you want to have as few borders as possible in Europe, but on the other hand you notice that there are borders, especially in the scientific field. There is still a slight circling of the wagons mentality. I think student exchange is important, and Eucor should be utilized even more to this end. Naturally, there are free modules and interdisciplinary opportunities in every course of study. Students could not only get a taste of other courses of study here at the university, but also be encouraged to go abroad or do Eucor. Travel costs could definitely be improved. I would love an Eucor option in the semester ticket so that you do not have to buy several tickets for each trip.
All in all, how do you rate your Eucor mobility?
I would definitely recommend it. It does not always have to be Dublin or Barcelona or Istanbul. You can also discover a lot of new things an hour’s train ride away. And you have the advantage of being able to stay here at the same time. I think that’s a huge bonus. They are really all very open and support you both here in Freiburg and in Basel. All you have to do for Eucor is advertise it: It’s free. All you have to do is register and then just show up!