Interview with RWTH Economics Pro-Vice-Chancellor Prof. Günther Schuh I was at home here right away

Aachen is an ideal size of city – one where you really want to feel at home.

Prof. Schuh

  • Prof. Dr. Günther Schuh, born in Cologne
  • Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Business & Industrial Studies, at RWTH Aachen University
  • Director of WZL and Fraunhofer IPT

In very large cities one remains relatively anonymous and remote – at least as far as one’s contribution to society and one’s fellow man is concerned – and career-wise too, or so it is for a university lecturer at any rate.

Being a relatively large university in a medium-sized city gives us a certain image, and also a certain weight. When you make something good happen in the city, for the city, it gets noticed and that’s very rewarding.

People who want to get involved are really very welcome in the various groupings and identities, so much so that you feel well and truly challenged to consider: what can I contribute, where can I get some synergy going between my professional work and my social involvement?

In addition, Aachen’s offering of leisure pursuits is very extensive, and the amount of time that can get wasted in return for some big-city flair is very much scaled back here. Just compare it for a moment with our colleagues in Munich – there’s no one there that doesn’t spend at least half an hour – if not a whole hour – travelling to work in the morning. Munich Technical University is in Garching, 22 miles outside the city, and actually has almost nothing to do with Munich.

Here, though, we’re an integral part of the city in every respect – and indeed for that very reason, as a scientist or academic, you’re accepted as part of the furnishings with, well, affection. You’re immediately in contact with opinion makers and interesting characters from a variety of disciplines. On top of this comes what we call the Rhinelander’s cheery attitude to life which makes everything uncomplicated. That’s how I perceive it anyway.

That sort of thing’s in easy walking distance

I really enjoy the leisure activities on offer here, all the stuff you can get up to in and around Aachen. I mean not just amateur flying at Merzbrück, but motor cycle trips to the Eifel Hills or the Parkstad over the border in Limburg too.

Just take the Aachen City Woods, for example, or the times we’ve had with our children ice-skating on the pond near the forest stadium – fantastic. The lake was full of people skating and playing ice-hockey, etc. My wife and I with our little children – it was a scene straight from a picture-book. And that’s the sort of thing Aachen offers you within easy reach, on foot.

My Aachen highlights

  • Merzbrück Airfield
  • Carolus-Thermen Baths
  • The Old Quarter
  • The Aachen City Woods

To get some city-centre feeling takes seven minutes from where I live. Nine minutes takes me to the university, and full leisure surroundings are a mere five minutes away.
It may seem like a shameless plug, but if my children – who really love a walk through the city centre – have their way, the first port of call is Mayer’s bookshop, a.k.a. “Mayersche Buchhandlung” where my four-year-old son makes a bee-line for the roundabout and then trundles off with my seven-year-old daughter to the children’s section. We spend between one and two hours there.

My wife and I are big fans of the Carolus-Thermen baths – another favourite place we go to fairly often.

We’re always meeting people

When the two of you work and have small children, you’ve got to have time when you can talk – just the two of you. We head for the city centre – perhaps not every Friday, but almost. We go to the theatre, the cinema, a restaurant, the Carolus-Thermen, etc. The nice thing about this is that now we nearly always bump into someone we know. That’s wonderful. Maybe you get the same thing in Munich, once you’ve got your “in” places, but in Aachen it comes with a real “family” feeling. My wife is from Aachen originally, and because I loved St Gallen so much – the place we used to live – she was concerned that maybe I wouldn’t feel quite as at home here, but it’s been really easy for me to accept Aachen as my home town with a sense of belonging one can also transmit to others. I think we’ve got a lot to offer in that regard.

My tips for international scientists:

  • Take an open approach to contacts in the world of politics and society
  • Exploit the fact that you can walk everywhere – go exploring!
  • Get involved in city life and cultural activities on offer
  • Make use of all the leisure options available

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