Cultural Differences That Connect, Not Divide

How do you describe an American? How do you define a German? 

 

When talking to an American or German about the opposite culture, a stereotype, perception, or generalization is usually communicated. 

 

Furthermore, we as members of a certain culture tend to put people in categories of different or “the other” even if the knowledge base for determining what category a person is in is not always well rounded or exact. Examples of stereotypes and cultural differences can be found simply by talking to young adults in either culture.

 

“I’ve heard that our cultures are very different,” Kaitlin Kochs, a student at the University of Leipzig said. “I always hear that it’s much more fun to live in America than to live in Germany. I only know about America what I hear about from people who have been there or what I’ve heard in T.V. shows.”

 

She went on to say that a friend of hers who spent time in America said that it was very fun, she said that it was “a very other way of life.” 

 

Defining an opposing culture is often easy to do by describing it as the other. This helps cultivate ethnocentric ideas, because the other is often seen as negative. 

 

According to “Classical Values Orientation” by Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck, different cultures put each other in categories based on five different value classes.  

 

People-nature orientation deals with how those in a culture treat nature. Are they subordinate, do they have harmony, or do they try to master nature? The next is their sense of time, considering whether a culture orients themselves with the past, present, or future. Another way cultures can judge each other are if they have an evil or good nature. Following that is an activity orientation. Are they expressive and emotional or quiet? The last value that can help cultures classify one another is with relational orientation. Does the country make group decisions, follow a leader, or make individual decisions? These are important things to understand because it helps determine where stereotypes come from.  When talking to Germans or Americans about their feelings on the other culture, their answers can usually be categorized into one of these values. 

 

Harriet Zeise, a University of Leipzig student, may have subconsciously based her opinion off of Americans in the activity orientation section. She said, “[Americans] are loud and maybe rude…or direct and very excited.” 

 

While this seems to be a typical view of Americans based on interviews of students in Leipzig, it is hard to tell where this perception comes from. 

 

Some students in Germany have a very distinct view of what people are like in America based on where they live. 

 

Felix Lauter, who spent 2 months on the west coast, said “When I think of California, I think of a surfer dude, dread locks or something. Guys from the middle west are cowboys or [I think] of Brokeback Mountain. East coast guys are maybe hip hop artists.”

 

In order to more successfully live in our global community, ethnocentrism needs to be turned into ethnorelativism. This means that despite the perpetuation of stereotypes that result from differing societies, a universal acceptance of “the other” can be found. 

 

Spaceship Earth a widely known idea and book by Barbara Ward. It expresses the idea that we are all on the same ship. We have the same resources and are working toward the same goal. This means that we should create a peaceful and cooperative team in order to work towards the good of all people. If this concept is accepted, cultures need to break down barriers by trying to understand each other while striving to work better together. 

 

To counteract division and ethnocentrism, learning to understand and think about other cultures with an open mind is necessary. The first step is talking about it.

 

We all live in a global body. Letting conflicting values divide our international community can lead to war, struggle, and hostilities. Instead, a willingness to learn and appreciate cultures different from our own will create peace and harmony.

 

Mephisto: More Than Your Average Extra Curricular

Leipzig’s student run local radio broadcast station, mephisto 97.6, commemorated 18 years in operation on May 31, 2013.

Those involved with the radio station gathered at the Moritzbastei Friday evening with bands, a DJ, and drinks to honor mephisto.

Andreas, who is in mephisto’s public relations department, helped prepare the party. He said that because mephisto has become such a great organization, it was a pleasure to prepare such an event.

“In one word, I can just say it was a very amazing party. So many people were there enjoying, having fun and it was very cool,” he said.

There is a lot to celebrate with mephisto because of how far the organization has come in the years since it first began.

Mephisto’s first broadcast was in May of 1995 with the opening words coming from Tim Deisinger. The initial thought of a radio station run by university students came from the Institute of Communication and Media Studies founding dean. Dr. Karl Friedrich Reimers joined his professional counterparts and other students to work on founding the radio station 20 years ago this year.

When the Media Council of the Saxon State Authority for Commercial Broadcasting and New Media heard the idea of Friedrich and others, the contract to broadcast for a maximum of six hours daily was created.

Amidst show format changes, mephisto remained in their first building that was constructed during the GDR period until 2009. Then, it moved to a new studio with updated technology and facilities.

Mephisto has given students an opportunity to participate in radio news ever since. The station has grown to be a respected news source in Leipzig because of it’s success producing satire, political, sports, and cultural stories.

Students of the University of Leipzig volunteer their time to gain experience in the world of news while working in a real-life setting. It doesn’t matter the level of experience a student has, they can get started as a reporter and work their way up to an editor.

Felix Schmidt, a student who spends much of his time at mephisto, says that being a part of mephisto began as just an addition to his classes but ended up becoming more important than them. He said that what he learns with mephisto is more useful to him than what he learns in class and is fun at the same time.

“I have met so many great friends. It really changes your life.”

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Freestyle Rap Event Adds to Leipzig’s Music Culture

Aside

A profile on a hip-hop rapper from Leipzig, Germany

 

“I didn’t have any money cause I was smoking too much weed and I wanted to get presents for my friends, so I started getting a bunch of people together.”

 

Guido Bochat’s idea for a monthly open-mic freestyle night, Word Cypher, at Conne Island in Leipzig, has evolved from him creating birthday tracks with his friends. When he realized he was a better than just doing birthday tracks, he initiated the idea to begin a collaboration of rappers where they could perform in front of an audience.

 

The crowd has seen up to 100 attendees, but usually averages 25. Around 10 rappers perform each time.

 

Bochat says that he and the other emcees are thankful of the opportunity to rap in front of an audience again because an event like this was missing from Leipzig.

 

However, Bochat has had to ask some rappers not to return to the open mic night. The freestyle rappers who perform have to agree to the rules Bochat has set in place, which includes no homophobia, racism, or sexism.

 

He said, “The people here rap more about important stuff, it’s more conscious.”

 

One frequent to the hip-hop scene at Conne Island is master of ceremonies, Rasputin. He has been in the business for over 20 years. He was the only performer at Word Cypher during the May performance to get the audience to their feed and applaud. Word Cypher attendees can expect Rasputin to break their expectations.

 

“I like to break my comfort zone every few years to make a completely other style. Perhaps its not good for success but i love to break the comfort zone. When they expect a better lyric from me they will get a deep lyric, and when they expect Rasputin is good for deep lyric then next time I am only braggin’ and boasting.”

 

It has not always been easy for Rasputin to support himself with music, but he continues because he loves it.

 

“Freestyling is more difficult, it’s not for everyone, but I love it. I’m very good. I’m not always making money with it. The last four years, it was not so successful like before, I’m not eating every day because fun. It’s not always fun but it’s a big love, I’m doing it because love.”

 

Word Cypher takes place the last Thursday of each month at Conne Island.

Ohioans Visit to Berlin an Awakening Experience

Berlin native Jule Roger has a sparkle that comes across her face when talking about the city that she calls home.

“It’s everything,” she said. “To me, it represents my family and culture. When I think of my home, I am happy. Being a part of that city means a lot to me.”

First time visitors to Berlin admit that they were affected by the city in ways that they were not expecting.

Ohio University students spent the day in Berlin. One student described being in the very place that such pivotal events took place as life-changing.

A Part of History

Ben Postlethwait, a sophomore journalism student said that his visit to Berlin was a surreal experience.

“Being able to see a place that previously only existed to me through history textbooks, it’s the kind of stuff I’ve known since middle school but has never really felt like reality. I never thought I would be this close to so much history,” Postlethwait said.

Emily Mueting, a journalism student, has no ties to Berlin but said she felt a personal connection to the city after spending time there.

“For this one day, I could see history in a city. It was amazing to think that people the age of my parents were watching the fall of the Berlin Wall on the news. Today, I was there getting to see and touch parts of the wall.”

Mueting said that the way the city has rebuilt in the past twenty years proved the strength of the German people.

Reichstag Buildling

Students visited the Reichstag building and toured the attached glass dome which provided a 360 degree view of Berlin.

Dr. Kevin Grieves, Ohio University professor and director of the trip, provided students with a first hand account of the German reunification ceremony that took place on the stairs of the city building. The ceremony took place in October of 1990 when President Richard von Weizsacker and Chancellor Helmut Kohl spoke.

The glass dome attached to the Reichstag building, which represents the reunification of Germany, provided students with a guided tour and a 360 degree view of Berlin. Mueting said one of her favorite parts of her visit was seeing how the combination of the two architectures represents the old and new of the city.

Jenny Beckman, a student on the trip, said that being able to witness the place that she has heard about was surprising.

“It was hard for me to picture what the wall would look like just from what I have heard. Everything was rushing by and you feel overwhelmed but its a good sense of overwhelmed, you just feel into it,” she said.

Holocaust Memorial

Young adults who have grown up in Ohio also visited the Holocaust Memorial. Lindsey Zimmerman said actually being there was awakening.

“You hear about how Berlin was divided and how horrible it was to live on the East side and you just don’t really think much about that. When you actually see how horrible it really was you just get the new kind of sense of what these people experienced.”

Zimmerman describes putting her hand through the wall as something she will never forget.

“I saw pictures of bullet holes in memorials of the wall. People would get killed for trying to go over the wall. I have been thinking about that since I put my hand through the hole [in the wall],” Zimmerman said.

Roger’s personal connection to Berlin is something that she said she is proud of. Her grandfathers best friend was an informant for the Stasi Police and her family witnessed the events that Ohio students learned about.

“I guess part of my love for Berlin comes from knowing what my family has been through. It’s just an amazing place.”

 

 

 

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Tuition Hikes a Threat to International Students

Tuition Hikes a Threat to International Students

The University of Leipzig, one of the oldest universities in the world, has long been tuition free, but the school has now announced a sudden change. Non-European Union students in The Music and Theater Conservatory will have to pay starting in September.

When the government in Saxony decided to give universities in Saxony a choice to charge students from outside the European Union more for tuition, the University of Leipzig’s Music and Theater Conservatory was the first to hike up fees. They will charge non-EU students €3,600 per semester instead of the prior €220 administrative fee. 

In an interview with The Local, Dean of the Music and Theater Conservatory Robert Ehrlich said that he wants the school to be as good as possible rather than just cheap. Ehrlich said that in light of the financial crisis they are in, teachers are being paid so little that they cannot afford to work for the school anymore. For Ehrlich, the tuition increase is necessary to preserve the school’s quality of education. 

For now, the music and theater conservatory is the only school at the University of Leipzig with the official tuition increase set in stone for the fall. 120 of the 900 students in the department are international students, but European and non-EU students alike have taken part in protests. Free concerts and artistic demonstrations have been taking place outside the main music building as a sign of the students fighting for something they do not want to lose.

According to this article, the protests have brought talk of other German universities following suit. The Association of Sponsors of German Science says that British, Dutch, and Swedish universities charge international students a minimum of €10,000. If schools in Germany do the same, over 1 billion euros a year could be added to the German education system. 

Those who are against the tuition increase worry that the new cost will drive away valuable international students. 

Fanny, a student at the University of Leipzig, said, “I’m pretty proud of our system…the basic thing is that we have a system that can allow [you to go to school] if you really want to.”

Winni, a third year international student at the University of Leipzig, said “[Without] the opportunity to study at no cost, I’m not sure I would even be able to study. I don’t know where I’d go.”

Winni said he appreciated that he could come to Leipzig to get his education without steep tuition costs to worry about. He considered studying in America, but said this was not an option for him mainly because he knew how costly it would be. This made the University of Leipzig a valuable education option for him because he can receive his education without worrying about years of debt like many American students do. 

In the United States, the process of receiving a college degree is undeniably expensive. According to Forbes magazine, it is one of the most costly education systems in the world. It is a known fact that enrolling for classes also means taking out loans or applying for scholarships to cover the cost of higher education. The average annual cost to attend a private four-year school in the States is $29,056. International students are typically charged more to attend an American university.

Leah Amstutz, a second year student at Goshen College in Indiana, said she thinks it would be wonderful to pay so little for a college education but realizes that there is a lot that goes into the fee differences between the German and American education systems. Amstutz said some of her international friends that struggle to pay for college in America have tried to save money by living with a host family.

“I have seen the big source of worry that high tuition costs have caused my friends. Some of them have had to drop out, some transferred to a school in another state,” Amstutz said.

Honour Ruffer, a resident of Ohio and mother of 5, said she does not think it should be the government’s responsibility to pay for college. Ruffer said that she has many friends who are still paying back student loans well into their 30’s, with the pressure of loan schedules playing a large role in maintaining household budgets. 

“The rising costs of secondary education are out of control,” Ruffer said. “With the constant reports of underemployment of college graduates, one has to wonder how soon the ridiculousness of consumerism and over-inflated prices of a degree will catch up with us.” 

Critics of the tuition hikes are worried about their ability to pay back loans in the uncertain job market if fees continue to increase.

“To me the best part of Leipzig is the school. If I had to pay more, I couldn’t afford it, I wouldn’t be here.” Winni said. “I don’t know what kind of job I will get, so if I had to take out a loan, I don’t know how I would pay it back.”