Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
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Falling Man by Richard Drew

I think I must have been holding some brightly colored toy. I remember the flash of color falling from my hands to the ground as my mother’s bloodcurdling scream reached my ears. I ran into the house to see what had happened. My aunt, uncles, grandmother and mother stood crowding around the TV screen. They had closed faces of general disbelief while my mother stood crying hysterically in the middle. I remember a hand coming to cover a mouth, eyes bulging, a limp cigarette dropping ashes on the living room floor. I knew something big, bigger than us, was happening from they way they could not hear me as I shouted “what’s wrong?” from the fact that they didn’t feel me yanking at their sleeves. So I tried to understand what the television was showing us, but it was a blur of strange sounds and incomprehensible images. Flames and something familiar, something I had seen on countless postcards my whole life. The live stream from CNN was dubbed by an Italian newscaster. The volumes of their voices were equal, like two people shouting over one another. Their words tangled around each other so I couldn’t understand either of them. All I knew was that the place on the TV was New York.  “Una delle le due torri. Colpita. We do not yet know che cosa sia accaduto.” Then the second tower was hit and my family began yelling.

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Matias Ehrsam

Matias Ehrsam (BA 2019) in an L&T seminar (photo by Inasa Bibic)

It has been three years since Bard College Berlin first adopted the Language and Thinking Program as a mandatory, three-week orientation in which admitted students are meant to practice both academic and creative writing. The program was initially introduced in 1981 by Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York with the aim of encouraging students to practice certain methods of thinking and writing so as to prepare them for a smoother transition into university.

The program’s activities start in the morning, last until the late afternoon hours, and stretch over five days each week. They are practiced in small seminar groups and include a variety of readings, creative exercises, thought-provoking games, and visits to Berlin, but are mostly focused on writing. At the beginning of a class, the students are given a few minutes for free, private writing, so that they write on anything that’s on their minds without any particular requirements or guidance. Apart from these tasks that are mostly helpful for “getting into the L&T mode” (and also into the “English mode” for the non-native English speakers among us), students are constantly asked to share their thoughts, discuss readings, and react to their peers almost only in writing. To new students, the emphasis on writing rather than on oral discussions or creative exercises might seem somewhat confusing, even exaggerated. James Harker, the coordinator of Bard College Berlin’s Language and Thinking Program, explains the logic behind the writing-intensive format:

Writing is the number one source of worry for new college students. The first goal of the L&T Program is to introduce and instill productive habits of exploration, inquiry, and writing. Some of those habits might seem counter-intuitive. For example, most students might naturally try to write a paper in a crunch session at the last minute. But L&T emphasizes writing regularly in very short bursts, as little as just a few minutes. Often students want to work slowly and perfect each word or sentence before moving on. But L&T often asks for quickly sketched, unedited writing as a first draft. Many students would rather only let others see their finished work, but L&T demands that everyone share their roughest versions. Most people write in isolation, but L&T makes it a group experience. The methods and exercises of L&T are intended to give students strategies for coming up with observations and ideas about texts and to make writing fun, social, and habitual.

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Berliner Dom

Berlin Cathedral sits like a crown atop the Museum Island, resplendent in the dying light of day (photo by the author)

I arrived in Berlin from South Africa on the 8th of August – a day that was very memorably the kind of hot that had sweat droplets budding from one’s pores seemingly instantly after they were wiped away – in the same fashion I believe most Euro virgins do: unbathed, unslept, unattractive, and excited. Ignoring the prodigious weight of my suitcases, crammed with what then seemed like the most ludicrously inappropriate (warm and fluffy) apparel, I stumbled enthusiastically through Tegel Airport to meet the Bard College Berlin staff member that would guide me to my new home for the next four years.

Despite the lack of sleep, I felt electrified. I had resolved to make a conscious effort to remember my first impressions of the city. From inside the airport, already I attempted to piece together a profile of the Berliner population. There were all sorts there: Young and old, families and businessmen, the practically dressed and the stylish. What struck me most was the variety of skin tones: creams gave way to toffees, toffees to chocolates, chocolates to coffee. All were on the move. Their footsteps resounded in the low ceilinged hall. It was a buffet for the senses. I knew that airport goers would not necessarily be representative of city goers, but I nonetheless took pleasure in observing the ebb and flow of the multihued people. There aren’t many places where one can find such diversity.

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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.


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.


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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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