by: Hosea Handoyo
Unlike many of my classmates, who are travelling for holiday, some of Willy Brandt School students opted to participate in Summer School of Political Communication from 7-18 August in Erfurt. The Summer School was funded by DAAD and organized by the Chair of Muslim Culture and Religious History, Prof. Jamal Malik and Willy Brandt School associated lecturer, Hasnain Bokhari. The Summer School explored the role of new media and citizen journalism in redefining the public sphere and social contract between citizens and governments. Reflecting on the role of social media in Arab Spring and the new e-Diplomacy as compliments, we also looked at the importance of ‘traditional’ media such as radio, television, and newspaper. In the period of two weeks, together with 15 students from Pakistan, we engaged in various discussions, project groups, and study tours in Erfurt, Weimar, and Berlin. We had visits to the MDR Station, FREI independent Radio, Deutsche Welle, the CDU Headquarters, and the German Parliament. Academic lectures and discussion prepared us by clarifying and connecting the theory with practice in these visits. In two weeks, we covered topics such as the four models of public sphere, citizen journalism, video blogging, twiplomacy, Orientalism vs Occidentalism, role of religion and media, political system in Germany, the image branding of state and political parties, and data-driven journalism.
Aside from the academic side of the Summer School, many Erfurtians (as we call ourselves who are studying in Erfurt) have the chance to have cultural exchanges with many Pakistani students from Punjab and Peshawar Universities. For many Pakistani fellows, the Summer School gave them the chance to go abroad for the first time. Initially, they were afraid of being misfits, but with the help of Erfurtians, most of them felt at home in Erfurt and Germany. Some Pakistani students discovered that bars in Germany are not full of drunk people as often pictured in western movies. Erfurtians also had the chance to have a crash course in Urdu and introduction to Bollywood 101.
Personally, I was touched by many of the female Pakistani participants when they told me that they enjoyed their brief freedom as they have to live under local norms that dictate their lives. Last Saturday midnight, they flew home with much more positive perspective towards Europeans – especially Germans. On the other hand, we, Erfurtians, have a much more positive perspective towards Pakistan and insight on their local culture. The last good bye dinner was full of hugs and promises that we shall keep the friendship between Erfurtians and Pakistanis students in the future. Maybe we will see some of them studying in Erfurt in the near future!