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Testimony Frank Willaert

From January 15 to May 15, 2016, I occupied the Rubens Chair at the University of California - Berkeley. With high hopes albeit rather ignorant, I had started off on the curvy trail of the visa application, until Cathie Jones, the unsurpassed department manager (never say "secretary" I would soon learn) from the German, Spanish And Portuguese departments, stepped in and steadily led me through all of the red tape.

With Jeroen Dewulf, the dynamic and highly likeable professor of Dutch studies, I agreed that I would teach an undergraduate course on women's mysticism in the Low Countries. Jeroen warned me that I would teach a heterogeneous group and that was certainly an understatement. Students with very diverse backgrounds had enrolled, from a student who still had to follow her first literature lecture to a doctoral student in Scandinavian literature and linguistics with a keen interest in the subject. Some didactic leniency was required, but I have to say that in my career, I have rarely taught a more eager and grateful audience.

The college I taught in English, but every Friday afternoon, together with my wife Greta, I went to the ritual ‘coffee breaks’, where students, under the guidance of professor Esmee van der Hoeven, could practice their Dutch. Those coffee breaks soon led to friendly contacts, invitations, a garden party organized by Greta and a lot of beautiful memories.

Snapshot of the weekly coffee breaks. 3rd on the left is Jeroen Dewulf, 4th on the right is professor Esmee van der Hoeven