Book Review: Jennette McCurdy’s “I’m Glad My Mom Died” Is a Masterpiece

by Ronja Iding

Many of us grew up watching Nickelodeon shows like iCarly or Sam and Cat. I’m sure many of us even fantasized about what it would be like to be a child star on these shows. Having tons of money, fans, and fun with your co-stars, going to parties, and getting free stuff wherever you go. But Jennette McCurdy, who spent a significant amount of her childhood portraying Sam Puckett, had no easy life behind the scenes. Growing up with a narcissistic hoarder mom, who struggled with cancer on and off throughout Jennette’s entire childhood and who encouraged her to develop an eating disorder left her with a lot of childhood trauma. In her memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died” McCurdy opens up about just how much trauma she had to endure.

At the tender age of six, Jennette was put into acting to fulfil her mother’s lifelong dream of becoming a star. Although acting was never Jennette’s dream, she quickly recognized that she had to do it to keep her mom happy. “I think she wanted me to have a better life than she had, but I also think her approach was very unhealthy and informed by her own lack of self-work and she lived vicariously through me.” Jennette says in an interview with ABC News.

            Jennette’s family always struggled financially, and like a lot of child stars her acting paid the bills. By the age of eleven, Jennette had become the main source of income for her entire family, which included her three older brothers, parents, and maternal grandparents. They lived in a smelly hoarder house due to her mother’s mental illness, and the children slept on mats in the living room. “It felt like a lot of pressure, and then I think my mom saw my career as a way out of that life, of that way of living, of that constant grind.” Jennette explains.

            Jennette’s mom started teaching her about calorie restriction around the same time. To keep her small and childlike this dangerous way of eating became a habit. Jennette reflects, “I think my mom wanted to keep me as controllable as possible. I think she really wanted to have her influence on me and me growing up was a threat to that.” Living with a mother that encouraged and conditioned her anorexia was not the end of the abuse. Jennette, along with her youngest older brother, was showered by her mother until she was seventeen. She would even shower them together, leaving her children with more trauma.

            Along with the trauma she had to endure at home, Jennette was thrown into the spotlight as a child star, leaving her even more confused, “You’re playing an adult’s game, you’re in an adult’s world, and you don’t recognize that. You’re incapable of being on that level, but you are confused, and you think that you are.” Jennette tried to quit acting a few times, but quickly stopped once her mother started frantically crying and yelling.

            Her mother’s first cancer diagnosis happened when Jennette was only two years old. Ever since then, the family had lived in fear of her cancer coming back. Eventually, when Jennette was eighteen, it did. Not too long after, when Jennette was twenty-one, Deborah McCurdy died.

            Right after her mother’s death, Jennette developed both drinking problems, as well as bulimia. She started binge eating and throwing everything up due to a guilty conscience. She closed herself off to the world due to her pain, trauma, and confusion.

Even after her mom died, it took a lot of time until Jennette was able to address the abuse, she had been enduring her entire life. “I couldn’t initially accept the idea that my mother was abusive toward me because my whole life […] I was operating through this lens of my mom wants what’s best for me even after she died. I’m nothing without my mom. […] Accepting that she was abusive would have meant reframing my entire life.” She went through several therapists to seek help for her eating disorder and trauma and eventually quit acting to focus on her health and to figure out what she wanted. Today she is able to identify her mom’s behavior as, “violent and erratic unstable”.

Today Jennette reflects on her decisions after her mother’s death and says, “I’m proud of myself. I think I’ve chosen a path of integrity, and it hasn’t always been easy.”

            There is a lot more to unpack in her memoir concerning Nickelodeon, child stardom, how these networks operate behind the scenes and luckily her friendship with one specific costar that helped her grow and heal throughout the years. Her writing style is refreshing and makes it easy to read the whole thing in one sitting, while also leaving you with a whirlwind of emotions. If you want to know more, I recommend having a read through it.

Author bio: Ronja studies Anglophone Studies and Kommunikationswissenschaft at UDE. When she’s not watching movies or reading books, she writes her own stories or plays ice hockey.

One for the Vine – Writing the Story of Your Life

by Christian Krumm

The title of this text refers to an old song by the band Genesis. The song tells the story of a legendary man who is chosen to be a leader heading an army of soldiers into a war of fortune. Nowadays it might not be everyone’s most famous purpose in life to do something like this. But in most people’s lives, especially in writing, it is the question remains: Am I the chosen one? Is it me who can be successful with my own stories, written from the bottom of my heart, revealing my most private and intimate thoughts? There are so many others doing the same thing as me. And if I am brave enough to publish, will I be heard or hurt by people after they have read my story?

After surviving the first light and humble moments in writing, those questions arise like phantoms in almost everyone’s head. Did I say almost everyone? That is wrong. Everyone experiences these kinds of feelings. It is fear and shame that makes us think something we wrote is too embarrassing, too intimate or leaves the reader with an inaccurate impression of ourselves.

In that particular moment we stop writing and start thinking. Most people think their lives are ordinary – boring even. And in one sense, they are correct: Life is not possible without constantly compromising. This behaviour is expected and it is necessary in modern societies. So, if we get unsure about what we should write, our thoughts tell us that we should behave in writing in the way that is most successful in living. We start to compromise, start to write something which we think people expect from us and so we hide what is really deep down inside us.

But what matters is this: Feeling comes before thinking. Just imagine not only you but everyone around you behaving the way I pointed out above. That means everyone tries to cooperate, compromise, and conform – and above all, to hide whatever seems to set themselves apart. That means that for most of our daily lives, we’ll be meeting people who behave according to what they think, not what they feel. But by reading a story, even your story, they want to escape from the world of thinking and enter the world of feeling. In this world no life is ordinary. Feeling is what really connects people; it makes them overcome all the thinking and makes them say something like: I love you; I admire you for something you do; even: I hate you for something you have done to me. Feeling can change the world of one person the way all thinking never could. And this is exactly what makes a story interesting, fascinating and even unique.

So back to our first question: Are you the chosen one to do that? Of course you are, because, honestly, nobody is. Who will choose you, if you don’t choose yourself? If you write down your real-life feelings, turn them into a story, fantasy, thriller, crime or romance, you will find your reads: people who fell the way you do. You will find people who share the feelings you wrote about. And people will love you for that.

So sit down and write the story of your feelings in life. Write about people you love, you hate, you adore or you feel pity for. Give them fantastic names and abilities, let them suffer or find their luck. Take off the shame and the fear of what other people might think about you after reading your text. You will offer them feelings they don’t experience in their lives. And that is what reading makes the act of reading so fascinating.

So, stop thinking. Start writing. Start feeling. Write the story of your life.

Author bio: Christian Krumm is a writer of novels and short stories. He teaches creative writing at the Universität Duisburg-Essen.

A Flock of Seabirds Or I Am Human, Therefore I Collect

by Tina Wolf

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we as a species love collecting. But what is it about human nature that makes us squirrel away things? And what on earth, you may wonder, does the title of this article have to do with collecting? That last question at least is easy to answer: I collect vintage Penguin and Pelican books, those bright, orange-coloured British paperbacks that first appeared in 1935. Penguin started the great paperback revolution by making world literature available to everyone at a price of just sixpence per book, a true democratisation of reading.

Some people collect stamps, coins, bad jokes, clocks, and a myriad of other things. I asked various people at university and on social media why they liked collecting and got some very interesting answers.

But first things first: what is a collection? And what’s the difference between collecting and just accumulating stuff at random? According to the Cambridge Online Dictionary, a collection is defined as “a group of objects of one type that have been collected by one person or in one place” and “a group of objects that someone has collected as a hobby or investment.” Compared to a mere accumulation of stuff, a collection is focussed and curated, as well as being of subjective value to the collector.

To understand the reasons for collecting, one must first look at the rise of consumer society. According to business academic Russell W.  Belk, one of the leading experts on consumption, consumer culture, consumer behaviour, collecting and materialism “collecting is consumption writ large. It is a perpetual pursuit of inessential luxury goods. […] And it is a sustained faith that happiness lies only an acquisition away.” (Belk, 1995, p.1) To put it simply, we like being surrounded by material possessions. Anyone who’s ever indulged in retail therapy though will know that obtaining the object of one’s desire only leads to temporary happiness and soon after, the hunt begins anew. This is a pattern that can certainly be observed in collectors’ behaviour, myself included. Collections also provide us with a means to remember the past or be a part of the inner worlds of others (in the case of paintings or poems for example). When I asked why people collect things, several people answered that “the thrill of the hunt” and the joy of finding a coveted object were the main reasons for their collecting. For most people, collecting has become an obsession and they quite happily spend large amounts of money and give up both time and living space to house their collections. We as a species are still hunter-gatherers after all, or so it seems. Some of my fellow Penguin collectors showcase truly impressive collections online, overflowing bookshelves and whole rooms full of the various seabird books, from the iconic orange triband Penguin fiction paperbacks of the 1930s/40s to blue Pelicans and eggshell-blue Penguin Modern Classics editions. Search for #vintagepenguin or #tribandtuesday on Instagram and you will get thousands of results. One collector describes their collecting as an “obsession”. They love hunting for books and discovering new authors in the process. Another, who collects mostly non-fiction Pelicans loves the visual aspects of a good cover design.

What struck me was that most people started off collecting something else in their childhood and at some point switched to book collecting or, in some cases, collect not only books and various Penguin ephemera, but also vinyl, vintage furniture and other objects. Apart from the books being perceived as beautiful in and of themselves, it’s the history of the object that fascinates their collectors, something I can definitely relate to. I love knowing I’m holding a piece of history in my hands. That battered old 1st edition from the 1940s might have been a means of escape from the realities of war, rationing, bombs, and air-raid shelters for its previous owner. When I asked one of my university professors – who I would say is an avid collector of, among other things, antique musical instruments (even though he disagrees and doesn’t see himself as a collector as such), he said something similar. He collects because he loves learning about the cultural history of an object. I his own words: “I like certain types of things because I love what they do. Because old works of art can tell us a lot about the way people saw and depicted the world in the past, because antique musical instruments give me a chance to play music pretty much as it would have been played and heard in the eighteenth century, because an antique book is so much more than the text it contains.” This I understand. Old vinyl records, vintage books, old engravings and antique musical instruments: they’re all portals into another time and space. They can tell us how people lived, what was important to them and how they saw the world.

Community and shared interests also play a big part in why people collect. It’s great to talk about your passion with like-minded people, to share exciting finds and the frustrations of fruitless searches for that one, special object that’s still missing.

So why do we collect things? Because of the satisfaction finding a rare object gives us? Because it gives us the opportunity to time-travel? Because the items we collect can be quite valuable and are a good investment? Or because of the sense of community joining a collectors’ society gives us? Yes to all of the above, I would say. But there’s also a much simpler reason: because it makes us happy! And that is reason enough to keep expanding my own” flock of seagulls”.  To quote BookTuber Jess, aka “Squirrel’s Bookshelf”: “I am also too fond of creating environments of wonder and creativity, packed with objects of fascination.” Or, as said by Vsauce2, in his YouTube video about the Jefferson Burdick Collection of baseball cards at The Met.:  “A nobody like me, a nobody like you, each in our own unique way has a chance to leave a lasting positive mark on the world.”

 There’s nothing I need to add to that.  

Author bio: Tina Wolf is a 4th-semester student of Anglophone Studies & Kommunkationswissenschaft who spends most of her free time with her nose in a book and collects vintage Penguins.



Belk, Russell W. Collecting in a Consumer Society. Routledge. 1995

Online Resources:

Social Media:

Squirrel’s Bookshelf

Vsauce2: The Invention of Collecting






Spilling the Tea

By Zohra

Sometimes I get to start off my day with a cup of green tea infused with cardamom. I love watching the seeds slowly making its way to the bottom of my cup. Have you ever noticed that cardamom seeds turn green tea pinkish? The tea is my origins, my love for my ancestors, my past, in Kabul, Afghanistan, from which my parents and uncles, and aunts fled, carrying three-month-old me, over the Hindukush to Pakistan. I also love what Germans like to drink fruit tea – yes, I am talking about the prepackaged one you can buy anywhere. And no, my ancestors would not turn in their graves. But sometimes life does not let me sip tea; it serves me up bullshit with a drizzle of mind-numbing stupidity.

            Take for instance Emily – she professed on a Saturday afternoon, how she was surprised to hear that even in London racism exists. The angry me would raise her eyebrows, adjust her glasses, and put on her Christiane Amanpour persona. My interrogative skills would immediately silence her. My soft voice would extrapolate her shame and put it on a front-page cover of a gossip magazine. Instead, I am starting my own inner monologue. White fragility I say to myself, then I begin to chuckle. Zohra, you must focus. She wants to bond with you. Bond over what? She is just as likeable as any female character in Faulkner’s works. She will probably end up as a spinster hiding the corpse of her lover, too. Zohra, stop it. Perhaps more disturbingly – my neighbor Rosa is not any better. On a window sill – right next to a pile of magazines lies the object that incites my utmost hatred. A small black figure wearing a white dress with a blue vest. She is clasping her fingers together whilst kneeling. The figure itself is positioned on a silver pedestal. The plaque on the figure says something along the lines: “Willst du den Heiden Hilfe schicken so lass mich Aermsten freundlich nicken.” This piece of colonial ignorance is paired with a coin slot. Did you know, it bows its head once you put 10 cents in the slot? Rosa thinks “it’s so cute!” This time you do the math.

I thought academia was better. Sitting in a Zoom session full of PhD candidates – one had the caucasity to say that the sound quality of the Zoom call reminded her of a reporter in Afghanistan. Zohra, just don’t. Mute. Pause. Breath. None of the other PhD candidates said a SINGLE WORD: Is that the price someone like me has to pay? Being attacked, humiliated and offended by the woke and cultured? She might as well have said, “Thank God we’re not in a shithole country but here in civilized Germany.” So much for being my ally. I chuckle. Allies…In situations where people say too little or nothing at all, I am apparently the one that is too loud, too angry and too sensitive. I make everything about race, class and gender too vague. Position yourself, they say. Isn’t it worse in Iran for women than in Afghanistan these days? But there’s no point in erecting hierarchies of trauma. The death of Mahsa Amini is just as gruesome as the murder of Farkhunda Malikzada, who was beaten and burned alive in Kabul. Am I not allowed to shed tears for every Muslim woman whose life is under constant threat, too. Sometimes I just want to show up to work wearing my favorite black suit and my pink burka, accompanied by a random man wearing a black turban, a Shalwar Kameez, brown leather sandals; and 10 random children of every age. Ready for Steve McCurry and the front cover of the National Geographic in 2022. Zohra, just get your cup of tea.

Summer Memories

By Martina Wolf

Going home
When the summer’s coming in
And the moonlight on the river
Shows me where I’ve been…[1]

Summer is a bittersweet time, a time of endings as well as beginnings. It is the end of the academic year, the end of yet another semester, the beginning of exam season as well as the beginning of festival season. As I’m sitting in the university cafeteria, watching the comings and goings of the students, my thoughts inevitably turn to other summers, other places, and a different university. Facebook is cruel in that respect; it shows me memories of a long-ago graduation and images of people I used to work with when the millennium was still brand-new.

Every July, I remember Scotland, the time spent there. Six years I’ve lived there, not much over the course of an entire life, but highly significant in determining who I am today. I’ve since moved half a dozen times, returned to my passport country, found a job, found love, started a second degree. And yet. I still consider Scotland my home, despite everything that’s happened since I left.

What is home? These students outside the cafeteria – would they consider Essen their home? Or is home still the place where they grew up? The international students I work with, are they at home here? What about the department of modern languages staff at the university, who’ve come from Spain, Britain, Canada, Latin America, the USA to teach the language and literature of their home countries to us students? Do they consider themselves at home here? What makes a place a home? A shared language, a similar culture maybe. Knowing that you’re here to stay, that you’re not leaving after a certain, pre-determined period of time. Living in Beijing in the ‘90s and in Riga in 2006-2007 felt different to living in Scotland or moving back to Germany. Beijing in 1996 was completely, utterly foreign. In Riga, I knew I was only ever going to stay a year or two; I had no intention of ever leaving Scotland. It made sense to make myself at home in Scotland, to fully integrate. But still, a slight sense of foreign-ness prevailed, my experiences of constantly moving, of having gone to multiple schools, of lacking certain shared childhood experiences meant I was never 100% fully at home. There is always something missing, no matter where you are.

In today’s globalised world, the numbers of people like myself are increasing. More and more children are growing up as so-called “Third Culture Kids”, or TCKs, cultural nomads, able to adapt quickly to new surroundings. We collect places, languages, cultures like other people collect stamps, but can we build a home with the same ease? Justin B. Hopkins, in his autoethnographic study Coming “Home”: An Autoethnographic Exploration of Third Culture Kid Transition[2] talks about the five stages of transition from culture to culture: involvement, leaving, transition, entering, reinvolvement[3]  and how they related to his experiences coming “home” to the US after having spent his entire life up to this point in Senegal. His experience sounds similar to mine: involvement in a particular culture, leaving this culture, transitioning and entering into a new culture before making oneself at home (reinvolvement). His observations at the end ring particularly true. Even after returning to one’s home culture, that sense of otherness remains. After speaking English for so long and hearing everyone use first names at work, suddenly being addressed as “Frau Wolf” sounds jarringly unfamiliar and working out when to use “du” and when to use “Sie” is a minefield. Instead of being a foreigner in the host culture, you are now the one who left and came back, bringing with you strange and foreign customs and habits. So you spend your life a wanderer between the worlds, at home and yet not at home. As a consequence of not truly feeling at home in either culture, TCKs often develop a sense of belonging to a group of peers with a shared history of moving places.

Growing up as a TCK has certainly made me the person I am today, but it was only after reading about other people’s experiences I understood why this was the case. The central question remains: What is home? Where do I belong? The question “Where are you from?” will get anyone who asks a very convoluted answer, along the lines of “It’s complicated…” This central question at the heart of the TCK experience can only be answered by each individual themselves. Some stay forever adrift; others manage the transition smoothly and fully reintegrate into their country of origin even after years of living abroad. I will probably spend the rest of my life looking at pictures of those long-gone summers, feeling a little bit nostalgic.

[1] Runrig. „Going Home“. The Highland Connection. Ridge Records. 1979

[2] Hopkins, Justin B. Coming “Home”: An Autoethnographic Exploration of Third Culture Kid Transition. Qualitative Inquiry 2015, Vol. 21(9) 812–820

[3] Pollock, D. C., & Van Reken, R. E. (2009). Third culture kids: The experience of growing up among worlds. As quoted in Hopkins, Justin B. Coming “Home”: An Autoethnographic Exploration of Third Culture Kid Transition. Qualitative Inquiry 2015, Vol. 21(9) 812–820

Two Balloons and a (not so) Cold-Hearted Asshole

By Jule Windeler

I am someone who tries to avoid conflicts at any costs. If I don’t like a person, I engage with them as little as I can. I end conversations as soon as possible or avoid them in the first place and I never tell them what is bothering me because I feel that it is not worth the trouble. In most cases, this works pretty well. I choose who to talk to and who to spend my time with and therefore get around fights and uncomfortable encounters. However, this form of social behavior has some downsides that I only came to question recently.  

This summer, I was in a situation where I couldn’t be as picky as usual. I had to spend a lot of time with some people, no matter if I liked them or not, and at first, I had some difficulties with that. I saw them every day and was forced to engage with them beyond meaningless small talk; I had to get to know them, even the ones I never would have talked to at all if the choice had been mine. And for that, I am very grateful! I am grateful for some of these encounters, and I am also grateful because I learned an important lesson during that time: engaging with people you do not like or have some sort of conflict with can be incredibly educational and eye-opening.        

There was a man I met this summer and whom I will call Jeff. He was a fifty-something father of three, huge and intimidating, and appeared to have absolutely no regards for other people’s feelings. If I had met him in a different context, I would have made sure to get a lot of space between him and me. I never would have talked to him, let alone get to know him in any way. But now, that option didn’t exist.  For seven weeks, Jeff and I saw each other every day and on most of these days we engaged in some sort of a conversation. And at first, that did not help change my opinion of him.   

One of the first things I learned about him was that he had a very extensive criminal record. This included assault, robbery, drug-dealing, and probably a lot of other things he did not mention. During the time I spent with him, he made several people cry but never seemed to feel any remorse at all. He described his criminal past as “perfect.” I thought he was a cold-hearted asshole.        

Unsurprisingly, I was not the only person who thought that way about Jeff, and when we voiced our opinion, he agreed: “I can’t feel any sympathy,” he said. “I think something’s broken inside me.” He proceeded with another example of his emotional coldness: “Other people… they see a hurt animal by the side of the road, and they take it to the vet. They try to save it. I don’t do that. It’s stupid. I just—”, he makes a gesture as if snapping someone’s neck, “you know, to end its suffering.” That was the first time I thought that maybe Jeff wasn’t entirely dead inside after all.   

All in all, Jeff was the complete opposite of me: he was obnoxious, stubborn, always spoke without thinking. He did not care what others thought of him, he was overly confident, and always put himself first. Not all of these are good qualities, of course. But they are not all bad either. In a way, we balanced each other out and I ended up learning a lot from him. One day I told Jeff that I have difficulties prioritizing my own needs whenever they clash with someone else’s. I told him that I care so much about other people’s opinions of me that I often don’t dare standing up for myself. Jeff had difficulties understanding this. “Just stop caring!”, he’d say, and he made it sound so easy. And then he said something else that has stuck with me until now: “When there are thirty kids,” he said, “and only twenty-nine balloons… do you cry because you’re not getting one? No! You rush to the front, and you take TWO balloons!”

Jeff was not a cold-hearted asshole. He said whatever crossed his mind and sometimes that was really hurtful. (“How can you complain about your childhood? You always got presents for Christmas, didn’t you?”) He wasn’t very empathetic, and he glorified drugs and violence a bit too much. But deep down, he was a good person. And because we were so utterly different, our encounter has had a really strong impact on me. If I had avoided him based on our differences, I would have missed out on some valuable lessons. That doesn’t mean that I want to be like him; but I think I want to take a few steps in his direction. Because it is okay if I stand up for myself. It is okay if someone doesn’t like me. Sometimes, I have to just “not give a shit” and make sure I get two balloons. Because I deserve them!

Why I Am Not a Mountaineer

By Corinna Schroll

According to the dictionary, a mountaineer is someone living in a mountainous area or most commonly a person who climbs mountains for sport, but I always thought the term should be used in a broader sense. Why doesn’t the definition include those who simply love mountains and like to safely hike up less dangerous mountains without professional climbing equipment? I love being in nature and enjoying the sight of mountains with their deep valleys. On occasion, I have even made it to the summit of two smaller mountains of the Bavarian alps – traveling upwards within the relative safety of a cable car and sticking to the beaten paths while holding onto the railing that acted as a border between the hikers and the precipices of the mountains. The railings provide some sense of safety, but a look down into the abyss might be enough to fill a person with dread and give them vivid ideas that they could very well tumble into their doom if the railings were to disappear. Those who call themselves mountaineers often ascend the highest peaks without no railings, which is ultimately why I am not a “mountaineer” and have no interest in ascending dangerous mountains for sport.

Some people are afraid of heights, and I am one of them. Even climbing up a rope in P.E. has filled me with anxiety and I would never make it past the simplest wall if I had to climb a mountain. Ascending the peak of Mt. Everest would be a nightmare for me and my physical condition aside, I would not be able to do it even if my life depended on it.

More importantly, death is always one wrong step or a rockfall away in the mountains. In his literary work “Mountains of the Mind”, British author Robert Macfarlane mentions recklessly ascending a mountain in his youth and barely evading a falling rock. He ponders about how close he came to death that day, for if the rock had hit him, he would likely have fallen to his death.

It is important to note that the weather conditions can be unpredictable and change faster than one might expect in mountainous areas, which can turn a laid-back hike into a lethal situation, even for the most experienced mountaineer. There is a grim story about a student group who died in a mountain range in Scotland known as the Cairngorms after the group was unexpectedly hit by a snowstorm and could not make it to safety. This incident known as the Cairngorm plateau disaster occurred in November 1971, which is not that long ago. Despite modern advances in equipment and communications, dangers still exist in mountainous areas and national parks are never 100% safe for their visitors.

Another instance of changing weather leading to a tragedy is that of a group of Russian women led by Elvira Shatayeva, who lost their lives to ascend Lenin Peak in Kyrgyzstan alone as the first women-only team in 1974. They were hit by a snowstorm and were too ill-equipped to endure the cold and strong wind. Other climbing groups tried to reach them from the base camp, but all help came too late for these brave, but unfortunate women.

Finally, it seems somewhat selfish to risk your life climbing unforgiving territories, more so when you have young children at home or are the provider for your family. Famously in 1924, British climber George Leigh Mallory was dead set on ascending Mt. Everest, a feat that no man had managed before. His wife had begged him not to go, but after two prior failed attempts, he returned in 1924 for a third ascent which would also be his final one. It is unclear if he ever made it to the summit, but he certainly never made it back home, leaving behind his widow and young children. Mallory was a brave man and a pioneer undoubtedly, but he never got to see his children grow up and left them without a father to grow up with to chase his dream of ascending Everest.

Mountains are fascinating places, and I cannot deny their beauty nor the amazing feeling of having made it to the peak and looking down upon the earth. Some may find it cowardly, but I value my life too much to ascend more dangerous mountains. I don’t have the ambition to be the first woman to ascend an unreachable summit, let alone risk my life and health to reach the top.

Mt. Everest is riddled with corpses that cannot be retrieved due to the difficult ascent, and these bodies frozen in time are a grim reminder that mountaineering will always be dangerous. Some overestimate their abilities while others are simply not that lucky.

I am a mountain lover, but I am not a mountaineer – and I don’t have to be both: I live in a time where I can enjoy the beauty of nature as a visitor on a mountain already developed for tourism, or from a safe distance from my home via the internet. Being a mountaineer means safely overcoming every hazard on the way up to the top, and it is an exciting but dangerous profession, where injuries and even death are not uncommon occurrences. Danger does not entice me enough to seek out the view from the unreachable summit, and while the feeling of standing on the summit of a place rarely reached by others must be incomparable, I am content staying at the foot of the mountains and admiring them from below as the inhospitable titans they are.

The Absurdity of Pressure

By Ronja Iding

For every student who is struggling with pressure and being overworked, and especially for everyone who is new to university

There comes a time in your life when you say goodbye to your school days and start living in the real world. You either go to university or go on to other things. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely chosen the former.

During your first semester you are thrown into the lion’s den for the first time. And it’s stressful, like every new experience is at first. You’re new, so you’re automatically at a disadvantage. Perhaps, you’re not only going to university; you might have moved out and into a new city, you might have a job to pay for some of the things your parents paid for over the last 18 years, and you might deal with stress and pressure in many ways.

You’re probably constantly asking yourself what is expected of you, and you’re not reaching any conclusions. This might leave you helpless and on edge.

Well, here’s a suggestion that helped me: Instead of wondering what others expect of you, maybe ask yourself when the last time you caught a break was. When was the last time you did something for yourself, something fun? Because that’s an aspect of studying you should never forget. It’s necessary to do your work, but you must find balance. You must find your own way of doing things; and that’s what first semester is all about. Settling in, getting the hang of things, and doing it your way.

You are not supposed to worry about what others expect of you, but you still worry about it. Because it’s not easy to block social pressure out. You worry if you’ll make enough money once you’re a full-grown adult, if you will be content with your job, if you will be happy with your life and be able to get up every morning to get on with it.

So, it is a stressful time. One minute you were sitting on a chair in school listening to your boring math teacher talk about equations and waiting for the bell to ring so you could go home and watch Pretty Little Liars and the next minute you are driving from work to university and from university to the grocery store, then you make a quick stop at the gas station losing a 50 to high gas prices and only after  all that you get to go home at 8 pm and sleep.

When you get a moment to yourself to relax, you cannot do that. You’re too busy thinking about how you should be studying rather than sitting on your ass. You should be making money right now because technically you’re an adult now. You should be going faster.

But this is to tell you that you ARE entitled to breaks and you ARE allowed to enjoy your life and have fun. Because guess what? You still have a long life ahead of you. You still have tons of time to work. And you must remember to always put yourself first. I know it might seem hard – or even impossible – to do so at this rate, but its important to enjoy your life to the fullest.

You’re overwhelmed at the moment because everything you’re experiencing is new. But this feeling will pass and in a year this will all be old again. So, you’ll be fine.

You can work one day and go to an amusement park the next. You can travel the world and meet new people. You can spend the whole day on your couch watching Star Wars. And you can take a break whenever you need one. Life is not going to pass you by because you stop working for a minute.

Instead, it’s going to pass you by if you don’t take time to enjoy it. As Ferris Bueller once said, Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. So instead of wasting your time worrying about something you cannot control, do something you always wanted to do. And never once stop to wonder what could have been if you had done things differently.

Are Americans really that stupid? On cultural differences and the danger of stereotypes

By Marisa Laios

I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know that’s very popular out there in Africa.” – Britney Spears

There is nothing wrong in questioning the content shown on TikTok, but if certain topics show up multiple times there must be something going on. In my case, it included Americans confusing Europe as a big single country and trying to warn their fellow citizens about (untrue) cultural circumstances. Although I was and still am fascinated how others perceive our little continent, it is not the first time that I stumbled over those confused commentaries. The problem first started in 2016, when Donald Trump delivered one of his most famous lines during the election campaign for America’s next president: “Belgium is a beautiful city”.  One of the next highlights in media culture of the past years has to be the Netflix series “Emily in Paris”; while some people took the series with amusement, others busted out into harsh criticism on the producers’ and writers’ cultural ignorance. These famous incidents make me ask: What is true about the “Stupid Americans”-stereotype? And why is it so despised around the world, especially in European countries?

First of all, a stereotype defines itself through repetitive behavior and statements of a certain group, which lead to a common image. This rigid perception is often noticeable in everyday life, but not always linked to a negative prejudice. Nationality wise for example, Swiss people are known for their punctuality. (Is every single Swiss person actually on time? Probably not.) In this case, Americans are known for being talkative and friendly, for example at the cash checkout of the supermarket. But despite these qualities, Americans are not that popular – especially in Europe. The problem in stereotypical thinking is that it aligns in over-individuality. We notice and remember political actions (the Vietnam War or the oppression of the Native Americans for example) or statements by famous people (as you can see above) and apply them to every American person we (will) potentially meet. This can lead to a hostile and awkward attitude.

Over-continental differences are normal, but can also lead to misconception. According to articles on Americanness there are values and aspects of living there, which are just not that big in Europe: Glorification of capitalism and money making, stylization of junk food, guns, certain values such as individualism and nationalism. The openness to other cultures and languages definitively differs from European standards, which can also be led back to the dissimilar education systems (they differ in Europe, too, but generally put a bigger focus on language learning). Many of those differences are rooted in the history and the geographical situation of each party. While most of the US citizens never left the country, it is almost impossible for Germans to avoid travelling, at least to other parts of Europe. Also, most European cities and regions can look down on a thousand year old history, while American independence is not even 300 years old. In many cases, tourists from the U.S. or countries with similar size proportions expect to travel through Europe within days and to see everything this part of the world has to offer. This is simply not possible and is also really disrespectful towards small subcultures and not-so-famous countries, which also have outstanding history and work to show.

But what really provokes those differences on a global level is the one-dimensionality and ignorance in (social) media. Especially on TikTok or Instagram “smattering” or superficial knowledge is common. Making assumptions about each other’s culture without even glancing at a Wikipedia article leads to feeling attacked on both sides. When news is being published, for example about the new abortion law or gun violence in schools, people are shocked and judge the political and social system as well as U.S. citizens for “allowing” those situations. In reality, a lot of the citizens themselves are oppressed by the political system and try their hardest to protest against those given conditions and occurring situations. The political system does not treat all citizens equally.

This can lead to a reinforcement of anti-Americanism. People use superficial statements on America (especially political issues) to emphasize their own nationalism and justify racist statements, for example by addressing the discrimination that POC face in the US on a daily basis just to stress the country’s qualities and legitimate xenophobic commentaries on immigration in Germany. “America” functions as a bad example in this case. Especially after the Cold war anti-American feeling has grown

No, Americans are not completely stupid. Just because of certain viral moments or news on social media we should not condemn every single U.S. citizen. Due to the different social and cultural history, events and development it is often hard to understand the values and habits of others fully. Also, these values and habits are not always the result of a certain nation or culture. After all, it would not be beneficial to judge every German after watching a street survey at the central station in Frankfurt either.

Once the Splendor Is All Gone… What Else Is Left?

By Katja Kramer

I must have been no older than thirteen when I watched Splendor in the Grass (1961) for the first time in my life. Back then, the oh-so pretty title of the movie was the very reason I decided to watch it. Now, years later, the poem that inspired the title is the reason I so vividly remember the movie even now. I can still quote the following lines off the top of my head—spoken in the film by heartbroken teenager, Deanie:

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind

William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” part of which contains these remarkable lines, was originally published in 1807. Even centuries later, we can feel the impact his words make. This particular part of the poem may have been used in a 1961 movie, but the message it entails reaches far beyond the screen and the story that is shown.

It is a gut-wrenching internal conflict that—dare I say—every single person encounters once in their life, at a minimum: do I allow myself to grieve a romantic loss just a little longer or do I learn to take things as they come and move on? Imagine a person close to you dies; what do you do? Imagine your best friend of many years betrays you; what do you do? Imagine—to include the example of the characters in the movie mentioned above—your high school sweetheart who you are still in love with marries someone else; what do you do?

According to the poem, the answer is quite clear: you find strength and happiness in the memory, while learning to live with the reality that the relationship is over. Though you may have lost the one person that brought you the most happiness and your world seems to be falling apart, you manage not to fall apart. But is that really the proper thing to do—to move on just like that, as if your pain does not even matter? Is that even what Wordsworth, or the movie, is suggesting?

Wordsworth talks about “radiance,” he talks about “splendor,” he talks about “glory”—or, in other words, about something incredibly precious, brilliant, magnificent. The expression that distinctly stands out for me, though, is “splendor in the grass.” Clearly, it is what stood out for the filmmakers of the movie as well. So, let us take a moment and think about what is meant here. What is special about grass? Well, it is usually green; it is common in our everyday lives; we sometimes walk on it. Actually, grass is one of the most ordinary things in life. With that in mind, why would Wordsworth use such an expression? Probably for this exact reason. There is nothing particularly special about grass; when you add the “splendor,” however, it seems to become far more fascinating than you ever would have thought it could be.

Most will probably agree that for Deanie, her first and beloved boyfriend Bud is the one who brings splendor into her otherwise ordinary life. Or, to phrase it differently, Bud is Deanie’s splendor; he is her “glory in the flower.” When she loses him, she loses herself. She feels as though nothing in her life makes sense anymore and she is ultimately committed to a mental institution. Deanie sees Bud again after a long time, they have a short conversation and eventually go their separate ways—recognizing and at last accepting that their story is a part of the past now. In the final scene of the movie, Deanie, after being asked whether she still loves Bud, remembers the lines from Wordsworth’s poem with a vague smile. Not only does she finally understand what they mean, she experiences the loss of the “radiance” Wordsworth writes about firsthand; and now, it is time to move-forward—finding “strength in what remains behind.” Now, what exactly is that? What “remains” once the “splendor” is gone?

The most evident answer would be: grass. And it is not entirely off, but one needs to bear in mind that once you have seen that grass in a different light than usual, you will never fully bounce back from it—the splendor that was there at one point leaves an impact and the memory of it never fully leaves you. “What remains behind” are memories and those memories are what you need to “find strength in,” according to the poem. These words do not inevitably mean that we should not allow ourselves to grieve a beloved we lost, a relationship that ended, a happier time in our lives, though, or do they? Let us look at what happens with Deanie after the breakup.

Deanie, having suffered a mental breakdown in the middle of class, is sent to a psychiatric hospital. Released after quite some time, she is about to marry another man and informs Bud, who is himself married and a father with a second child on the way. As the audience watches these final moments of the movie, of course we wonder: are they happy? Considering that Deanie and Bud each claim to not think about whether they are or not too much anymore… it sounds rather unlikely. Nevertheless, they agree that at the end of the day, “you gotta take what comes” (2:01:29-2:01:36) and we know what that looks like: you learn to come to terms with reality time and again, regardless how much you may despise it. The characters have both grieved their relationship in their own way; in one way or another, they probably still do—and yet, it is crystal clear to both that “nothing can bring back the hour / Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower,” meaning the time they were young, together and in love.

Wordsworth’s famous lines tell us that sometimes, we need to accept whatever comes our way and be grateful for what we have, even though it might not be what we want. This does not mean we are not allowed to grieve—some grieve differently than others, some longer and others shorter; the decisive point is that one of these days, this sorrow and pain will make us stronger. The “radiance” may have left us, the “splendor” may have vanished, the “glory” may be gone, but the memories of it once being there—they will never disappear from our minds and hearts. So grieve as long as it takes, but know that this pain is not forever and someday, you will learn to “find strength in what remains behind.”


1.  Splendor in the Grass. Directed by Elia Kazan. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1961.

2.  Wordsworth, William. “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,