Saturday, December 5, 2009

Manning Hall

The University is made up of a large collection of buildings.
The oldest building on campus is "South East" which is just across the Old Well and is now a residence hall. Most buildings are referred to as Halls. This is a picturs of Manning Hall. One of the many impressive buildings I pass every day and home to the computer lab. Before the break in October I took a Stata course there, a statistical software programme. They do have SPSS on the computers here as we do at the VU, but hardly anybody uses it. So I had to get acquainted with Stata. I must say it is easier than R.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Old Well

The Old Well is the unofficial symbol of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It was the only source for water when the University was established in 1793. Although it has become more like a meeting place and a photo opportunity than a provider of water, you can still lessen your thirst at the Old Well.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Although my accent is probably Americanized by now and the computers at UNC force the s’s in my papers into z’s and automatically delete the ‘u’s from words such as labour and behaviour, I refuse to call the season of the falling leaves anything but Autumn. Apart from my linguistic hostility I must say it truly is the lovely season that Liesbet promised me.
The sun is shining on the colouring leaves, everywhere you see the squirrels bury their food and the deer cross my path when I walk back to my apartment. There is some rain, but hardly comparable to the amounts typical of a Dutch Autumn. The temperatures are very agreeable and are even going up into the seventies. It feels unnatural, though, to see people in t-shirts and shorts, trotting through the autumn leaves on their slippers.


It was Halloween last week in America. It was Heeloween in North Carolina. Tar Heel is the nickname for North Carolina and its University, its students and its University athletes. The nickname is related to the tar that was created from the pine forests in North Carolina. During the Civil War the North Carolina troops are supposed to have threatened Virginians to put the tar on their heels so they ‘would stick better’.1 And a Tar Heel celebrates Heeloween.

Heeloween in Chapel Hill means, besides trick-and-treating and the costumed parties, a massive gathering on Franklinstreet. According to police reports 50.000 people gathered on Chapel Hill’s main street to experience Heeloween. As a visitor I could only wonder about the joy of the robots, cavemen and women, penguins and Lincolns. A rabbit in a head why I was not wearing a costume. I guess it is one of those parties, like the Dutch Sinterklaas, only understood by people who started celebrating it as a child. Although I was touched by the magic when a rabbit in a head wondered about my 'costume'.

1 sources: Wikipedia and the UNC website,

Saturday, September 12, 2009


No, I did not go on a field trip to a rainforest. This is the view just behind my apartment building and it is not a extraordinary spot in Chapel Hill. As soon as you have left campus and are past the two shopping streets this is actually what it looks like here. A lot of green and hilly (although the slope is difficult to make out in the picture). For it to be so green with these temperatures it has to rain regularly of course, and it does. I have not been caught in any heavy showers yet, but that is just luck judging by the abundance of umbrellas in stores that can easily match the stock in stores in Amsterdam.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Swine Flu/ Mexican Flu

With Universities and schools starting after the Summer, the Swine Flu, as they call it here, has plenty of opportunity to spread around in dorms, libraries and class rooms. At UNC several hundreds of student have fallen ill and today I had the first empty seat in my class. He has not been tested positive for H1N1 yet, but the student of another Professor of mine has, so the virus is coming closer. UNC has sofar not created Swine Flu Houses as at Carnegie Mellon University where they isolate all victims in an abondoned dorm to keep the virus from spreading (New York Times, Sept 5). The University here advises us to wash our hands often and when you do catch the virus, to quarantine yourself until the fever has dropped. In the meantime the healthy students are pretty confident they won't catch Swine Flu - they don't keep swines at home.....

Saturday, September 5, 2009


The Comparative Politics course took me to Liesbet and Gary’s house where they teach their courses in their living room. We are with seven students and, if I am correct, only one of us is American. It was the first time I actually read a piece written by Haas himself. I am really looking forward to reading the other classics as well. It is amazing to realise what they imagined the European Community to become when it was only in its diapers and to see, with hindsight, which of their 'predictions' came through and where they went utterly wrong. Next week Moravcsik!

Key Lime Pie

It is been a week since my last report. That is not because nothing has happened, but rather because they keep me very busy here.

Let me first spend a short note on last week’s reception. It was at John Stephen’s and Evelyne Huber’s house as you might remember. At the beginning of the party I was rather intimidated being in the room with so many of the researchers whose work I have read and admired and with bright young students who got into the TAM program. But a few minutes later we got our food from the same table and our drinks from the same bar and we mingled (or sort of, I didn’t dare walking up to John Stephens and Milada Vachudova was busy taking care of her baby). I met the TAM students who will come to the VU next year and their Dutch professor with whom I talked Dutch for the first time in three days. He explained to me that he came to study Dutch and Dutch Culture and Politics because he liked the Dutch approach to politics; practical and not too polarized. I did not ask him when he studied.

I was also introduced to a Carolina specialty: Key Lime Pie. This desert is similar to a Limburgse vlaai with lemon flavour and topped off with whipped cream. I must say it is quite delicious. Nobody could, however, explain to me what kind of keys gave their name to the pie.

The rest of the weekend I spend searching for a supermarket, finishing my research proposal and doing my Math homework for the Statistics course. It had been some time since I had to simplify and fraction equations and although I had never before ‘completed the square’ and the quadratic formula looked only slightly familiar, I decided to drop this course and challenge myself a bit more by entering the Time Series Analysis course. I have had my first class and I will have plenty to do the following weeks!

Friday, August 28, 2009

My first Friday evening in Chapel Hill: a reception

Tonight is a reception at John Stephens’ house. John Stephens is the executive director of the Centre of European Studies and, for those of you who attended Andre Krouwel’s course in Political Sociology, the first Stephens in Rueschemeyer, Stephens and Stephens; the authors of Capitalism and Democracy. He and his wife Evelyne Huber (also a professor here) host the TAM beginning of the year reception. TAM is a master’s programme which requires students to spend one year of their studies at a European University. One of my classmates (the TAM students attend PhD courses) is going to stay in Amsterdam next year and has just had his first Dutch class. Some of what he says sounds indeed a bit Dutch….

By the end of this first week I have more or less sorted out my classes. I will attend Liesbet’s class in European politics as I wrote before. Furthermore I will take a Statistics/ Math course and Gary’s course in Scope and Methods. The other students take four courses (one TAM student even six – but the other students have predicted he will not survive the end of the semester), but since I have VU-obligations as well, three will give me a busy enough schedule.

I am about the finish my Starbucks breakfast and it’s time to do some work.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First day

And here I am, at UNC Chapel Hill North Carolina. It took about twenty hours for me to get here and for my suitcase about 35 hours, but now we really are in the Southern United States. I have been told that I am lucky that it is not so humid and hot anymore, but as a snow- and ice-lover I am waiting for Fall (I have decided that I will need to use this American equivalent of the true English word for this season, since they won't understand me if I use the word Autumn) to set in in about 6 weeks time when temperatures will no longer reach 30 degrees Celsius and humidity will really have dropped.

At the moment I am at the Centre for European Studies where they have set me up with passwords, an ID card and internet access. The Centre is my host here and Erica has kindly showed me around campus this morning. It is a bit different from the VU campus. It has more buildings, more cafes, more trees and parks and more students and staff. The buildings vary enormously in their beauty. Where the CES is only a few years old and very modern, the Political Science building is quite horrendous. It was actually built as a fortress in the seventies to be able to withstand any new student revolt. Some of the rooms don't even have windows.

That is it for the surroundings for now. Tonight I have my first lecture about European Integration, Political Parties and Multilevel Governance. I am really looking forward to getting to know Stein Rokkan a bit better!