Welcome Speech to our 5th Cohort

So, last night, we were sitting down together, we had a couple of bailey’s (maybe a few more), and we thought.. right.. let’s write that speech now. Our aim was to inspire each and everyone in this room and to motivate you for the journey that is yet ahead of you. But procrastination is every student’s biggest foe. A 2000 word essay on HLA Hart’s Notion of Natural Law within Positivist Theory might have been easier. We sat across from each other, an empty word document in front of us and thought to ourselves – how did we even get here?

The question resonated with us and we realised that it was no longer just about saying a few welcoming words at the opening celebration. It was about you and me, and about all of you out there for whom we so desperately wanted to write a speech. How did we get here? Where are we going? Who is coming along? Will we have company at all on this road?

The time at UCF is a very special part of the road that you are on. We all took a couple of rights and a couple of lefts and found ourselves sharing the same little bumpy stretch. And just like the construction work in front of the library, the road is not yet complete. Here we are, walking it and making it. Our first cohort, the ones to find the road in the first place are graduating. Now here you are, sitting in this room, exactly where they started four years ago.

Back then, before our times – it’s hard to believe but there wasn’t even a road yet, just bits of sand, gravel and dust – different components that were put together to mark the path.

The grains of dust like the core modules… you’re not really sure what they are all about at the beginning.. but just how dust settles down, they form the base upon which the program is founded and you start to see the path more clearly.

Then came the soil with its courses in Earth and Environmental Sciences, exploring ideas of sustainability in development and biodiversity. Just like flowers and trees that populate the path and like the very city that we are in, they make everything a little bit more green.

Sand, like little grains of time, telling tales of days gone by and civilizations past, became Culture & History which justified bingewatching 107 episodes of youtube vlogs for the sake of writing a 1000 word essay. (#tvmajor)

The stones were like Governance, here to teach us about the unflexible nature of bureaucracy, for the sake of efficiency to maintain a rock-solid democracy. Time and time again it tried to convince us that social sciences are afterall a hard science.

And like wind and water, dynamic forces carving the way for scientific development, Life Sciences laid the foundation for exploring the human consciousness and life itself at a cellular level.

Together they constitute the road that we are all on. Each component is unique in itself and yet they complement each other in its interdisciplinarity and diversity. And certainly, something would be missing on the road if they weren’t there.

But let’s back up a little bit. Earlier we mentioned the first generation of LAS students who is officially leaving UCF on Saturday. In many ways they are at a similar stage as you – with a new path ahead of them and new roads waiting to be shaped. While they have their own sets of challenges to meet, there are many at the UCF at different stages of their journey.

There are the fourth years, their lives orbiting around BA thesis dates and courses to check off the eternal list of modules to be completed before graduation. They are returning to Freiburg a little bit nervous but still very excited that the road is not over yet.

The third years are currently on different side trips all around the world – from the busy hub of Hongkong to the cold, misty mornings in Quebequois Canada – they are traveling, learning and experiencing terrain quite different to Freiburg.

The Second Years have by now grown accustomed to the ways of the city – whether it is the mild weather, the long mensa lines, or the after 10 alcohol curfew at the supermarkets. Of all the liberal arts students, some are still wandering, some have switched paths and decided that soil is actually much more interesting than stone, and others have explored parts and paths of themselves they never knew existed.

And most importantly, you, the first years. You still don’t know about the poor dinosaur that died on a Tuesday and that epoche is the answer to all of your questions but don’t worry – everything will be ok. You complete us. You will be able to choose whether you find stones or sand more interesting. You took some lefts and some rights and here you are, beginning your road that is liberal arts and sciences and we would like to warmly welcome you to LAS. There is not much to say except for a few words of advice on how to walk the road.

Just as two wrongs don’t always make a right, two fails don’t make a pass and two absences count as a fail.

If you run out of food, peanut butter cheese carrot sandwiches are a good idea. (a great idea)

There is no such thing as a secret romance… the common room has ears!

And quoting mean girls is still socially acceptable. “Ex-boyfriends are off limits to friends. That’s just like the rules of feminism.”

But most importantly, the path of Liberal Arts and Sciences is still young. For one, it exists thanks to those that walked it in the first places, lecturers and students alike. They are the ones that realised that stones and dust and soil are actually incredibly interesting and build upon each other. And they are also the ones that can help you sift through it.

And the path also exists because of you who have dared to walk it with us. Don’t worry, you are not alone. You are sharing this journey with your fellow students. You can look left and you can look right, to find great friendships, interesting debates and thriving minds.

You are walking this road and by doing so you are shaping it. Every step you take makes a mark for those that are yet to follow. You may explore and develop it in the way you believe is best because every footprint is unique. Inspire and be inspired. We hope that you are excited about what is yet to come. We certainly are. And as Jack Kerouac said: Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. Welcome to LAS!

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