17 weeks - Scotland & Sorroundings - term abroad - photography student
I. You are not alone
I have been neither to Great Britain nor to Scotland before. I didn’t know what to expect, how the city looks like and how my flat hunt will pass off.
On the 29th of august I headed into my new adventure: After multiple times of weighing my suitcase I finally compassed the 19.9 kg to avoid any extra costs. I came to the airport of Stuttgart and met my companions. At this point in time I never thought that strangers could get such appreciated friends so fast. All of them were in the same situation like me, new in an unknown city and in search of a suitable flat. As an Erasmus student it is not difficult to meet new people.
I made a reservation for eight nights in a hostel in advance to look for a long-term accommodation on location: At the first evening I had two two viewings, one of them was quite beautiful, nice furnished and the flatmates were friendly. The other flat was in suburb, mouldy and the conditions were tremendous. But I was not the only one who searched for a good accommodation, so I had to prepare for more viewings. The following two days I had another two flat-viewings and both were really bad: stinky, disgusting and at the wrong side of the city. On this evening I really was doubting if I’ll find something suitable in this city. At the fourth day I decided to buy an english phone number. This investment helped me to arrange another viewing in a house near the portobello beach. I just moved in the next day. The house is big, some spots are more or less improvised. It takes minimum thirty minutes bus ride to the city but I have a fabulous view to the sea, which remakes all the compromises. With me they’re living two Chinese, one greek guy and the landlord known as a former boxer.
My first Impressions were: dangerous left-hand driving, long bus rides and much wind but also an amazing city, friendly and helpful people and great pubs.
II. Welcome to madness
The second week was fully dedicated to the new joiners and had been branded as the “fresher's week“ including the first introductions, tours and parties. On Monday the 5th of September all European exchange students met at the lecture hall of the Craiglockhart campus. After a short orientation our assumption was confirmed: about of 75% of the students were from Germany.
In the following days I already had my introductions of the modules. In Munich I have chosen Photo: Studio, Editorial & Documentary and Development of Photography. The three modules are all from various semesters therefore I will get to know the triple amount of photography students. My first impressions of the lecturers was: exerted and a bit mad.
Thursday was dedicated to the legendary Pub Crawl. With a group of 40 persons, all with the same shirt, we walked to different pubs benefiting of discounted prices: beer and gin tonic, of course only moderately. The trip shows us how important and variegated the pub scene in Edinburgh is. Each pub has its own charm with a relaxed atmosphere and sometimes with live music.
On friday, we went to a whiskey distillery in Glenkinchie, being located about one hour south-eastern of Edinburgh. I just can recommend the tour because it was interesting to see how much work for a bottle of whiskey is needed and of course how much time. We were guided by a friendly Scottish woman showing us the different steps of Whiskey-making. Scotland is famous for the amount of various distilleries and the variations of flavours is notable. Did you know that the pre-stage of whiskey is quite similar to beer? With a hiking to the Arthurs Seat we completed our week perfectly. The tour to the highest point took about one hour. At the goal we expected a strong wind and a fatalistic view of whole Edinburgh inclusive the neighboring mountains and the sea. Fortunately the weather played along so we arrived the ground in dry clothes.
In a nutshell the second week was great to meet new international students. The organized freshers week helped us to get along on the Campus and to recognize the capability of the city. For example: On the freshers fair we had insights in the work of various societies and sport clubs we could enter to.
III. Nothing to do with photography
My first course of this week is called “Development of Photography“. In this module the topic is about preparing a business idea: How do I become successful as a freelancer after the study? As these considerations will be essential for me after my bachelor thesis, I am really curious what the content of teaching will be, what my unique feature will be like and above all if our future is that projectable. I’m also interested in the difference between the German and the British system. For example the Scottish workers are just paying a national insurance minimum of 2,8 Pounds a week.
My second module on Tuesdays is called “Editorial & Documentary Photography & Collaboration & Investigation“. This module is composed of two courses which are switching every week. The first course is about classical documentary photography: shoot portraits of the butcher next door and shoot a seria about a person in his community. In the second course we have to do an intervention till the end of October: taking pictures of a critical topic and exhibiting those in a suitable place. As I’m not from Edinburgh this exercise will be quite difficult for me. But first I have to find a realizable topic. I was confused that the module is composed of two parts and I expected something else. But I think it is a good possibility to try something new. Every Tuesday evening a photographer or a designer is giving a guest lecture.
The third module on Thursdays is called “Photo: Studio“. The course is about working with lights and objects in the studio. As I did a lot of studio projects the last semesters the course seems to be easy for me in the first moment. But working with a big-format-camera in the field of still-life photography is quite new for me. The lecturer is well-known in Scotland for his photographic artworks. In the first lesson we just did a short introduction so we decided to go to some exhibitions: in the first gallery paintings of portraits were exposed, in the second gallery there were figures out off clay which imitate waves and in the third gallery there was a portrait photography exhibition.
I discovered the nearby beach for me and I’m thinking about doing a documentary about the promenade the next months. Three times a week I have a run there and the other days I like to do walkovers. When the weather is good the beach section is totally bustling and full of various people. One time I observed a wedding-society. The most important thing for me is to talk to strangers, because this is difficult for me until now. According to daytime and the weather the picture changes, also the audience and the colours. The beach is clean, quiet and you can relax very well. Everytime I’m there I see someone I have seen once or I even know.
IV. It’s not what I had thought it would be
Slowly but surely I’m arriving in daily life. The long bus drives I’m bypassing with a short look at the newspaper and a longer on the streets: everywhere you can discover short stories. Before I came here many people told me that Edinburgh is a nice city. But now: It is more beautiful than I ever could imagine. When the sun goes down the old town is shining in a special light and at night the city is full of life. My incentive for doing good photography projects, personal’s and for the university, is quite strong. It’s a shame that a quarter of my stay is past now. This means: Accelerate!
At the Napier University some positive and some negative differences catches to my eyes. The university here has more and better learning environment. For the photographers there are well-equipped dark rooms, printing rooms and studios with a rental. However, I’m missing diverse equipment to fix the background safely. This means that I have to improvise the next few months. I find it very interesting that there are my other fields of study on this campus: English literature, film, music, game design, communication design, product design but also engineering, journalism and architecture. So the diversity of students is great.
For some weeks I had a meeting with an organizer for student trips. He was looking for a trip photographer on Facebook. With my experience and my good education I was right on cue. In the next months I will participate following day trips for free: Lake District, Aberdeen and Dundee, St. Andrews, Hadrian’s Wall, Stonehenge, Bristol and more.
This Sunday we were in Glasgow. My job is to take pictures of various impressions including portraits, pictures of sights and a group picture. By the way I got to know many new people. Glasgow is really an interesting city, quite different from Edinburgh but absolutely worth seeing. There are modern areas with skyscrapers and you can find murals everywhere. I loved the university of Glasgow, which architecture and atmosphere reminds me of Hogwarts.
V. Lost in paradise
On Wednesday my partner finally arrived to visit me the next days including the German Unification Holiday. The arrival at the airport was very late, so we had to make the experience that it’s not possible to get any decent dinner in the city anymore. Whatever I was very happy to see him after a long time. We spoke almost everyday via phone or Skype but missing each other gets stronger and we appreciate every available minute that we have together.
The Thursday began with a breakfast on the terrace: cereals, bread, lunchmeat and don’t forget the Cheddar extra mature. After this we went to the city, short visit at the University and longer walkover through Old Town and passing Arthurs Seat. In the evening we met my new friends. It is not easy to find a place with ten people but we were lucky and it was possible to find one at an amazing modern pizzeria. After our dine we went to a huge building belonging to the University of Edinburgh. There were various bars on several floors and in one of them a band played some indie music.
For friday morning we were looking for a free city guide in the old town, this means that the guide is a freelancer and that we pay at the end as much as we like depending on favour. The tour took two hours and included mostly the sights in the old town: royal street with parliament, cathedral, the Edinburgh Castle and some inner courtyards but also the grass market and Greyfriars graveyard. The tour was very interesting and the guide was entertaining. Unfortunately the weather was changeable. To protect us from rain we decided to have lunch in a traditional pub. We had one portion of Haggis with potato mash and one portion of fish and chips, which we shared. Meanwhile we talked to a kind Irish pensioner who wanted to improve her German skills. After having lunch we went to the Scottish national museum, very worth to see with focus on the world of animals and technology. On the Carlton Hill we had a good view over whole Edinburgh. The evening we spend in a good thai restaurant and had some whiskey in the oldest Pub of Scotland ( 500 years old ).
For the weekend we planned a trip to the Highlands: We rented a car with automatic transmission, booked a room in a hotel and drove to the North of Schottland. After we passed the big bridge over the Firth of Forth on the westside of Edinburgh it didn’t take too long to get to our first stop: The Loch Leven. With a view on the castle which is located in the middle of the sea we finally got some coffee and caramel shortbread. In comparison to the last few days the weather was absolutely fantastic: except one or two showers on the freeway it was warm and sunny. We continued our trip to smaller roads passing the Loch Tummel up to the high-lying areas: The Highlands announced themselves. That means in a nutshell: breathtaking views, red-brown and barren mountains, freedom and lots of sheep. The landscape is amazing and I recommend renting a car and driving independently to the Highlands to everyone who visits Edinburgh. After our check-in we decided to have a short detour to Glenfinnian viaduct ( known for the harry potter movies). The wonderful landscape plus the colourful landscape were stunning. The hotel was very comfy and we had a great dinner. Before we went sleep we relaxed in a Jacuzzi.
The next morning we drove to Glencoe, of course after we had a substantial Scottish breakfast. There we hiked to one of the mountains. The way-up was exhausting and seems endless but on the destination we had an amazing overview of the neighbouring mountains and valleys. Our trip took five hours and later as assumed we continued our drive back to Edinburgh with a last stop in Stirling to have dinner at an Indian restaurant - I never felt such pigged out after these loads of food.
On monday we spent the morning and again the afternoon in a Beach Café in Portobello: Carrot cake, coffee and walkovers. The weekend was very eventfully and I will never ever forget our trip to the Highlands. I’m looking forward to our next get-together.
VI. Follow us on our journey
On Wednesday the 5th of October I took part of a very interesting city challenge. At 12 o’clock all members met in the university to get informations about what to expect. The Student Association of the School of Arts and Creative Industries worked together to show us students a differential insight in the world of creative jobs. After we were formed in groups of four and five we finally got our first clue: an award-winning agency that is comprised of thinkers, dreamers and doers. With Google’s help we went to the first venue very fast: Whitespace. There we were welcomed by a friendly guy and we had to solve our first little challenge within 15 minutes. We should design a logo and a slogan for the Edinburgh Football Team. After the challenge we got our next clue. Till the evening we went to four other venues: a record studio, a photography gallery, a modern theatre and a museum. During these trips we captured our impressions and uploaded them in social media to keep the organisers and the companions on the loop. After we met all the challenges we went back to a place where we could talk with the other participants. In the following days our exercise was to design a blog which summarizes the whole city challenge. The group with the best results regarding the competitions and the blog was rewarded with IPads. We were the winners (Team Purple) ! The City Challenge was quite fun: It was nice to see how a group of strangers can merge this fast. At the different venues we got a good insight of various job opportunities and of impossible previsions of your CV. You can follow our journey on: http://www.creativecitychallenge.com
On Sunday I went to the second trip with VIVA: Hadrian’s Wall. The Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification in the Roman Province of Britannia near the border between Scotland and England. It was 117,5 kilometres long and was built to control the border traffic and to prevent attacks from Scottish and Irish tribes. The ruins of the Wall show how the fortification shaped the surrounding landscape. The region was worth visiting and I was surprised how far the Roman Empire passed through the North.
VII. Think outside the box
For the semester project in the documentary photography class we should look for a person whose characteristics fit to the topic "Good with their hands".
Sean Heron is a former Canadian and Scottish Super Middleweight Boxing Champion. During his peak he was ranked number 4 in Britain and also won a Golden Gloves Title in California in 1985. Since retirement Sean got involved in coaching at a local boxing gym (Leith Victoria Boxing Gym) in his home town of Edinburgh. Today Sean is 50 years old and heads his own Boxing Gym (The Edinburgh Boxing Academy) in Granton, Edinburgh demonstrating the ability to motivate, encourage and effectively pass on his boxing knowledge both to children and to adults. I look on the topic as a challenge to interpret "Good with their hands" in a different way. In general, I thought about handcraft and art, but there is more behind the idea of working with hands. Sean Heron is my landlord and I met him when I moved to Edinburgh. From the moment I arrived I was interested in his past and his actual work. He is a very friendly and open-minded man who tries to make the best out of living. In Edinburgh, he is well-known and he often emphasizes his good reputation. I find it exciting to engage with one person including the past and present and hope that I will get to know him better through photography.
On Sunday we went to St Andrews and Dundee. Two cities in the east coast of Scotland, in the north of Edinburgh. This time we also had a tour guide with us who gave us lots of informations on site and during the bus rides. St Andrews is famous for the traditional university and is the homeland of golf. Prince William and Kate were both students at this university where they met and fell in love. The town reminds me of the old part of Tübingen: nice, small and cozy. The most known sight are the ruins of the cathedral, which really was huge. The trip went on to Dundee, fourth biggest city in Scotland. Nice to see but no obligation. There we walked through the city centre and stayed in the museum of art.
VIII. What makes the life more livable
Half-time means, when it’s just two months until the return. In the last few weeks I did many experiences, I got to know many new people and I saw many places. I’m sitting in my room thinking about how I could summarize the past time in Edinburgh. The decision to come here is maybe one of the most important decisions for my personal development. The destination just does play a small part. I think in every foreign city and every new university it is about surpassing oneself, learning to go beyond personal borders and growing up in a short time. I learned to trust myself and that I can achieve everything while putting all efforts on it. Focus and professionalism is the key. However, life is unpredictable but the main objective should always remain: being happy.
Happiness for me means, having fun and learning from every experience. In my case it is about being creative. Photography is the best medium for me to become better acquainted with the world, to deal with interesting topics and to get to know inspiring persons. Sure there will also be many moments about earning a living and delivering the best possible job even though the exercises are not particularly exciting. Already during my school time becoming a photographer was my first career goal and till today I can’t imagine another profession which would fit to me. Nevertheless, I always try to be open-minded about new ways. Studying Design (in direction photo) in the university of applied sciences in Munich was one of the best decisions I took because I learned that photography is connected to various other competencies and that you have to decide on your own how much you want to learn both from study and from life. A second important factor for happiness is sharing. I’m happy for having such a great love relationship, such loyal friends and such a lovely family, always supporting me. Sharing with them my life makes the life more liveable. Big moments but also little moments like having a cozy dinner at home or walking through the autumn sun enhance this. Unfortunately fate hits unexpected but just together it is possible to get over through difficult times. As the saying tells us: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
IV. And I would walk five hundreds more
This weekend my friends and I took the last opportunity to go to Isle of Skye. Afterwards I am really happy about, because the surroundings turn out to be the absolute highlight of our term in Scotland. The first day we did some stops in the Highlands: Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Fort William, Loch Tulla and the Eilean Donan Castle before we crossed the bridge to the Island. Autumn is in progress and all the trees glow in all colors. Additionally the landscape was coated by mist. This means that my pictures will look totally different from last time. The next early morning we headed to the North of Isle of Skye to explore the rock formations, a deep waterfall, streams, coasts, lakes and a wide view. Not easy to describe but Isle of Skye really beats everything and deserves the Title fourth beautiful isle of the world, according to National Geographic.
We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the mostly untouched landscape. During the bus ride we listened to many songs both Scottish and international ones. One of them was Imagine from John Lennon and whilst we traveled through the countryside we all sung the verses:
"Imagine there's no heaven, It's easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people living for today …"
X. The weather goes mad
Now ten weeks have passed and it is November, I think it is acceptable to make an assessment about the weather. Since a few weeks I’m waiting for the typical Scottish wet and windy weather. But no, when it’s raining it is short and just drizzling. Sun shines multiple times in the week, mostly in the beginning of the day. But yes, there is wind and I think this is quite normal for a city near the city and yes it’s getting colder and this is normal for the winter. I’m very sure that in the last months the weather here was much better than home but I don’t want to complain. According to the inhabitants, this autumn was apparently the best in the past last years but who knows, the typical Scottish weather will surely come very soon.
On Sunday we did a trip with VIVA to the Lake District in the North of England. There we did a short hiking and we could gain an impression of the national park. After being in the Highlands and on Isle of Skye I think it will take some time to impress me regarding the landscape but the trip was fun because my friends were with me. For the next year I plan to go more often to the Alps for hiking and taking pictures.
XI. Curiosity is not a sin
Matching the trip of this week, I’ll have another try to compare the Napier University in Edinburgh with the University in Munich. The trimester is slowly coming to its end and it’s easier for me to form an opinion about the structure now.
The complete content of a module is determined in a handbook. Even before we had the first class you got insight about when the seminars will take place and when we have to submit our exercises. The course content consists of workshops, often with external lecturers, of tutorials, where you are talking with your professor face-to-face and of feedback sessions with the whole class. In the handbook you also find the desired requirements and learning goals. The submissions are spread over the whole term, for example in documentary photography we had two small exercises, which we had to deal with within two weeks and a photo story, which we have to manage in a month but the scope is way bigger. Besides the photo projects I have two write lots of proposals and have to hold a few presentations. The amount of work in the Napier is higher, the level is a bit lower and I miss to concentrate entirely on one project and to be able to create something big. I appreciate this in my home university, you have enough time for experimentation and you have time to work on a good concept.
The studios in the Napier University are equipped very simple. You can choose between soft boxes and reflectors, putting them on tripods. Unfortunately I’m missing all devices to create a set-up or to fix the background. This makes working in studio difficult for me and I have to improvise much, which I think is demotivating. The studios in my faculty in turn are really good equipped which leave nothing to be desired. A good thing in the Napier is that you get all the materials for free as long as you use them for the exercises. I used so many sheets of photographic paper in the dark room and it was no problem to take black and white sheet film.
Back to my first sentence and the trip to the Durham Cathedral. The Cathedral was part of the setting of the first harry potter movies. It was nice to walk through Hogwart’s courtyard and to glance into McGonnagal’s teaching room.
XII. A house is not a home
Only a few weeks, then I fulfilled all the requirements of the modules and submitted all my projects. Sometimes I’m a bit annoyed and over-challenged, but the majority is done soon and I’m very proud that I will successfully complete all the three modules. Also, I’m happy to spend some days in Edinburgh relaxing before I drive to London to spend my holidays there and before coming home for Christmas. Many people ask me If I’m homesick and I must say: Yes I am. I’m not only missing my partner very much, but also my friends, my family, my own flat and Munich. I like Munich very much but in the last months I asked myself if I want to stay there the next years or if we will strand to a new city. Munich is great and has much to offer, especially in summer it’s fun. Nonetheless, moving to a new city is no bad idea: to get to know the potential, to build a new network and to settle down after my study. Finding new friends is not difficult for me, especially here I noticed this. And them who I called my real good friends, I’m going to miss very much. I’m sure that the contact remains also in Germany and I hope that we meet very soon. Only a few weeks and slowly the melancholy begins.
XIII. Christmas is coming
In Edinburgh, Christmas preparations are in full progress. The windows are decorated, everywhere you see blinking trees and colorful lighting. My friends and me already went to the Christmas market near Princess street and I must say: beautiful - six weeks in the heart of the city on various spots and a lot of attractions like a Ferris wheel and Ice skating. The market is oriented towards German ones. You can go to a „Schupfnudel“ stall, have pretzels and lot’s of German sausage specialties, cheese, bread and of course Glühwein (mold wine). Some of the sellers are from Germany and the signage sometimes a is also in German. Additionally, you find other international stalls like churros, burgers or raclette. Christmas is in the air although there will be no snow in Edinburgh which is located too near to the sea. The next weeks I am looking forward to participate to some Christmas dinners before we all have to say goodbye and before we’re flying home to our families.
XIV. Let’s go to the beach
A special feature for me was living quite next to the beach. For the future I definitely can imagine to live in a city with a direct connection to the sea. Of course with warmer temperatures and more sun, but I really can’t complain about the last months since the weather here has been so fantastic. I spent a lot of time in Portobello beach by myself but I also invited my friends to have some coffee together in the Beach House. Observing ebb and flood, walking through the sand and enjoying the calm is what I will miss most.
XV. Time to say goodbye
The biggest part of my uni submissions are done and the trimester ended with a dinner for all photography classes in an all-you-can-eat world food restaurant. I tried to control myself and to avoid side dishes as far as possible to concentrate on the special delicacies. It was interesting to see all students together and it was even more interesting to realize that I almost knew everyone except students from the first year. With some of them I got friends and I’m excited to see their development as future photographers.
The situation in my apartment happily changed so much in comparison to the beginning. Instead of the grumpy Greek guy and the secretly Chinese guys, a friend from Stuttgart and a French girl have moved in. Together we organized a Christmas dinner for our friends and instead of passing lives we also try to make the best out of our time at home altogether.
The week ended with a farewell party at friend’s. I must admit that I really enjoyed the house parties in Edinburgh. But this time we also have been sad because two of our friends already return home and we have to realize that our time here is coming to an end.
XVI. All good things come to an end
More with a smile in one eye then a tear in the other I am writing this text while we’re leaving Edinburgh directly to King’s Cross London. Smiling because I will gladly think about all the gained experiences and because I’m looking forward to the next year. I met amazing people and I hope that we’ll meet soon, although we all are aware of needing lots of discipline for this. It’s true that friendships you’ll make in your term abroad will have a special emotional bond. People came from different spots of the world to one place you’ll discover together and which you’ll learn to love. Edinburgh was a good choice because there are many things to discover and the inhabitants welcome you with kindness and open-mindedness. It’s cosy, not too big, and clear. You even can reach your destination on foot. My partner and me took the chance to climb Arthur’s Seat a last time and to wander through the Christmas market. Saturday afternoon we met my friends to walk on the beach and to have some coffee in view of saying goodbye - one last time in the beloved Beach House - before finally departing at the edge of the beach as the sun melts into the sea. Despite all the walks there are many places I missed to see. But that’s not serious because in the end I will not have visited The Aulde Reekie for the last time.
Das Ausbleiben von Sorgen und Ängsten, Überfluss in großem Maße. Daran denke ich, wenn ich mir das Paradies vorstelle. Vorhersehbarkeit und eine allgegenwärtige Ruhe bestimmen hier das Leben: Alles ist bekannt und bedächtig.
«Ist nicht jedes Paradies eine Zone der Eintönigkeit und der tödlichen
Als zentrales Werk reflektiert die Bibel das Weltbild unserer westlichen Kultur über Jahrtausende. Somit ist sie ein guter Zugang für die Auseinandersetzung mit der Unruhe und ihrer Bedeutung für den Menschen. Wenn wir von paradiesischen Zuständen sprechen, meinen wir eine vollkommene Situation, in der keiner unserer Wünsche unerfüllt ist. Es ist der ultimative Ort, an den, nach christlicher Vorstellung, der Mensch nach seinem Tod zurückkehrt, um dort vollkommen und ewig zu leben.
Wirft man einen Blick auf das Paradies der biblischen Darstellung von Adam und Eva, fällt jedoch auf, dass dem Menschen etwas Wichtiges gefehlt haben muss. Denn sobald der Mensch vom Baum der Erkenntnis isst und dadurch Bewusstsein erlangt, funktioniert das paradiesische Gefüge nicht mehr. Die Statik des Paradieses verträgt sich nicht mit dem nach Veränderung strebenden Menschen und ist seinen neuen Bedürfnissen nicht mehr angemessen. Somit ist die Vertreibung aus dem Paradies eigentlich eine Befreiung, statt eine Strafe. Sie ist die logische Konsequenz.
Es heißt „Stillstand ist Rückschritt, Aufhören des Strebens geistiger Tod“ und die Ruhe, die wir uns herbeisehnen, wirkt im nächsten Moment wie ein Widerstand, der uns in unserem Tatendrang und unserer Faszination für Neues nur ausbremst. Es ist doch eigentlich genau das, was das Leben ausmacht: Sich ständig weiterentwickeln, Herausforderungen annehmen, diese meistern und sich immer wieder neu erfinden.
Kann das Paradies also der Sehnsuchtsort und Ziel unseres Strebens sein? Oder ist es nicht vielmehr trügerisch und eine leere Versprechung, die unsere wahren Bedürfnisse nicht zu decken vermag?