When arriving for the first time at passport control in the Stuttgart airport, I confess it was music to my ears to hear a native speaker know instinctively how to pronounce my conspicuously German surname, Lindenlaub. En route to Tübingen to begin a Fall semester research stay at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, this amusing initial encounter set my adventure off to a great start – my name evoking both a knowing smile and a question asking how strangers usually manage with it, rather than inspiring confusion and awkward mispronunciation along the lines of Lindenbaum, Linderbaub, or worse. In response to the man’s question, I answered that he’d probably rather not know.
I had always considered it a treasured little connection to my field of biblical studies that my own family’s roots were in the same land where the discipline had been shaped by institutions like Tübingen’s. Since first reading of the imposing stature of Tübingen scholarship, I’d long dreamed of one day visiting this legendary stronghold of New Testament studies. The famous university lingered in my mind ever after and claimed one of the coveted spots on my list of scholarly pilgrimages to make some day. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled later to hear from my University of Edinburgh supervisor, Prof. Helen Bond, about New College’s exchange programme offering a research stay at the very place. Hearing her speak so fondly of her own time there, I was eager to pursue this opportunity during the course of my PhD. And thus began my journey to Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen.
Through the University of Edinburgh, I applied for the Erasmus exchange programme, and I must compliment both my home and host institutions for their helpful staff and facilitation of all the necessary arrangements. I was so excited to arrive in my new home for four months at the beginning of September and eagerly took in all the lovely sights. Perhaps most striking upon arrival were the iconic, colourful buildings lining the Neckar River, with the old town sprawling behind. In a town replete with charming architecture, the eye-catching hilltop castle and 15th century church made a striking summit for layers of quaint building facades painted orange, blue, and yellow. Tübingen’s old town had an abundance of history to explore (including the home of poet Hölderlin and sites famously visited by Goethe), complete with picturesque squares and narrow alleys of steep stairs cutting between the hilly streets – a feature which happily reminded me of Edinburgh’s similar old town closes.
Life in Tübingen was as pleasant as it was beautiful, and the residents were invariably kind and affable. Tübingen certainly had the unmistakable feel of a university town, marked by its many study-friendly cafes and much appreciated student discounts, yet it managed not to be swallowed up in this character. Nature featured prominently, with beautiful parks ideally suited for quiet, pondering walks to break up long writing sessions. The town’s vibrant cultural life included festivals spotlighting everything from Italian and French culinary specialities to local chocolatiers, and of course a Christmas market. Musical events were abundant as well – one of the most memorable moments of my stay was attending a brilliant performance of J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. I was also glad to be surrounded in this environment by native German speakers and to capitalise on the fantastic opportunity to strengthen my language skills with such a fully immersive experience.
I can’t speak highly enough of my reception by the university’s Institut für antikes Judentum und hellenistische Religionsgeschichte. The institute’s chair, Prof. Dr. Michael Tilly, generously offered his time as a supervisor during my stay and truly went above and beyond in this role. His warm welcome made me feel right at home, and I so appreciated that he made himself available to discuss my questions and ideas. I’m deeply grateful for his insightful suggestions of sources to consult and fresh angles from which to approach my project. My time in Tübingen was made much the richer by his hospitality. It was such a treat to be a guest of the institute, and I greatly enjoyed meeting and chatting with other scholars there and utilising the workspace kindly provided for me in their offices. My work in this context was further supported by superb library facilities centrally located and amply stocked with a broad selection of biblical studies scholarship.
The university’s excellent New Testament Colloquium served as the perfect forum for regularly engaging with students and faculty. Presenters gave intriguing and informative papers, with topics ranging from apostolic authority and pseudepigraphy to rewriting of Homer in Sirach. Prof. Dr. Tilly and Dr. Beth Langstaff were congenial directors of this seminar and were gracious enough to ask me to present as well. Sharing my own research in this context was a wonderful opportunity, as the environment was a friendly but rigorous setting where questions were incisive and discussions lively. My work benefitted tremendously from this interaction, and I sincerely appreciated the interested, constructive responses to my paper.
Ultimately, I found my stay in Tübingen a stimulating yet peaceful place to delve into my work and relish productive time spent reading and writing with fresh eyes. Perhaps most importantly, however, integrating with a university department beyond my own afforded an invaluable chance to make new connections with other scholars and sharpen my ideas by engaging with their perspectives. I am exceedingly grateful to all who have contributed to the development of my research and look forward to maintaining the contacts I’ve made through the course of my continued studies. I can certainly attest that a research stay in Tübingen is a profitable addition to the PhD programme that I would highly recommend to fellow students looking for an avenue by which to broaden their academic experience in an enriching environment. I will always treasure the time I spent there and the warm hospitality of my host supervisor and his research institute – I most definitely hope to find myself in Tübingen again in the future!