Goran Bandov: “We should all move to a new place at regular intervals”
Name: Professor Goran Bandov
Lives in: Zagreb, Croatia
Country of origin: Croatia
Period in Germany: 1991 to 1992 and 2004 to 2009
Educational and research institution: Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH), University of Hamburg
Occupation: Associate Professor for International Relations and International Law at the Dag Hammarskjold University College of International Relations and Diplomacy in Zagreb, Croatia.
The time Goran Bandov spent studying in Germany was filled with thoroughly positive experiences – many of which this Croatian university professor endeavours to incorporate into this teaching methodology. In this interview, he also explains why everyone should live somewhere else from time to time.
What does home mean to you?
Goran Bandov: Home is where your heart is, where your family and friends are. It’s a place you like to be and where you feel good. Somewhere you can be yourself. Home is a place that’s warm even when it snows, where you love and are loved.
You left your home country to do your Master’s and Doctoral Degrees. Why did you decide to study in Germany?
Goran Bandov: Germany is known for its openness, for its progressive academic ideas and civil liberties. Germany fosters new ideas, creativity and innovation and then allows them to be put into practice. Young academics can therefore develop their potential in full – it was an easy choice for me.
Would you say that Germany has become like home for you too?
Goran Bandov: As a child I had to flee the war in Croatia which meant that in 1991 I ended up in Singen am Hohentwiel, a small town in Baden-Württemberg. I was taken in by a caring German guest family, to whom I’ll always be grateful. Thanks to this family and to many other helpful people, Germany has become my second home. Doing my Master’s and Doctoral Degrees here only served to strengthen this feeling.
We would like to know what home means for you!
For Ana Riza Mendoza from the Philippines, home is a feeling of belonging: “Home is where the heart feels completely at ease. This might be your place of birth, but not necessarily.” Read what other Germany-Alumni associate with home and share your thoughts with the community!
What challenges did you face by choosing to study in Germany?
Goran Bandov: There aren’t that many major differences between Croatian and German society. And like I said I already had experience of living in Germany, so after a couple of days I felt like I was home! A few more days of sunshine here and there would have helped me to like the weather in northern Germany a bit more though...
How has this “change of location” to Germany influenced your life, personally and professionally?
Goran Bandov: Studying in Hamburg was a good move in my academic career – I’m certain of that. The support I got from my doctoral supervisor Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans-Joachim Gießmann and from my colleagues at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg was extremely professional and almost tantamount to parental care. I’d really like to say a big thank-you to them for that!
This enabled me to gain a great many new academic insights and skills that I now regularly employ myself as a university professor. I try to establish the same kind of good student mentoring I got to know in Germany with my students, too. And from their feedback I know they’re very satisfied. I’ve made a great many very valuable friendships and contacts that I’m still cultivating today. And of course I was able to broaden my horizons.
How were you able to apply your experiences from Germany when you returned to Croatia?
Goran Bandov: Since returning to Croatia, I now play an active role in society. I’m regularly asked to work as a media commentator in Croatia and Southeast Europe and I’m engaged in various initiatives designed to protect human rights, promote peace and help people come to terms with the past. At the same time, I’m also the course director for post-graduate programmes at the Inter-University Centre in Dubrovnik. These courses encourage young people to engage in progressive, creative and innovative thinking, which ultimately advances the peace process.
Do you think your new outlook on things helped you on your return home and is it still helping today?
Goran Bandov: Probably the most important idea I picked up in Germany is the need to reconcile yourself with the past. Germany’s efforts to overcome the past encouraged me to focus strongly on this topic in my research and to concentrate on peace research and on human and minority rights. I try to teach my students how important these topics are.
“Germany is an excellent country for studying”
What do you really miss about Germany?
Goran Bandov: What I really miss about Germany and Hamburg are the civil liberties I had there, walks along the Alster, the different parts of Hamburg, grilled herrings, Matjes or young salted herrings with green beans and the bacon sauce called Speckstippe. But most of all I miss my friends.
How do you cultivate your friendships and contacts in Germany?
Goran Bandov: I still have a couple of very good friends in Hamburg and Germany that I regularly communicate with via telephone or Facebook. And I visit them now and then. Some of them were a really great help to me during my time as a student.
I am still in close contact with both foundations that assisted my studies in Germany. In 2013, I was appointed mentor for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. And since 2016, I’m now a member of the DAAD selection committee for candidates from Croatia.
What would you like to say to future Germany-Alumni from your country?
Goran Bandov: Germany is an excellent country for studying. Progressive ideas, interdisciplinarity and an openness towards other cultures foster a new, creative and innovative way of thinking. The many courses of study available in Germany are undoubtedly amongst the best in the world. A whole string of investors and entrepreneurs from Germany and other German-speaking countries are based in Croatia. For these potential employers, returning Germany-Alumni are an attractive prospect.
Can a host country that has been a place of study or work for a longer period of time become a second home?
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Germany?
Goran Bandov: Freedom. In Germany, you are free to live as you want, free to say what you really think and free to write without having to fear any backlash. Freedom in Germany is only restricted by the freedom of others. Individual freedom ends where someone else’s freedom starts.
Do you have any other experience abroad that has influenced you besides your time in Germany?
Goran Bandov: I love to travel and experience new cultures, people and traditions. I’ve already travelled throughout much of Europe privately and on business. I am particularly interested in the countries of Asia, especially India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. I visited them for research purposes, held some public lectures and cooperated with academics there. Mostly, I’m impressed by the foreign customs, traditions, music and food there.
Is there anything else you feel needs to be said about the topic of “changing location”?
Goran Bandov: We should all change locations at regular intervals. People should travel a lot and live in different places. This is the most effective way of learning, of gaining new insights and skills and of gaining a better understanding of different cultures, their ideas and way of thinking. Every journey is enriching and leads to new contacts and friends and to new, broader horizons.