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Balkan treats in the Olympic Village

As their Summer School nears its end, six students from Serbia and Bulgaria are preparing dinner for the rest of the - very international - class. On the menu are some scrumptious Balkan treats: cold cucumber soup, moussaka and Bulgarian pancakes.

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Brightly painted bungalows, interspersed with benches and trestle tables - and lots of bicycles. We’re in Munich’s former Olympic Village and half-a-dozen students are milling about in the tiny kitchen of one of the small bungalows. Ana, Mina, Igor, Gabriela, Tihomir and Aneliya have teamed up to prepare a tasty meal for their fellow students at the Amgen Scholars’ Summer School. All six come from Serbia or Bulgaria, so it’s no surprise that today’s menu is made up of dishes from the Balkans: Tarator – a cucumber soup, served cold, moussaka and palachinki – Bulgarian pancakes.

Like their guests, the six are in Munich for the annual Summer School which is part of the Amgen Scholars Program. Every year, this Program gives 20 young people who are studying at various European universities the opportunity to become actively involved in an ongoing research project – in biology, biochemistry, neurobiology, computational neuroscience or physiology. For a period of nine weeks, the participants spend most of their time in the laboratory. But none of them seems to miss the pleasures of the long summer vacation. “Even when I’m away from home, I enjoy thinking about my research,” says Igor, who is studying Pharmacology in Serbia. His Summer School project is based at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry, where he is working with members of Professor Christoph Turck’s group on the identification of protein biomarkers. His fellow-students at the Summer School are also collaborating with research teams led by established investigators. “It is an experience that provides a boost for their self-confidence,” says the Program’s Coordinator Raluca Deac: “They have only two topics of conversation: Half the time they talk about their research, the other half is devoted to chatting about food.”

“Today’s menu consists of very typical dishes, the sort that we eat all summer at home,” says Aneliya. She is doing a project on aspects of neurodegeneration at the Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research. But right now, together with the rest, she is dicing the cucumbers and garlic, which will be combined with yoghurt, oil and dill to yield a refreshingly cold cucumber soup. For the main dish, the team has baked a huge amount of moussaka, and teamwork is also the order of the day when it comes to getting the palachinki ready: Igor mixes the batter, Mina adds the right amount of oil to the pan and Aneliya portions out the batter and cooks the Bulgarian palachinki until they are golden brown.

Later on, sitting around a table between the bungalows, they talk about what they liked most about their stay in Germany: the openness of the students, the city of Munich itself and the opportunities for research at LMU. Some are already considering coming back to study full-time. “I’m looking for the right Master’s program at LMU,” says Tihomir. “Maybe, I’ll be back before long.”

If you are an international student at LMU and you enjoy cooking, you too can be one of our Cooks on Campus. Just drop us a line (presse@lmu.de), and we will reimburse the cost of your menu (up to a maximum of 100 euros).

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