My Erasmus semester has come to an end. For around six months I studied with Portuguese, Spanish, French, Greeks, Slovaks, Belarusians, Hungarians and many other people from different nations. This international flavor is not only fun – it changes one’s perspective.
Exchange programs of schools and universities, au pair programmes, voluntary social years and work & travel experiences have influenced my generation more than any other before. For my grandfather, strangers from other countries were prisoners of war, enemies, liberators, for my father business partners, tourist guides, traveling companions. For me they are fellow students, roommates, friends.
The Strange – for example spending an evening with people from four different continents – seems normal now, and the Normal – traveling only with Germans – seems strange. I do not feel as a citizen of the world, since I’ve never been to Africa, but I feel more European than ever. This is a legacy.
The generation of my grandfather created a common coal and steel industry in Europe and tore down the borders of economy. My father’s generation eliminated the passport controls and softened the borders of politics.
But even today there are limits, nourished by prejudice, ignorance and bigotry. After studying, drinking and celebrating with people from different countries, I’ve not only seen different nationalities mixing together, but also how German remained among Germans, Slovaks among Slovaks and French among French. They still exist, the borders of culture. But with every Erasmus semester they vanish more and more.
The original text in German can be found here.