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A Semester in Scotland Part 1

Marta Djourina is 25 years old, studying Fine Art at Berlin University of the Arts. Last winter, with the aid of an Erasmus grant, she spent an exchange semester at Glasgow School of Art, where she not only got to know a different university but also encountered completely new sides to herself. I spoke to Marta after her return to the UdK Berlin and asked about her semester abroad:

What was your first impression of Scotland?
Actually, I wasn't really expecting so much because I had been to Scotland quite a few times already, but I had never been to Glasgow. The first thing I noticed was that everyone, and I mean everyone, was incredibly pleasant and friendly. If you didn't know where you were going even for a few seconds, you didn't need to ask, as two people would come up to you, wanting to help. Once an old lady even invited me for a cup of tea, and told me her whole life story while we were drinking it.

source: Katharina Delmenhorst

Did you have any particular expectations when you got to the university?
I knew that the university provides its students with very good training and actually, I was a little afraid that I wouldn't be able to meet the expectations. But this worry was soon put to rest because everyone at the university was very friendly, too. On the very first day, I got to know the woman who has now become my best friend, another exchange student, from Sweden; we studied and lived together from then on.

So is there a difference in the way students are treated?
Certainly the professors were all very nice, which made you feel very relaxed as an exchange student. Actually, you could say that people treated each other in a more friendly way.
As a result of the different system and because each study programme is in a different building, you don't get much impression of the other students, however.

To what extent do the courses differ from those in Berlin?
In Glasgow the classes are allocated according to what year you are in, and a year is supervised by a professor and other academic staff and assistants. My study programme Fine Art, which I am doing here in Berlin, is divided up into different study programmes in Glasgow. During the time I was there, therefore, I was studying “Fine Art and Photography” instead. In Glasgow there is also a theme for each semester, and you have to complete practical projects for that, and you get marks. As there are no marks and no prescribed themes at the UdK Berlin, this was also very new for me.

source: Katharina Delmenhorst

What differences did that make to your daily routine?
My everyday life was definitely more structured. At the uni in Glasgow you have to attend more workshops and seminars and the university is always only open until 8 pm. That meant that studying in Glasgow felt like having a job that you went to in the morning and came home from in the evening. At first, I found that annoying because in Berlin I often work in the evenings. But in Glasgow I didn't need a job to earn money, so I could concentrate on my studies during the daytime.

Did you make contact with those in other study programmes later?
At the university there are project spaces that you can hire, free of charge. Some friends and I organized a four-day exhibition there and presented images we had produced during our time in Scotland. That was great fun and it also gave us the opportunity to meet students from other programmes and other years, who came to see the exhibition.

Did the city change your artistic work at all?
The fact that I was in a different study programme meant I could work more intensely with video for the first time. It was easy to try out something new because no one knew me there, and so my previous works didn't result in any expectations from me. At the university there, students have access to an awful lot of equipment, as well, which you can borrow for free.
In Scotland I also worked more with my personal identity; I filmed myself or the routes I walked through the city. In my curren work here, I am still working through the impressions I got there.

What was the best experience during your semester abroad?
One weekend some friends andI hired a car. I had to drive on the other side of the road for the first time. We went to a small Scottish island, and the three of us had a fantastic time. In addition, I travelled across the whole country by train, and I thought it was incredible, really terrific.

Can you imagine going back to Scotland? Definitely. Briefly, I even considered continuing to study there. But perhaps I will do that when I have finished my studies here at the UdK Berlin. For me, the time spent there was very productive indeed.