Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The student

“I don't mind the weather,” Johannes says. “Really, I don't. It's what you make of it.” Johannes Butscher is 22, and has been living in Scotland for almost two years now. He studies Politics at the University of Stirling, and is currently running as a Green party candidate for the local council elections. He chose to study in Scotland because of the free university education for European students, and because of the high reputation a British education enjoys abroad. He is not alone: Twenty percent of all students in Scotland come from abroad, three percent more than the British average.

According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), there are currently more than 16,000 German nationals studying in the UK. The only other European country sending more students to the UK is the Republic of Ireland.

Germany has one of the most mobile student populations worldwide, with students being encouraged to go abroad from an early age. The German government wants at least half of students to spend a term or more abroad, and consequently ensures that funding and supportive programmes are in place. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) currently sponsors 55,000 individuals a year to give them the possibility to go abroad during their studies.

Johannes Butscher likes the Scottish people for their friendly and open demeanour. “People here still have a sense of pride in their country, a kind of positive nationalism, and I really enjoy seeing that,” he says.
Nationalism is seen with one sceptical and one worried eye in Germany. Even though the 2006 Football World Cup has had a major impact on national pride and the confidence to admit it, many Germans still feel uncomfortable with the black-red-golden flag portrayed anywhere else than on official buildings. There is a fear of the spark of national pride growing into something bigger, something fearsome, something, that has happened once and should not be repeated.

Even though the younger generations of Germany see this in a more relaxed way, the suspicion is still there. “Germany is not yet ready for nationalism,” says Johannes. Instead of being proud to be German, he is proud to be European. Like Udo Seiwert-Fauti, Johannes considers himself to be a citizen of Europe. He shows me his passport. On the cover, it says in big golden letters Europäische Union, and in the next line Bundesrepublik Deutschland, federal republic of Germany. Even on a passport cover Europe ranks higher than Germany.

But even though he feels very European, his standards, he says, are German. “I grew up with the trains system and bread there, and when I compare those features of daily life to the ones in Scotland, I think we can be proud of some of them.” One thing Johannes Butscher doesn't like about Scotland is the overflowing alcohol consumption. He puts it down to a lack of confidence. “Here, people seem to need alcohol to have the courage to be themselves”, he muses. “I think people here are insecure about their identity, about who they are and about who they are supposed to be.”

He misses drinking alcohol in a way that is more about enjoying the taste than about drinking as much as possible in as little time as possible. Once he gets started on the things he misses, it's hard for him to stop. “Think of the food in Germany – it's healthier, tastier, and not everything is fried. And there's only one tap in the bathroom instead of two. Things like that make life so much easier.”

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