Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog

This piece was originally published on the British Council Pakistan website. Republished with their kind permission.

Maria Khan (photo by the British Council Germany)

Maria Khan (photo by the British Council Germany)

27 year-old Maria Khan is this year’s winner of the IELTS Award, the first of its kind in Germany.
Maria, originally from Pakistan, has just finished her Bachelor’s course (her second!) at Bard College Berlin. Her application was chosen out of more than a hundred we received.
British Council | IELTS will cover £10,000 of her tuition fees at Newnham College at the University of Cambridge in the UK. We wanted to learn more about her, so we have met up with Maria to talk about her impressive application and plans for the future but also to learn more about her passions outside of university.

FIRST OF ALL, HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE IELTS AWARD? WHO OR WHAT DREW YOUR ATTENTION TO IT?

Maria: I found about the award through the IELTS website. I was registering for the IELTS exam, I read about the award and thought I could apply for it.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, HOW YOU ENDED UP IN GERMANY AND WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING HERE. WE HAVE HEARD A CERTAIN PAKISTANI POET PLAYED A ROLE IN YOUR DECISION AS WELL. WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL US MORE ABOUT HIM?

Maria: In 2010, I graduated from Kinnaird College for Women Lahore. After completing my BSc Economics I had decided to pursue public policy. However, I always wanted to study in Germany since one of the leading Pakistani poets and philosophers, Muhammad Iqbal, received his education at Heidelberg University, Germany. Iqbal also received part of his education at Cambridge, where he was the student of neo-Hegelians i.e. John McTaggart and James Ward. Iqbal’s poetry and philosophy had been an integral part of my upbringing and not only had Iqbal received his education in Germany, he was very much influenced by Nietzsche’s concept of Will. While looking for schools in Europe I came across a very small residential liberal arts university called European College of Liberal Arts, Berlin, now called Bard College Berlin. Initially I came for a one year program to study literature and philosophy before I began graduate school, but I realized that I wanted to invest more time in the humanities; reading, writing and thinking about works of the Western canon and learn languages i.e. German and French.

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The Class of 2015

Bard College Berlin’s Class of 2015

As I write these lines, the urban landscape of Berlin slowly gives way to a haze of green as the ICE train passes along a seemingly endless stream of fields, meadows, and forests on its way to Austria. It’s been a short homecoming for me this time. Returning from Paris, where I lived during my third year, I stayed only a few days to witness the graduation ceremony at Bard College Berlin. In a few hours there will be another homecoming for me, when I arrive in Innsbruck, where a part of my family now lives, and two weeks on there will be yet another one in Vienna, where another part of my family lives and where I grew up. Another two weeks and I will be back in Berlin again.

My international peers, my teachers, and the staff at Bard College Berlin hail from some forty different corners of the world. School breaks give time to travel, to go home, or to explore the country and continent. If, as a student, you spend your third year abroad, you will see every other student generation for one year only. After four years we all say farewell, perhaps for good, even though many of us return to the place at some point, or stay in Berlin for a while. Hellos and farewells, departures and arrivals are really built into the very core of BCB life. And if you do something a lot, chances are you will get good at it. Farewells are no exception. Perhaps the most beautiful demonstration was Paris Helene Furst’s student graduation speech.

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Pandora

John Greene met Lily Grisham in college. June 22nd was by no means a significant day to 5.67 billion people on the planet Earth (it was warm and windy in London, as well as New York, cloudy in Paris and Kathmandu), but for the rest of the earthly population the date came to mark something: a thing, maybe small, that had happened within the span of time which took the planet to rotate on its axis. On June 22nd John Greene, a student of astrophysics, finally asked Lily Grisham, a student of Classics, out. Ever since the Halloween party during junior year he had meant to: he was dressed like our planet, wrapped in plastic to protest pollution (college was time for indignation), she had laughed––clad in a ridiculous “Hercules” outfit, which she bough off some walking gym commercial. By the end of the night their “origins story” had changed: they were now Atlas and the world; Lily would occasionally hug John to prove the point––she was holding the world, just not the way people liked to imagine it. “It isn’t crushing necessity, but love, perhaps…” That was Lily and John’s thing, re-imagining the universe and its origins. The Ancient Greeks and modern physicists are the most imaginative story-tellers, really, they said, as a matter of fact, as if a matter of explanation to what kept them together, “so different.” Some years after they had a daughter, Pandora. The name meant in Greek “all gifts”…

“I read mom’s book, dad… Pandora was a lady that had a box filled with all kinds of nasty diseases and only hope left at the bottom. Does that mean that hope is a disease? Why does my name mean “all nasty gifts”?”

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An artist’s approximation of Jesus’ diary

An artist’s approximation of Jesus’ diary

Recently, the diary of Jesus Christ was found by a friend of mine. In the following I try my best to translate it from the various languages it was written in.

May 20, 30 AD

Oh dear. They’ve thrown me in a cave. They thought I had died, so they put me in this dreaded, wet, dark place. This isn’t suitable for a corpse— let alone a fully living person! I think I’ve been in here for maybe two days, but without being able to see the sky—who knows! I don’t want to go back out there. Half of them expect me to fix all their problems and the other half want to kill me. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. How is one supposed to operate under such circumstances? This is just dreadful. Maybe I should stay in this cave forever.

July 13, 34 AD

Well it happened again. They thought I was dead. What part of immortal is so hard to understand?! This time they nailed me to a cross, showing me off to the whole world. What really irked me was the shoddy craftsmanship. Unevenly cut, barely sanded, splinters everywhere (I’m still pulling them out). Just an undignified way to go. People came by in droves: some to curse me, some to pray, most to cry. I tried to tell them I wasn’t dead, but once people have made up their minds about something, they don’t listen to anything to the contrary. In the middle of the night when no one was around, I took the nails out and left. Just left. I’m done, I can’t do this anymore.

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To do list

Credit: Adam Diaz (Wikipedia)

To know more about this project, please check out the first collaborative list, 20 Reasons to Run Away and Never Come Back, found here.

20 Reasons to Tell Them

  1. Because I need to practice my speaking skills
  2. Because my distress has made me feel less like a human and more like a slug
  3. Because I want her to know
  4. Because his voice is filled with silver, his body filled with anniversaries
  5. Because I never want to forget
  6. Because I need to stop pretending that I will live forever
  7. Because they might not know that you’re totally into building model trains and become your friend
  8. Because I’ve always had enough reasons and that’s reason enough
  9. Because we were so unfounded in the dark
  10. Because why waste the money if I don’t really want to be here?
  11. Because I need to maintain my own idea of me among so many ideas of me
  12. Because my roommates might stop stealing my milk
  13. Because hurting your friend’s feelings for a short amount of time is better than letting her out of the house looking like that
  14. Because one day you might not have the words
  15. Because they might try to understand your depression better so they can know how to help you
  16. Because it makes me tear up, which feels good
  17. Because they might be into BDSM as well
  18. Because this could remind me that my voice is worthy of being heard
  19. Because they might agree and everyone likes agreeing on things
  20. I’ve got no reason at all. I’m completely unreasonable
Poster for the 2015 conference of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Paris

Poster for the 2015 conference of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Paris

A spectre is haunting economics – or maybe several even. Which ones exactly––the field is not quite agreed on, but it seems to have reached the conclusion that, really, it can’t go on like this. New approaches are called for, new ideas are sought after. To this end, the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), founded and funded primarily by star investor, philanthropist, and Karl Popper student George Soros, gathered an impressive array of leading economists for a four-day conference with the title “Liberté, Egalité, Fragilité” to debate the future of the field in Paris in early April. Present were, among others, the two Nobel Prize laureates Joseph Stiglitz and James Heckman, rising star Thomas Piketty, neo-classicists (roughly, “right-wing economists”) like Hans-Werner Sinn, erratic Marxists like the Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis, and, last but not least, Bard College Berlin’s own Dirk Ehnts, all joined by a range of scholars from outside the field, like neuroscientist Antonio Damasio or Goethe biographer Nicholas Boyle.

Curious to see where the discipline that defines so much of public life is heading today, I went to catch some of the talks. The concerns raised were sometimes timeless–how should economists think about human beings?–and sometimes very timely, for example in discussions of inequality or the current crisis in Greece. Below is a selection of panels to give you a glimpse of some of the problems that economists think about these days when they turn to the very edge – or core, depending on how you see it – of their discipline.

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The cover of Aurelia's recently published book of poems

The cover of Aurelia’s recently published book of poems in Romanian

Subtly overwhelmed by the realization of my graduation, I, like my graduating class fellows, have embarked upon the journey of exploring the world of “what if.” Amidst the swirl of mixed emotions signalling the end of another fruitful academic year at Bard College Berlin, I found myself caught within an entanglement which marks a fixed and certain end, and at the same time announces an exciting, but yet unknown beginning. Potential anchors in this unrelenting “self-search” vary from one graduate to another, but beyond these differences, I harbor a wish to discover the promising land of “what if” by finding the trajectory of those who have already been in my situation, but have followed their own inspiring path. I found out about the “road taken” by an alumna of our university, Aurelia Cojocaru, currently a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and author, publishing under the pen name Aura Maru. The following interview is an interesting glimpse into the marked stations that Aurelia passed on her path.      

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The view of Budapest from Gellert Hill.

The view of Budapest from Gellert Hill.

“I think, I think when it’s all over it just comes back in flashes, you know.  It’s like a kaleidoscope of memories, it just all comes back…It’s not really anything he said or anything he did.  It was…the feeling that came along with it.  And…the crazy thing is I don’t know if I’m ever gonna feel that way again.  But I don’t know if I should…”

Taylor Swift understands me, on a level that is beyond my love life.  In the opening of her 2012 hit song, I Knew You Were Trouble, she describes the suffering wrought by a deceptively charming ex.  Hair chopped, surrounded by dessert, trash bags, and flyaway toilet paper, she looks back on the days when life was too good. I see her experience as a dramatic version of my dreamy spring break trip to Budapest.  With warm weather, vast 38°C outdoor pools, island parks, Costa Coffee Coolers, and sweet cinnamon-scented air, it was as if life could not get any better. It was like real-world affordable Disneyland.  Fueled by magic, by “synchronicity”. 

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