The Carinthian Denise Branz has Slovenian roots. That was one of the reasons for her to study History and Slavonic Studies at the AAU. When asked why she didn’t decide to study to become a teacher, she laughs: “I am simply not a teacher”. In this interview, she tells us what particularly excites her about her studies and why the excursions to Tunisia and Libya will remain in her memory.
Why did you decide to combine Slavonic Studies and History?
History “simply” interested me. Slavonic Studies I chose because although I have Carinthian Slovenian roots, I was the only one in the family who still did not speak a word of Slovene – so I wanted to learn Slovene. The decision was made in the last one or two school years.
Which subjects do you like and why? What do you like most about your studies?
The two-week excursion to Tunisia and Libya organised by the Department of Ancient History was very exciting. Never in my life have I seen so many “cairns”, one after the other, but the ancient theatres, thermal baths, arenas and marketplaces have become more and more exciting. Especially the incredibly well-preserved cities in Libya were impressive. I often ask myself whether there is anything left of them today, or whether the current war in this country has also destroyed these more than 2000-year-old relics of human life. Once I also went on a two-week excursion with the Institute of Slavonic studies, which took us to the Ukraine at the time. I especially remember the many churches we visited, but also funny stops, because we were on the road together with the geographers and the geologists, which were incredibly enthusiastic about seemingly random mounds of earth. Then, the whole bus stopped very suddenly, everybody got off and received a lecture on the composition of earth and rocks. It was important to use these unpredictable stops also for the toilet breaks, because these needs were not necessarily a reason to stop, unlike earth formations.
Has your view of the world changed through your studies?
Yes, of course, especially through the repeated stays abroad, but also through dealing with the contents of my studies and meeting many people who are still very important to me today. But in my opinion, it would be really worrying if studying would not have this effect.
What contents are dealt with in your studies? Can you explain that briefly?
That is not so difficult with my two subjects, most people can imagine what History is about. However, it is not only about acquiring knowledge about historical events, but also about the development and interpretation of previously unknown historical sources. And Slavonic Studies deals with the linguistics, literature and cultural studies of the respective language areas – in my case the South Slavic area, since I have chosen Slovene and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian as my languages.
Do you have a memorable AAU anecdote? A funny lecture for example?
Yes, actually. In one of the last semesters I attended a seminar on the belief in vampires in 18th century Europe. The seminar was great, we covered the whole range from the study of original texts to the processing of the material in literature and film. This seminar was really special, and I still remember it very well.
Why did you choose Klagenfurt to study?
I came here from a Carinthian valley when I transferred to the secondary school and it took me a very long time to get used to “the city”. When I had to decide on a university, I did not want to move again. Since there were my preferred subjects here anyway, the decision was easy. On the contrary, I think that the University of Klagenfurt has many advantages over universities in big cities.
First of all, the quality of supervision is excellent in many subjects. In addition, Klagenfurt and Carinthia offer great opportunities for recreational activities, and university life does not only happen at the university.
What are you looking forward to when you arrive at the university?
The people I meet here. And the chocolate muffin at the buffet in the assembly hall.
What would be important advice for AAU freshers?
Just do not give up. The university can be intimidating at first. You just have to learn to open your mouth. Then, everyone will try to help you. And maybe a second advice: make good use of your time. Take advantage of all the scholarships that are available to you and that are suitable in terms of time and money: summer schools, language courses, semesters abroad, research semesters, excursions. The experience you can gain here is priceless and once you are regularly working, it becomes way more difficult to accommodate such “time-outs” in your calendar.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In which field do you want to work?
I do not plan that far into the future. I think if you have too concrete plans for the future, it is easy to overlook opportunities that come along the way. So, I leave both the field and the job open. What is important to me, however, is that it is a task in which I can make a difference and change things for the better. For this reason, self-employment is also conceivable in the future. But I would be very, very happy if I could pursue this activity again from home, from Carinthia.