Faculty of Philosophy,
Seminar für Medien- und Kommunikationswissenschaft,
Welcome back on campus, Dr Subekti Wirabhuana Priyadharma!
The Department of Communication Studies at the University of Erfurt has a special guest for the summer and winter semester 2023: Dr Subekti Wirabhuana Priyadharma. For the DAAD guest lecturer from Indonesia, it is also a return to his "old campus". We asked him how this came about and what he plans to do in Erfurt...
Dr. Priyadharma, how does it feel for you to return to your former place of study and what were the motivations? It is a great feeling! My family and I have longed to come back to Erfurt. There are many reasons for this - personal and professional. I did my master's degree in communication science here at the time and also got my doctorate at the University of Erfurt. Both theses were supervised at the time by Prof. Kai Hafez, whom I hold in very high regard (we even named our son after him). His invitation to me to become a visiting scholar at his professorship is an honor for me. I consider it both a challenge and a compliment and recognition of my expertise. Professionally, it is also an opportunity to gain more international experience, especially in teaching, and to expand my scientific expertise through exchanges with international students and colleagues. For me personally, it is of course also an emotional "comeback". My family and I always consider Erfurt as our second home. Our second daughter was born here and her big sister already attended the Erfurt campus kindergarten. That's one of her first memories as a child. Each of us has Erfurt friends with whom we have always stayed in touch. So of course it's nice to meet them again and especially for "little" Kai to finally meet "big" Kai (Hafez) in person. I always have to smile when I remember that. It is important for me that my family gets to know a life that is culturally different from our home country. I hope that this will heighten their sensitivity to others with a different cultural background and broaden their horizons. In our home in Indonesia, we have hung a rather large Erfurt map on the wall in the hope that one day we will return to this city. We are grateful that the time has finally come.
How did you actually decide to study at the University of Erfurt back then? I did my bachelor's degree in communication studies at Padjadjaran University (UNPAD) in Indonesia, which is now my home university because I am employed there as a lecturer. After that, I wanted to do a Master's degree in the same subject. After a year as an au pair in Scheeßel, a town in Lower Saxony, I searched the DAAD website for information. The result was a list of universities offering a master's programme in media and communication studies. The University of Erfurt was one of the choices that ranked high in this field. I applied immediately and received an invitation to interview with Professor Hafez. He was one of my first contacts at the university - besides the International Office. My first impression of the university and the city was positive; I liked the friendly atmosphere and the size of the city, because I personally don't really like big cities to live in. After the admission process, which also included a German test, I was off. At that point, I also had two other offers, from the University of Bremen and Bielefeld. But I chose Erfurt, not only because the university reacted so quickly and invited me to Erfurt, but also because the Media and Communication Studies programme is structured to focus more on research, and that was exactly what I wanted to do.
Some time has now passed since you graduated. What have you been up to in the past few years and what were the stops along the way? After my master's degree, I went back to Indonesia in early 2009 and started an internship of several months at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Jakarta office. Right after that, I started my academic career at UNPAD in Bandung, which continues until today. In 2013, I decided to pursue a doctorate and came back to Erfurt for the second time. During my doctorate, we managed to establish a cooperation between UNPAD and the University of Erfurt. This resulted in a three-year project that focused on student and lecturer exchanges, joint research, seminar series, courses and workshops, and excursions in Germany and Indonesia. The project was funded by the DAAD and concluded in 2019 with a book publication ("Media and Transformation in Germany and Indonesia: Asymmetrical Comparisons and Perspectives") and a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both sides, which includes continued cooperation between the two universities. I am pleased that UNPAD and the University of Erfurt are now university partners of which I am a member.
What are you involved with in your current research? I am consistently continuing my research in Erfurt. On the one hand, I am interested in rural information and communication technology or digitalization with a view to social change and in a development context. This includes digital technologies for or by minorities and marginalized communities. This is a continuation of my dissertation project, and secondly, I am researching the digital transformation affecting the media system and practices in Indonesia.
And what courses can our students at the University of Erfurt look forward to? I offer three seminars each semester, two of which are for students in the master's programme in Global Communication: first, a qualitative methods seminar discussing grounded theory and ethnography methods, and second, a seminar in development communication, where we discuss (and critique) the practice of ICT for Development (ICT4D) in the Global South. I also offer a seminar in communication studies for the bachelor's programme on the media system in Southeast Asia.
From your perspective, what makes the University of Bandung different from the University of Erfurt? First of all, we differ in size. UNPAD has more than 25,000 students enrolled in 16 faculties and one postgraduate school. The faculty I belong to, the Faculty of Communication Studies, has almost 3000 students. Of course, teaching takes up most of the lecturers' time. Multicultural Indonesia is also reflected in the profile of the student body, which comes from different Indonesian provinces. On the one hand, this is an attempt to improve intercultural understanding within the country, looking inward. On the other hand, UNPAD is also building more international collaborations with foreign universities to attract foreign students to study or send UNPAD students abroad, reflecting its outward-looking internationalization policy. This is not an easy task, because besides the pressure of internationalization, we still have challenges in studying in understanding our own people. Given the enormous territorial and population expansion, the "nationalization" of Indonesian universities is basically comparable to the "internationalization" or at least the "regionalization" of European universities.
Internationalization is inseparable from the profile of the University of Erfurt. What contribution can you make to this? A perspective one! I think an important aspect of internationalization is to bring more scholars* with different perspectives, coming from different academic and cultural backgrounds, into teaching to address a topic that is relevant to so many people, such as the media system or digital technology and society. And I can certainly contribute from my Indonesian perspective to ensure that the definition of internationalization of science and its practice is not dominated by a single paradigm. For example, we can learn from the critics of "globalization," which in practice only benefits the Western community. We don't want to fall into the same trap as we did with "internationalization." On the other hand, I learn so much from the experiences and knowledge of my international students and colleagues here. I think everyone benefits from this: the University of Erfurt, its students, UNPAD and myself.
What are you most looking forward to during your time in Erfurt? Simply everything! The city, the people, the culture, the surroundings, the atmosphere, but .... just not so much the weather.