Discovering Ibiza

October 20th, 2009 - 1:43 pm Posted in ibiza, uib | Comments (0)

Parents breathe a sigh of relief in the autumn when the kids head back to school. Education is not just for youngsters, though. Ibiza offers courses for adults as well.

The Universitat de les Illes Balears, which is based in Palma de Mallorca, has branches in Ibiza and Menorca. Students across the islands study undergraduate and post-graduate courses covering a vast range of academic and practical disciplines, from Humanities and Social Sciences to Health Sciences and Engineering.

None of which I knew until I happened across a news item about a UIB course called Camins d’Utopia: Cultura I Contracultura a Eivissa (Ways of Utopia – Culture and Counterculture in Ibiza). Curiosity piqued, I read on. It was the first I’d heard of there being a University outpost in Ibiza, and certainly my first inkling that there were such potentially intriguing courses on offer. Dr Patricia Soley-Beltran, the coordinator, very kindly invited me to join her students. Fittingly, my inaugural encounter with Balearic higher education took me past a crew of labourers repaving the access to the modest building on Carrer des Bes which houses the Ibiza branch of the UIB. Ibiza is literally and figuratively always under construction.

It is the first time I’ve set foot in a university lecture hall in years. Reassuringly, it has all the familiar characteristics: a notice board covered with hand-written signs about rooms to rent and bikes for sale, a trio of vending machines surrounded by buzzing groups of students, a wire rack full of leaflets promoting various courses and services, the faint persistent scent of machine coffee and cigarette smoke. The first-floor lecture room has the requisite uncomfortable wooden seats and old-fashioned green chalk board. Dr Patricia Soley-Beltran works at the University of Barcelona but – like countless others before her – came to Ibiza for a visit and was instantly entranced. “I had to find a way to stay here,” she says with a grin, “so I decided to run this course.”

Despite a fear of flying which makes her commute from Barcelona a trial-by-transport, Dr Soley admits she finds Ibiza irresistible. “Is it Utopia?” she muses, “I don’t know, but I wanted to find out.” To that end she assembled a diverse group of academics including Brazil-based Belgian sociologist Frederic Vandenberghe, TV3 music journalist Jordi Turtos and Irish-American “intellectual and activist” Dr Jim Skelly to come and lend their perspectives on different aspects of Ibiza’s history and lifestyle.

Perched on one of fold-down chairs I get my first surprise. Camins d’Utopia was advertised as being in Catalan, Castellano and English. Not, it seems, simultaneously. My hopes for translation are dashed as the first two lectures – ‘The First Voyages to Ibiza’ and ‘From Pre-Tourist to Tourist Society (1930s to Present)’ delivered by, respectively, Dr Francesca Tugores and Maurici Cuesta i Labernia – whisk by in fluid Catalan. It is comprehensible but, if I were taking the course for credit it would be wise to ask for the lecture notes in translation.

The repeated themes of the course come through clearly in any language (subsequent lectures are in English and Castellano) – Ibiza as land of imagination, the idealisation of the island, the conflicts between Ibicenco reality and the fantasies of visitors ranging from the dope-smoking peluts (hippies) of the 60s to the acid house invaders. Cramming 20 hours into five days fosters a sense of camaraderie, and makes for lively discussions as the week goes on. Not surprisingly, one person’s idea of Utopia is another’s idea of the Inferno, meaning each lecture raises more questions than it does answers, which is what education should do. The response, from both students and visiting lecturers, reflected this. “I was very impressed with Ibiza,” said Vandenberghe, “I wish I could send you a couple of Ph.D. students for doing participant observation on the island.”

UIB – Eivissa I Formentera, C/ Bes 9, 07800 Eivissa
Web: www.uib.es/ca/
Email: seu.eivissa @ uib.es
Tel: 971 39 81 49
Dr Patricia Soley-Beltran www.patriciasoley.com

By Cila Warncke

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