Straight outta Halle!

Pablo Ampuero-Ruiz
3 min readOct 3, 2017

After two and a half weeks in this small town, the first day of my PhD finally arrived. From today on, all sort of intellectual challenges will rule the day. After years of preparation, unending hours of thinking, and endless applications, the moment has come, and I could not be more excited.

Due to my anxiety, I had a terrible night. It almost felt like the evening before a great match. This was my qualification to the great leagues. I got up early enough to wake my own alarm. The day was greyish, nothing rare in this town. After my morning routine, I sat down to read my research project. I felt I would talk a lot about it during the day, so I felt the need to refresh it in my mind.

10 AM. Time to get ready. “I will have to take notes, sign papers, oh! and then buy some groceries for the week”. After spinning around the flat, feeling the lapse of every second, I get at the door. It’s warm and bright outside, it is the morning after a very rainy night. I decided to wear a light cardigan and head out.

I took the long way. I went all the way down to Reileck, where there is the closest ATM from my place. After that, it was a 10-minutes stroll till the Institute. The houses, evidence of the former glory of this medieval town, protected by the abundant trees that give the city its particular wild and natural spirit. The usual quietness of the roads is not helping. I can hear my own heartbeats. I start repeating the summary of my project to keep calm.

I made it. 10 minutes to 11 o’clock, I’m here. A little crowd has been already summoned at the gathering point. There I meet my classmates: 4 historians, 4 archaeologists, and with me, 3 anthropologists. One of us will arrive later this month. All of them with interesting stories to tell. Brilliant people! With unique research interests that are pushing the boundaries of knowledge.

We get into the small seminar room where we meet Dr Chris Hann, the Institute’s director, and Dr Cristoph Bruman, Head of Research. They give us a warm welcome, and then give space to Sascha, our coordinator and colleague. After a long presentation and Q&A, we take the tour. The building does not seem so big from the inside, but once inside it is a real labyrinth.

All staff has their own offices, even us. I share mine with an anthropologist colleague, Milana. She comes from Austria, although is Serbian by birth. She is very nice and helpful. I think we will get along very well.

The library is a gem. An incredibly rich collection of specialised books right at my fingertips. Best of all… accessible 24/7! I think I will give good use to this privilege.

There is a computer room, where most computers have SPSS installed. Absolutely incredible! And on that lane, there is the supply room, where one can get from pencils to book-binding, calendars to folders, and all in between. All in all, we just have to read, and think, and discuss. Not to worry about anything else.

The day was over. I took the keys to my office and headed out. It was raining. The team met again in the evening for drinks. It was incredible: just the first day and we all get along. Talking about films, culture, borders, football, food, beers… We could have kept going, but the bar closed. After all, it was a Monday night in Halle, a theatre without an audience.

Originally published at on October 3, 2017.



Pablo Ampuero-Ruiz

Photographer and Social Anthropologist, working at the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) of the University of Amsterdam.