Dear members of the staff, dear second, third and fourth years; dear cohort 6,
we are here to welcome you in the name of all LAS students!
A year ago, we were sitting where you are sitting now, excited to be part of this program and yet, nervous and unsure what would be lying in our future. While writing this speech, we looked back to last October and remembered how we felt, what we thought, and mostly, how many question we had. Will I make friends? What’s going on here? Is this study program the right one? Will I ever find out what interests me most? Am I going to be able to do this? But mostly, what actually does it mean to study LAS?
Now, a year later, we still cannot answer this completely, but we will try to at least give you an idea of what it could mean:
In the beginning, where you are right now, there is this feeling of being new, of standing on new and empty ground. Around you, what is supposed to be a beautiful garden one day, there is just soil. And while you are unsure of what is going to happen to this soil, around you there are the ones starting with you, each standing on their own little piece of soil. And this ground might vary from person to person and has different components, just the way everyone here brings different experiences, different languages and influences. But we are happy to see so many differences since they bear potential for greatness yet to come. And we are especially happy to see people from outside of Europe who came even though student fees suddenly are back in germany – at least for some.
But the same way your soil differs from each other, there are also connections already created: the English language, the desire to do this and to reach a goal, and the vague feeling of uncertainty. And the fact that you are all sitting here today, having chosen a path that is not as clear-cut as other areas of study, shows that you all have the kind of bravery required to succeed.
And you aren’t just left there, standing on naked ground, to figure out everything on your own. Throughout the next months, you will be getting the tools and basic techniques to know how to start to treat your soil. Core classes in the upcoming semester will teach you fundamentals of academic inquiry, the same way you have to learn how to treat plants and soil before you can start to create a beautiful garden. Some of your questions will be answered, but more will be created, varying from “What is knowledge?” to “Why is the word limit for this essay 1000 words? – that’s not nearly enough!”. You will ask for the why and the how and somewhere along the lines you’ll learn all the essentials; you’ll get prepared to create things on your own and to make your own choices.
After that, you can choose between several sets of seeds – The life science mixture, the governance pack, the Earth and Environmental Sciences Set or the Culture and History blend. You will get first ideas of what these seeds could develop into and whether you would actually like that to happen. You will see what seeds grow best on your very personal soil and what combination of plants you like best. You will come to like some formats, and be bored by others. You will have some favourite plants and others maybe stay there for only one semester, but then at least you know more about them. You can also acquire some more gardening techniques, which might range from ethnographic methods to statistical analysis. And then, in the third year, some of the LAS gardeners go abroad to discover some more exotic flora, others stay in Freiburg and find rarities here.
All of that sounds like a smooth process, but of course it can bring challenges, doubts and insecurities with it. Different soil is prepared and ideal for different plants and not all of you will enjoy the same classes. You might have difficulties where others have no problems, or excel where others struggle. As we all come with different abilities and different backgrounds, some things might be easier while some are more difficult. But you will find the set of seeds that works for you and then decide which of these seeds should have more room and which should have less. Some of you might already know how their plants are supposed to look, while others might change their set of seeds. Over time, you will learn how to come to a decision, you might appreciate structure when it is given to you and might love freedom whenever it presents itself to you.
And over time, with patience and trust, the first plants will start to grow and first developments can be seen. The goal will become clearer and the result more tangible. Next Saturday it will already be the second time that a generation of LAS students graduates from the University College Freiburg and it is inspiring to see what beautiful gardens they have cultured. Once they were where you are now, but they decided on a set of seeds and went their way and now their time in our garden has come to an end. But they leave their plants and leave some traces, footprints in the soil, a beautiful flower here and there, a sense of belonging in the garden. They shaped the study program you are beginning and their presence can be found in many rules, ideas and decisions. But the LAS garden, such as the LAS program, is young, and there is still a lot of space left. This space is waiting for you, to be shaped by your thoughts and decisions, to be influenced by who you are now and who you will become. LAS gives you the opportunity to leave traces and prepare the soil for coming generations; it gives you the opportunity to actually influence your time at the University. Use this opportunity to leave your own footprints.
And throughout your time here, you will not be alone. As of now, you are part of a community, our LAS family. You will get help from the UCF staff members, you will be inspired by your lecturers and you will be supported in this time by everyone. And the way a garden community exchanges ideas and
helps each other, your fellow students will be with you throughout every step of the process, aspiring to create a piece of the garden themselves. In them you might find help, inspiration, competition, reflection, study buddies and a support network; and most importantly, friends. And maybe, together you will be able to find out, what studying LAS means for you.
We are excited to see who you will become, which decisions you will make and how you will shape this program. But most importantly, we are excited to get to know you and to welcome each and every single one of you to LAS!