This past weekend I took a trip down memory lane going to Freiberg for the weekend visiting my alma mater and a friend who is a doctoral student there. Saturday was “science night” (Nacht der Wissenschaft), a kind of open house where departments open up their labs and show off what they are working on. For instance, we got to see what a human hair looks like under a scanning electron microscope or how iron is extracted from iron ore (which is where the following video was shot):
They also offered tours of the backrooms and archives of the library and to the top of the dormitory (see picture below), areas that are normally off-limits to students. I also got to sit in on a lecture by a former professor of mine. It was kind of cool to be sitting there again, in the exact same second row spot I had sat in years earlier as a student. It was also a painful reminder how incredibly uncomfortable these wooden seats are.
When I started college in Freiberg in 2003, I was less than happy about it to say the least. The system of how one gets into a college at the time was a bit strange so after I didn’t get into my college of choice, I was pretty much assigned a school at random. Needless to say, I wasn’t very psyched about going to a school no one I knew had ever heard of in a really small town in Eastern Germany a ten hour train ride away. When I first came to the city, I was also shocked to see a large part of its buildings in a very sorry state, even though it had been 20 years since reunification and trillions of Deutsch Marks and later Euros had been spent by the government to fix up East Germany.
Since 2003, however, things have changed for the better. In the picture above all the buildings looked liked the one in the center: gray, boring and in disrepair. A lot has been done since to improve the situation on campus and in the city in general. Below are two pictures of the same area in front of the university cafeteria: dull and uninspired in 2007 (left), open and inviting in 2011 (right).
This is just one example of the many things that have been done around town. There is an official video on YouTube showing some more before and after shots. There are nonetheless still a couple of areas in the city where there is room for improvement, to put it mildly. Such as this place right by the train station. It’s very unfortunate that people getting coming to the city by train are greeted by rubble and a bunch of buildings with collapsed roofs. I know it didn’t help my impression of the city.
Looking back, I think it is kind of sad that I allowed my initial negative opinion of Freiberg to taint my entire relation with the city, the university and thus my years as a student there. Because I had decided I hated that place and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough at the end of the semester, I couldn’t see the many things Freiberg and the surrounding area has to offer. Instead I focused on my studies (which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong) and was counting down the days to when I would be able to go home again.
Hence, I think during the 48 hours I was there last weekend, I had done more things and gone more places then during the three years I spent in Freiberg as a student. For instance, this mine owned by the university and used in teaching by the geology department. It’s located on top of a hill overlooking the city and as I am told a beautiful place for picnicking in the summer. It would also be interesting to take part in one of the tours through the mine. However, as a student, I did neither.
Or Dresden, the state capital that’s only a 30 minute train ride away. It’s a beautiful city and steeped in history with lots to see, as a student, though, I bothered not once to go there. It’s a shame really.
Anyway, it was goof being back and I had a great weekend. Thanks to my friend Johannes for hosting me, showing me around and updating me about the latest developments in the city and university. I’m sure I will some back in the not too distant future.