Wallace Chuma on his stay at three Mundus partner universities

Spending time as guest scholar at three top European universities was a privilege that marked the start of my 2022 sabbatical.

By/ Wallace Chuma, University of Cape Town

Spending time as guest scholar at three top European universities was a privilege that marked the start of my 2022 sabbatical. The visit lasted nearly two months, and presented both fun and challenges, albeit mostly the former. Flying from a sweltering late February Cape Town and landing in a freezing (well, kind of) Aarhus 24 hours later was brutal. But Aarhus was also warm in many other aspects. My Airbnb host, Lars, lent me a bike so I could cycle to the Danish School of Media and Journalism (DMJX), where I was to spent two weeks as visiting guest.

The DMJX staff and students were the source of much warmth. The guest lectures were always followed by great conversations. And coffee. I also attended the ‘normal’ classes given by colleagues. The DMJX is housed in a new steel building which is an architectural wander. For me, spending time in this environment was an opportunity to experience media and journalism teaching (and learning) in an environment different from mine. There are differences, but remarkable similarities too. Aarhus is a cycling city. So I joined the hordes of cyclists heading South-east every morning on way to work, and back on later hours. I hadn’t cycled in years. It is not common to cycle to work in Cape Town. It is not safe either. So, when I started cycling in Aarhus, it was almost like learning again. And I fell off my bike. Not once. Not even twice. And picked myself up, dusted and proceeded. Nobody cared. I often pithed up at the office late and sweaty, and headed straight to the fancy new coffee-machine.

From Aarhus, I spent a month as a guest of the Department of Media and Communication at the LMU University in Munich, Germany. Here my focus was to work on my research, which is completing a monograph on political communication in Africa. Because the institute was on semester-break, guest lectures were not possible. LMU was the best space to be for sustained writing. I had access to a large workspace (an office even), library resources, and held coffee meetings with several colleagues. I achieved substantial writing milestones during my stay in Germany.

My last port of call was the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Amsterdam. My stay here was just a week, and I delivered guest lectures on journalism and politics in Africa, as well as the appropriation of AI tools in African newsrooms. The lectures, discussions and meetings were interesting and thought-provoking. Amsterdam is a truly beautiful city, and the university was a great experience. And it was spring time. On 15th April, I had to pack my bags and head back to South Africa, which was on the onset of a mild winter.

The Mundus support enabled me to travel and spend time at three of Europe’s top institutions for journalism and media studies. It was a truly remarkable learning, teaching and research experience for me.