Dialogue with Deutsche- An interview with exchange students
Varsha Ramesh (Batch of 2026) and Sreedharan (Batch of 2024) had a chat with Eske Woldmer and Justus Jansen, foreign exchange students from Humboldt Universität Zu Berlin, Germany. They arrived here in March, just before the Third Trimester started in the LLB program. The cover illustration is by Vedika Warrier (Batch of 2026).
Over the years, Law School has had exchange students from various parts of the world come to Nagarbhavi and spend a trimester here. Quirk was curious as to what Law School looks like from the standpoint of an exchange student (previous exchange students have compared the erstwhile Security Discipline and General Management to Big Brother).
Quirk: First of all, why did you choose NLS?
Justus: In 2021, I had the opportunity to participate in an online seminar about Indo-German comparative constitutionalism organised by Prof. Dr. Aparna Chandra and Prof. Dr. Philipp Dann, who is a distinguished member of the faculty of Humboldt University Law School. This seminar was very fruitful and drew my attention to the Indian legal system with all its benefits and all its challenges. As most of the students from this seminar as well as Prof. Chandra were from NLS, I decided to go to Bangalore.
Eske: Honestly, when I applied for the program and actually got in, I was able to choose between going to NLUD and going to NLS. I didn't really know anything about Delhi or Bangalore, so I just told my professor to send me to whichever university had space left for me. And it turned out that was NLS, so now I'm here.
Quirk: And how is NLS different from the traditional law schools you have in Germany?
Justus: Besides the fact that nearly no law schools in Germany are organized as campus universities, the main difference – especially when one compares NLS to German law schools – is the general approach to law as a whole. While German Law Schools really focus on the methods of interpretation within strict boundaries, I had the feeling that NLS uses a more social-sciences-orientated approach to law. I think that is one thing German Law Schools could learn from you because many German law students tend to have too little knowledge of sociology, political sciences or history.
Quirk: Which class and professor did you find the most interesting?
Justus: Of course, I really admire Prof. Dr. Aparna Chandra – her knowledge of constitutional law and her way of teaching and how she conceives classes are incredible. Besides her and her class on Indian Constitutional Law, I really enjoyed the class on Law and Theatre [by Ms. Diksha Lamba], where we analysed how the law is depicted in theatre plays. A very interesting way to work with the law, and very multi-disciplinary!
Quirk: That’s great! In a broader sense, was your expectation of studying in India similar to the reality?
Justus: One of the things I read before coming to India was that one should ”expect the unexpected’’. Having this in mind I refrained from having expectations – I came to India as a white piece of paper and it was an incredible experience to see how your country filled this white paper with so many enhancing experiences.
Quirk: And what was, in your opinion, the most interesting thing you learned from these experiences?
Justus: This is a tough question! I think I learned that there is a huge variety within this country and that there is a lot to explore within India. I learned that the law has always many more dimensions than one might think and I learned that it is possible to organise a country with more than 1 billion inhabitants as a democracy. This is impressive and I carry the hope within my heart, that India stays a democracy.
Quirk: You seem to have travelled quite a bit! What is one question you were asked the most when you met all these people?
Justus: Many people asked “How do you like India?’’ – You seem to be very interested in how foreign people see your country!
Quirk: Um.. on that note, how DO you like India?
Justus: Even though I tried to participate in the classes as well as it was possible during my short time at NLS, I, of course, took time out for travelling. I visited Mysore and Kochi, I went to Munnar to see the tea fields and I will never forget the days and nights we spent in one of the nice restaurants in Bangalore or the mornings at Koshy’s Café.
Eske: I did travel around Bangalore and also a little bit around India. I think I got to experience quite a bit of Bangalore and as much as I liked doing more "touristy" stuff like visiting Bangalore Palace or the Botanical Garden I especially enjoyed going out with other students from NLS and just experiencing life in Bangalore. I went to a lot of bars and restaurants, tried a lot of new foods there and just enjoyed walking through different areas of the city and experiencing the liveliness of Bangalore.
I also tried to explore other parts of India. During my stay here I also went to Kochi and the Backwaters, Goa and Munnar. I loved all of those places, I've hardly ever experienced such beauty as the backwaters, so that was an incredible experience. Goa had amazing beaches and the water there was so warm, I think I spent about 80% of my time there in the water. I've also never seen tea fields before, so Munnar was an incredible and unique experience as well (even though I bought too much tea...).
During my time in India, I kind of fell in love with the beauty of the country and I honestly can't wait to come back and explore other parts of the country. I haven't seen the North yet so that's definitely something I will do in the future.
Quirk: What’s the hardest adjustment you had to make in those travels?
Justus: I think at the beginning it was hard for me to cope with the incredible amount of impressions. I experienced India as a country where you always face extreme situations: extremely loud, extremely silent, extremely beautiful, extremely ugly etc. etc. etc. Learning to process all these new impressions was quite a challenge for me.
Quirk: Did you get to try any new food and how did you like it? How did you like the mess food?
Eske: I tried so many new foods, some of which I can't even remember the names of, I'm sorry about that! Sometimes I also went out with people who ordered foods for me that I should try so I didn't even know what I was having. I enjoyed it most of the time though. One thing I definitely found a liking in is dosas though. I often went to a dosa place near campus and sometimes even in the city to have them and I'm really going to miss them in Germany.
Another thing a friend of mine made me try that I thought was absolutely delicious is Biryani. Before I had it, I wasn't aware that rice can be so flavourful. Oh and I also liked all the desserts and sweets. I've got quite a sweet tooth and I got to know that Indian sweets are perfect for that!
Justus: As much as I didn’t like mess food, I enjoyed trying every kind of Indian food. The variety of cuisines is one thing I learned to love about India. While most people outside India focus on the Indian curries, I felt that the Indian sweets, desserts, especially the lassis and the dishes made from fresh fruits were way more interesting and delicious! Besides that, I really loved the dosa at CTR in Bangalore, which is the best place for dosa in the whole town!
Quirk: What is one thing you missed the most about home during your time here?
Justus: Of course, I missed my family and my friends – especially my little brother. And I missed witnessing the spring coming over grey Berlin, which happens in May. Furthermore, I missed a typical German breakfast served by my mother.
Eske: I missed my parents and friends quite a lot during my time here. Before I came to India, I'd never spent such a large amount of time away from my family. Even though I live and study in Berlin and my parents live in a different part of Germany I usually manage to visit them every other week or at least every couple of weeks. But we talked on the phone every day during my stay here and I sometimes talked to my friends on the phone and Discord as well and made sure to know what was going on in their lives. But as I said, I made some friends at NLS as well which really helped and distracted me so my homesickness wasn't too bad.
Quirk: What will you miss the most about NLS?
Justus: I really enjoyed the nights on campus, sitting together in front of the library or just strolling around. I will miss going for a lassi or a juice together or just meeting new people, who are (each and everybody!) talented, self-conscious and inspiring – everyone is, in their own way. These encounters, these moments (maybe just a little smile that I got) are what I will miss the most.
Eske: Definitely the people here. Everyone has been kind and helpful from the beginning and I've had the honour and the pleasure of making some friends at NLS. Going from seeing someone nearly every day, even if it is just for a quick chat, to not seeing them for the unforeseeable future is going to be hard and I'm going to miss all the people I've spent my time with and got to know here dearly.
Other things I'm going to miss are probably the weather, it's just forever cold in Germany so I enjoyed two months of not freezing and the food. It was just nice to get to try so many new foods nearly every day and a few of them I actually quite enjoyed. Oh and also the fresh juices from the juice shop across Campus.
Quirk: Finally, what advice would you give to another foreign student?
Justus: It is really helpful to say “Yes’’ to everything at the beginning. Don’t miss any opportunity to try new food! Don’t miss any possibility of someone showing you around! Don’t miss any possibility of going somewhere! Keep your eyes as open as possible and try to speak to people, try to interact! Be as open as possible.
Eske: I´d advise them to do, try and see as much as possible. India is such a diverse and interesting country so you should experience as much as possible of it - be it different foods, places or landscapes. And it is always a good idea to ask a local - for example, an NLS student- if you're unsure where to eat or what to see. Let someone else order food for you to try. It usually will be good. If someone recommends a place to you that isn't in your Lonely Planet, go there anyway; chances are, it will be interesting. And sometimes it's also nice to just experience life on campus, you don't have to go out every night to make the most out of your experience here. Sometimes late-night talks around campus make memories you'll cherish the most.
Oh and be conscious about buying sugar cane juice from street vendors. Sometimes you won't be able to eat solid foods for the next couple of days after having it, which is not a nice experience to have!