06. December 2021

Studying in Bonn Without Setting Foot There Pierre-Carl Link used the coronavirus pandemic as a chance to study in Bonn. Now he is a professor in Zurich

Pierre-Carl Link used the coronavirus pandemic as a chance to take a digital master’s degree program in Bonn. Now he is a professor of special needs teacher education in Zurich

32-year-old Pierre-Carl Link can look back on a life full of twists and turns. Since August, he has been a professor of education at the University of Teacher Education in Special Needs in Zurich, specializing in social and emotional development disorders. Prior to that, he lived in a monastery for three years, worked at various universities and is also studying theology in Bonn. How does that all fit together?

Pierre-Carl Link
Pierre-Carl Link © Fabian Eggert, Berlin
Download all images in original size The impression in connection with the service is free, while the image specified author is mentioned.

Mr. Link, you’re now a professor in Zurich. Why are you studying in Bonn?

I’ve been studying Old Catholic theology and ecumenical theology with a supplementary qualification in moral psychology in Bonn since the 2020/21 winter semester. This master’s should be my last one. It’s left over from the time before I took up my professorship. I did want to work as a priest in my Old Catholic parish in Regensburg later in life and would have liked to have stayed at the university there at the same time, where I helped to design a teacher education program on pedagogy for behavioral disorders, including inclusive pedagogy.

Theology plays an important part in your life. You almost chose to enter the monastery as “Brother Damian.” What changed your mind?

Developments in the Augustinians’ Bavarian-German province left me with fewer and fewer opportunities for personal growth in my academic career. I no longer felt emotionally at home there. It was during this time that I also began studying surreptitiously in Bonn. When it became clear to me that I wouldn’t be allowed to take up a professorship in Zurich as Brother Damian, I decided to find an alternative.

So the coronavirus opened a door for you?

Yes. The availability of online learning meant I could fulfill my long-held desire to hone my knowledge of theology with Prof. Krebs and moral psychology with Prof. Sautermeister, both of whom are in Bonn. It was the intimate atmosphere of the small master’s degree program in particular that made it a good opportunity to keep in touch with students and lecturers on a social level, despite the pandemic, and even make new friends.

Studying in Bonn without getting to know the place—what does that feel like?

Bonn isn’t as familiar to me as the other places I’ve studied in, as I’ve only really been able to explore it digitally. I do get the feeling that something’s missing when I hear the other students talk about the city and the seminars being held there in person. I’m looking forward to getting to know the city all over again after the pandemic and, in particular, keeping in fraternal contact with the Department of Old Catholic Studies.

What is it about special needs teacher education and theology that you find fascinating? 

Special needs teacher education has its roots in multi-professional learning and the interdisciplinarity of medicine and theology. Ethical and social questions are especially important, and you’ve also got the shadow of National Socialism hanging over these disciplines.

Both special needs teacher education and Christian theology take the vulnerable people who are on the fringes, such as disabled people, those with mental illness, criminals, and put them at the center of society. The fact that both—depending on the concept and the historical and cultural facets—come down more on one or the other side of the conflict between integrating and ostracizing those vulnerable people. Jesus’ question to blind Bartimäus, “What do you want me to do for you?,” is still relevant and is one that is posed in both special needs teacher education and theology.

You applied for a professorship without having completed your doctorate. Is there anything you can say to help other students?

My advice to students who can see themselves embarking on an academic career would be this: get your doctorate done first. And: sometimes you need to grab things by the scruff of the neck and just take the plunge. I hope everyone has the courage to do so.

Is Switzerland now becoming a fixed point of reference for you and your partner?

Yes, definitely. It was a leap into the unknown for both of us. We already feel really at home in Switzerland and hope to put down roots here, professionally speaking. Coming from Baden-Württemberg, I’ve got a certain affinity with Switzerland, and the Swiss can get along well with a professor from southern Germany. I was getting increasingly tired out by my many posts in academia and the Church, and they made me long for permanence and stability—which I’m now finding in work and love. I’d be delighted to have the opportunity to continue my spiritual journey with the Old Catholics in Zurich on a voluntary basis—but that’s still up in the air.

We wish you every continued success along the way!

Wird geladen