Archive for the ‘life’ Category

catching up – life between North America and Europe

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

When months pass without me writing any blog posts, it’s usually not because nothing happened (in which case I tend to turn to political commentary). Quite the contrary, so much happened that I didn’t find time to blog. Or let’s be honest: Blogging was the least thing I thought of.

After spending about 7 months in Upstate New York to do field work for my master’s thesis, I moved back to Vienna to finish my degree. Part of that was re-designing a green roof for IKEA in Budapest (don’t think they ever actually implemented any of our plans). After fall semester, I reconnected with my hobo-self and kind of drifted back and forth between Vienna and my hometown Rostock while writing up my thesis. All this was interspersed with the odd trip to Prague, Berlin, Bremen, London, Somerset and Reykjavík. Don’t think I ever spent so much time on long-distance busses. In the meantime, I accepted an offer to pursue a PhD in Rural Sociology at Pennsylvania State University and defended my master’s thesis. Guess that makes me technically a Diplomingenieur in Landscape Planning and Landscape Architecture now.

In retrospect, I realized that my restless traveling through Europe was my way to say good bye to the continent, places I love and people that I miss already. I am now in State College, PA, two weeks in the crazy adventure of grad school. Crazy it’s been indeed so far, but more on that in entries to follow…

 

Ithaca, NY it is

Friday, April 24th, 2015

One thing I find with blogging is that things usually start seem worth to be written about a few weeks after they happened. And then it takes me another few weeks to allocate the time for writing. What I am really trying to say, is that I moved from Vienna to Ithaca, New York about 2 months ago.
Professor Philip McMichael invited me to write my Master’s thesis on peasant farming in the United States at the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University. I don’t want to go into the actual research quite yet, apart from mentioning that I’m extremely happy to work with Rachel Bezner Kerr and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen back at BOKU as my supervisors. Working with both of them has been encouraging and empowering to the point to realize, what grad school wasn’t for me during most of my master’s as BOKU. Really, most of it were just a continuation of my Bachelor. Which wasn’t a waste of time, at all, but education can be so much more. Generally, grad school here at the department seem to be more about one’s own development and critical thought rather than just ticking some of the skill boxes on your resume. Long story short, the last 4 months (basically when I started working with Veronika) have been very intellectual challenging and exiting.

 


Ithaca itself is almost the most ideal setup of a town for my needs. Small enough so everything is easily walkable, buzzing enough so you don’t get bored but inspired and feel connected to the world (thanks to Cornell and Ithaca college) and has great outdoors within easy reach. A major drawback, however, is the seemingly endless winter. It’s late April now and yes, we had snow this morning. To be fair, it’s been in the 80ies only a week ago, but generally speaking, I’m fed up with the cold and I’m not quite decided yet, if I could stand winters like that for several years, notwithstanding the beautiful summers.
Someone asked me this morning, if I thought Ithaca is like Portland, OR. The Portland of the East so to speak. Apart from that there is Portland, ME, I don’t think this is true. Yes, it is a very liberal and progressive city, but unlike Portland, Ithaca has this slightly weird college bubble feel to it. Portland is just weird in itself. That’s at least what the Oregonians say. Also city planning. Ithaca, come on. There’s like zero bike infrastructure and most sidewalks are pretty horrible. At least they exist. But I definitely enjoy the scale of Ithaca and it’s strong ties with the surrounding farmers, which is great both for my research and, you know, every town and city should have strong ties with its surrounding farmers.

So this is the place I am going to spent my life in until late summer.

Oh, there’s another thing that happened during the last months and it’s only now I feel it’s worth mentioning: Photography. While I have always been a busy picture-taker, my artistic ambitions sort of declined over the years. Or put it another way, moving from one place to another, hitchhiking, wwoofing, exploring places, all that was some sort of artistic project in itself, so point-and-shoot along the way yielded quite a few good pictures I hold deeply to my heart (after all, geysers, waterfalls, deserts, oases…there’s not so much you can do to make pictures that aren’t pleasant to look at). Also, it was a deliberate choice to have a simple camera I could bring to all of my trips. Now that has changed a bit. I sold that most-of-the-time-with-me camera to a friend and got a DSLR instead and picked up photography wherever I left it about 10 years ago when I gave away my old, analog film camera. I’m still mostly playing around but I do find some sort of meaning in the photos I take, a way of expressing myself rather then documenting events and trips.

So here are few pictures I took during my first weeks in Ithaca.

the student in the time vortex

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

2013 is about to close and it’s time to write something clever on my blog. Oh my, half a year has passed again since I wrote my last entry. Guess I’m not much of a blogging person. Or rather, I’m in a stage of my life, where I do make progress in certain areas, namely my studies and students’ association (ÖH) activism, but unlike in music, where you have concerts and releases, there are not so many stunning events that I feel eager to write about. Or when they happen, I’m too tired and torn to be bothered. It feels like in Doctor Who’s time vortex; I chase through time and space with tunnel vision and without contemplation.

When I look back at the first months in office, there are several things I should be proud of: We (my colleagues in the chair team and several other activists of ÖH) established two new units within the students’ association, organized a number of seminars and political/informative events, organized a huge demonstration against the union of the ministry of science and the ministry of economy and, most importantly, seemed to be able to create a general sense of motivation within the student body for ÖH affairs. Also, we created a lot of confusion. Something, I’m not entirely discontent about.

As with my studies, officially I’m still in Bachelor stage but practically halfway through my masters. Which is kind of cool, ’cause it give’s me the choice of being done soon or stretch the end a bit to get some time for my own, artistic, political and/or scientific (I don’t attempt to separate these areas to much) projects. Yeah, my head is still bursting with ideas that needs watering.

tldr: wibbly wobbly timey wimey happy new year

And suddenly they called me chairperson

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Looks like it took me 6 months to write another entry on my blog.  Not like I’ve been lazy, far from it. I’ve just been caught up with tons of stuff, I didn’t even remember I had a blog. Sort of…

The single most exciting event was the election for the Student Union parliament. The election itself was exciting, but so was the preparation and aftermath. Admittedly, our green student group (bagru*GRAS*boku) was pretty much in a state of coma since the last election in 2011. We didn’t die, the heart was still beating, we were just dozing. That is to say, me and a fellow student were members of that student’s parliament and did get involved there, but other than that, it was pretty much green radio silence. Anyway, something must have struck us, as we decided to run again this year and even do some campaigning. A small group as we are, I confess it was one of the most intense campaigns I took part in. But it was great to see our group become alive again and even better, we managed to maintain our two seats in the student’s parliament. Still better, we were suddenly a much asked for coalition partner for the two bigger student’s group. Therefore, no relaxation after the election but coalition talks! I tell you, that stuff is exciting. Everything went pretty smooth, though, and now, hooray, we’re part of the executive coalition with the so-called Unabhängige Fachschaftsliste, a rather odd collection of campus activists, that came together in deadly terror of joining any party-affiliated group. Nice bunch of people, though. Long story short, I’m now part of the chairteam of our Student Union, which is not far from a full-time occupation. It’s going to be extremely intense, busy and challenging plus awesome. So I assume. It was interesting to realize, how nice and polite suddenly everyone becomes, once you’re get into some sort of exposed office. Wonder how long that will last…
Another year, another challenge.

Apart from all those political activities, I also managed to make some progress on my studies. I’m like on the finishing line of my Bachelor graduation. The most interesting part was the field research for my Bachelors thesis (more on that, once it’s proof-read, handed in and graded), which took my to the Vinschgau in South Tyrol, Italy. It was quite a relief and change to get out of Vienna for 2 weeks.

How to put things off you can’t do anything about now

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

As I am working myself  through my undergraduate programme in landscape architecture and planning, I am already thinking about which master to take. There are a couple of options I find intriguing:

Coming to a decision is only part of the problem. It’s still more than a year left until I actually have to make that decision, in fact, it won’t be before December I can apply to anything. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it right now and yet this pondering is nagging my mind to no end, taking up way to much brain power which I rather invested on other things. So today’s big question is, how to put off something that is bothering you, but which you can not do anything about at the moment. Basically, I want to put it into a mental hold-file, erase it from my mind and follow up on it in autumn. I know how to do it with a file on my hard-drive, but my brain doesn’t work like that. Any suggestions? I might continue this article whenever I came up with a solution, which I don’t at the moment, because…which master programme should I take again?

edit, half a year later: Over the course of the last 6 month that list expanded to about 20 extremely interesting master programs I’ve been considering. However, coming back to University in fall made me realize the advantages of my current program. All those other masters, tempting, but not better suited for my overall goal to plan sustainable communities than the course I’m already taking. It’s like walking down the aisles in a department store, when all the shiny products left and right of you are grabbing your attention while their’s only one product in the whole store you’re  actually need. Ehh, I forgot how much I hate department stores…