University of Bern Internationals


My international journey by Beate Fricke

Beate Fricke in Ethiopia
Professor Fricke, an expert in European medieval art history, here on field research in Ethiopia (Image: Finnbar Barry Flood)

"I studied first in Karlsruhe and then Trier in Germany. I did not spend much time in the latter but mostly in Rome, Italy. There, I became acquainted with a lot of scholars on sabbatical. It was a really international atmosphere, very inspiring, where scholars with different backgrounds met each other and talked about their research and exchanged ideas that really mattered to me.

Research in Europe is profoundly international. That is its strength and it should not limit itself to the actual territory of Europe. It should go out in the world and invite the world to Europe. It can open up minds, visions and ideas for the future and common paths and it should not stop at any kind of borders, no matter whether they are political, historical or practical.

From Rome, I joined the University of Zurich with its international culture and where I got acquainted with a new academic system. While in Rome, I had met American scholars, who had encouraged me to also apply for positions in the United States. When my position in Zurich was about to end, I applied to the Swiss National Science Foundation for a professorship and to University California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). I was successful in gaining both.

I then moved to Berkeley for six years for a very inspiring and fascinating time. I got to know my third academic system. It was initially a challenge language-wise as my English was not very good at that point. I had thought that I was OK as teacher until I got to Berkeley but then I realised that I had no idea what good teaching meant. I went on to learn a lot about how to teach young people well and to try to reach all of them, not just the best or the weakest.“

Me and my work

Beate Fricke is leading a new research project to challenge notions of European art history by bringing together medieval art historians from across the globe.