“Ethnographic Encounters”- what even does this mean? My first association with this expression were the emotional outbreaks I had with my host mother in a small town in Sardinia, Italy during a year abroad as a fifteen-year-old girl who had never left her hometown Vienna alone before. I felt intimidated by all the shouting of “mamma” until I realised that it had less to do with myself but more with her way of leading a relationship with her kids and indeed, she made me feel like I was part of the family.
This experience first drew my attention to differences in cultures and at that time I started to be excited about exploring different values and mind-sets of people. Growing up with that feeling that I can go anywhere I want to and always being encouraged to travel the world, I made the decision to study in the UK after finishing high school in Austria. I just completed my second year in Management Science and French where I especially enjoyed modules that engaged my critical thinking, like Immigration in France or Globalisation and Anti-globalisation. But I am also very passionate about the business modules that bring the economic world closer to me. Indeed, trying to understand the financial crisis and getting to know the economics of the common market are one of the things that really aroused my interest.
With all this, I have to admit that it was one of the hardest things for me to leave the home I had built up in Southampton. Seven British people and me in a house, from mushrooms growing out of the wall (yes: REAL mushrooms) over discussions about whether to turn the heating on or freeze your way through studying, to endless nights spent chatting away in the living room… Those are times that I will never forget and that made leaving for my year abroad in France slightly more difficult.
But I arrived to a point where I just cannot wait to start a new experience at the University of Grenoble and I am really looking forward to getting an insight into the French way of life. I am especially excited about the research I will be doing on a particular “quartier” of Grenoble: “la Villeneuve” that has been built in the 1970s to promote better communication between different social groups but according to a TV coverage of France 2 has turned into a problematic “banlieue”, which provoked strong reactions by its inhabitants. In my research I want to compare how a particular group of inhabitants is experiencing this innovative district to the ideologies behind the town planning that focuses on “la mixité culturelle”. Have Villeneuve and its concept turned out to be a broken dream?
I am really looking forward to sharing my experiences and findings with you and yeah, I guess I am really ready to leave now.