It’s the start of the semester break for students at Heidelberg University, but forget any expectations you may have of Monday morning lie-ins and nonstop traveling, for most students the semester break consists of writing term papers and preparing for the next round of courses.
The summer term doesn’t officially begin until mid-April, ( this would normally be when students at Leicester have finished their classes for the year!) so students spend the remainder of their free time handing in essays and collecting credit points.
Not used to this system of study, it currently feels like I’m competing in a mental marathon. But saying goodbye to fellow international students this week who are returning home has reminded me just how temporary the study abroad experience is.
One of the best things about studying abroad is the diverse range of courses on offer, from the fantasy fiction of Tolkein to plays by American literary greats such as Eugene O’Neille. I’ve specifically enjoyed courses on postmodern literature, as these writers offer an alternative perspective to the conventionally studied canonical writers. Authors like Zadie Smith, who in NW deftly conveys the diversity of London, and Tony Harrison who has long produced poetry wrought with working class concerns. At Heidelberg, you are given free reign to write on the subjects that most interest you.
Despite the fact that the end of term is like Mo Farah striving to reach the finish line after ten thousand miles, the freedom of choice is liberating and I’m enjoying taking part in the race.
Side note: This week I had my first experience of visiting a cinema in Germany. The popcorn servings were huge and the seats super comfy, but the pleasantries stopped there. Watching 12 Years a Slave was a harrowing experience.
McQueen did well to capture the hauntingly beautiful landscape of the American Deep South, and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer was moving, as was the stellar cast but the end of the film left me deflated. It would have been nice to see more character development and subtle resistance, as opposed to repeated scenes of violence.
Towards the end of 12 Years a Slave, when the universally liked Brad Pitt strode in as a symbol of idealism against the Big Bad South the film drifted into a simplistic narrative. And the main character Solomon Northup once self-sufficient and quick-witted, was rendered disempowered and dependent.
Whereas Django offers its audience empowerment through comic relief and escapism, 12 Years A Slave‘s sombre tone and desire to cling to accuracy, ultimately fails to leave its audience uplifted nor with a new perspective on the slave experience.