n a bicycle you understand a city?s


rhythm. You?re not allowed on the pavement, nor are you fully protected in the street. But, you?re not constrained like cars are to fixed lanes. Instead, you sort of flow through a city. You have a very, very intimate relationship with space amongst all the cars and pedestrians and buildings.? An avid cyclist, Michael Struwig (photo left) loves going for rides through the city. Perched on his bicycle seat, this Stellenbosch University (SU) student has had some unique experiences on the road giving him an intimate understanding of the city landscape. This perception fit in well with the objectives of a think tank of SU students and their peers at KU Leuven, Belgium, where across continents they are discussing ?The future of the city?. Imagining a world decades from now, students are encouraged to think about the spaces they inhabit and what a future world might look like. For Struwig, a Master?s student in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, being part of the think tank provides an opportunity to ?craft a better, smarter future?. ?This is a tremendous opportunity to work with and discuss big ideas with other big-idea people.? The last seven months he and 15 fellow Matie students held discussions with Belgium counterparts interacting through platforms like blogs, Facebook and Skype. They also participated in monthly seminars on the SU campus, where invited speakers covered a range of topics exposing them to different disciplines. In November they will visit Belgium to meet face-toface with the KU Leuven group. ?The entire programme is unique. It has never been done with a partner university,? says Huba Boshoff, coordinator of key international partnerships at the Postgraduate and International Office (PGIO). The think tank is a joint project between the PGIO, Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Institute (FVZS Institute) and Division for Student Affairs. Johan Fourie, senior lecturer from the Department of Economics, will lead the think tank?s academic programme. Boshoff says the think tank brings together students from different cultural contexts and promotes cooperation on a student level. It also brings together students from different disciplines. Representing KU Leuven, Yves Bawin, a Master?s student in Biology, says it?s fascinating that students with all kinds of interests can come together and exchange thoughts and ideas about a future world. Assigned to a group of seven students (four from KU Leuven and three from SU), Bawin is part of the group which held conversations about a sustainable city. ?I am very enthusiastic about this sub-theme because I believe sustainability is one of the greatest challenges for future cities. As a biology student, I am especially wondering about the future impact of people on nature and how to keep our impact low,? says Bawin. ?It is not only essential to be concerned with the welfare of humans in the city of the future. I believe that humans have a responsibility towards all other creatures on earth. Therefore it is important to design the city of the future not only with respect to the inhabitants.? Bawin?s sentiments are shared by fellow KU Leuven student,


Frederick van Gestel, a fourthyear medicine student. ?We should take care of the earth we got and make sure we make some progress while doing so. Cities, being one of the smaller parts this earth is composed of, are essential to achieve these goals. If the smallest parts all act alike ? in a progressive, yet sustainable manner ? the bigger parts will automatically follow the example.? Van Gestel says he looks forward to meet the SU-students in real life instead of on a computer screen. ?It looks like they are a group of great people and every encounter is an added value to the overall experience. I hope I can show them around a bit and that they will have a great time.? One of those he will show around is Rebecca Matsie (photo left), an honours Sociology student from Stellenbosch. She says interacting with the KU Leuven students has been an enriching experience, stretching her thinking beyond her discipline, challenging her to think about the current state of cities. ?The future is inevitable. We cannot change the past and we are in the present, but the future, however far or near it may be, can be planned for. Even though planning for the future city might not affect us, it carries our legacy.? ? Amanda Tongha studied journalism at SU and is currently the communication and liaison officer at the PGIO. Matieland 2015 49

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