Why, thank you, thank you very much. In fact, they were way off. They hadn’t counted the first two-and-a-half years, for HR reasons. But that’s a minor detail; delayed presents and cake are more than welcome too.
After more than 27 years, I still very much enjoy working at the UT. Perhaps my publications in U-Today sometimes give a different impression, because Was sich liebt, das neckt sich. The need to share your work enjoyment with others differs from person to person. After a successful meeting, a colleague would sometimes cheerfully ask: ‘Didn’t you all have a great time?’. Occasionally, some people, including myself, would awkwardly mutter something like ‘oh yeah, sure’. I clearly belong to the vast majority of wet blankets who enjoy their work, but rarely express it on their own accord.
However, there are also times when the feeling of having an amazing job at an amazing place overwhelms me, and I, being rather introverted by nature, would like to share this with you. When that happens, I’m usually not actively at work myself, but I can taste the atmosphere on campus. I walk down the Diagonal in Carré and weave through groups of excited students who just had or are on their way to classes. Cycling across campus, I see a student lying on the ground trying to photograph a tiny object placed on a surface of cardboard. A few other students look at it with fascination and make comments. Remarkably well-dressed parents carrying a bouquet of flowers, siblings, and sometimes a grandfather or (more often) a grandmother, are in a rush to be on time for a graduation ceremony. Seated on the bench near the Koelcirkel, I see students studiously tinkering with a mysterious object made of wood, cardboard, PVC pipe, aluminium foil and metal wire. They point the contraption at the Horst Tower, and what happens next....? I truly have no idea.
I overhear snippets of conversations that tell me something about what’s on students’ minds, whether it be about their studies, the student life surrounding it, or their personal lives. Maybe I’m just getting slower, but I have a strong impression that young people have started talking faster and faster over the years, so the information density has increased. Here are a few quotes. The funniest: ‘How long have they been married?’. ‘I don’t know, they’re your parents’. The most intriguing: ‘It’s only in the bedroom that you can tell he’s Christian’. The most thoughtful, during a tutorial: ‘You’re awfully quiet, you’re not saying anything. Are you okay?’.
It's the students, who entrust our university with their education for a number of years and who come and go, generation after generation, that make the university a unique and dynamic workplace. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, all it takes for me is a walk across campus and through the buildings.