Raimund Gregorius is a 57-year-old teacher of ancient languages who leads a rather predictable life. Until one day, by chance, he comes upon a book by a Portuguese doctor. The teacher becomes so fascinated by the book and the life experiences described in it that he leaves for Portugal that very night. In Lisbon, Gregorius searches for signs of life left by the doctor and while doing so he meets people who knew this mysterious man. What is it like to be this doctor? And the most important question to which the teacher wants an answer: how should I lead my own life?
“What I think is really wonderful,” says educationalist Jeannette Hommes “is that this man, getting on in age, gives in to his curiosity, takes matters into his own hands and leaves for Portugal.”
Taking matters into your own hands, that is what students can learn from Night Train to Lisbon. “They are in a phase in their lives where their view of the world is broadening, living by themselves for the first time, embarking on a study. They are discovering themselves and have to make choices. What this book teaches them and what fits in with my philosophy of life, is that as a human being you can give direction to the things you do and to your life. Self-regulation is what this is called. Life does not happen to you, you have a deciding role.”
According to Hommes, this is also an important message in Problem-Based Learning, even though not every student is aware of this. “Setting goals for yourself, making choices; this will not only help you during your time as a student, but also afterwards. I love books that deal with existential questions. Initially, I wanted to choose a book by Simone de Beauvoir, but I have also read almost everything by Sartre and Camus. They all base themselves on the philosophy that everyone is responsible for their own lives.”
That does not sound like a light-hearted literary preference. “Still, I also like Dutch female writers such as Renate Dorresteijn, because of her cynicism. Or Roald Dahl’s sarcasm, which shows that reality is always different to what you think. Very suitable for students of the School of Business and Economics, who often think in stereotypes like Germans are like this and the Dutch are like that, et cetera. That is exactly what you shouldn’t do. Keep an open mind!”