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Year Abroad

Petite France, a historic district in Strasbourg and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Grande Île. (Credit: getyourguide.com)

On the 28th August 2017, I crossed from Germany into France — from the little town of Kehl into the city of Strasbourg where I will remain for the upcoming academic year as part of the Erasmus exchange program with BCB. As I had never visited France, I was more than excited for my Erasmus Exchange, and curious about the similarities and differences I would find between these two nation-states at the heart of the European Union. But, despite the attention I afforded the view from the bus window, I’m still not sure exactly when I crossed the border. There were no bells or whistles, no fanfare, no berets or baguettes in sight. The landscape remained unchanged and my fellow passengers continued to doze, or stare at their mobiles, uninterrupted. It was only when we disembarked that I noticed how road-signs and the displays in shop windows were no longer in German, but French. Listening in on the conversations of those who buzzed around the terminal, I quickly recognised its distinctive melody, a smooth and slippery river of sound falling unintelligibly upon my dumb ears.

Almost a month later and I can’t help but think the true wonder isn’t how similar these neighbouring countries seemed to me initially, but how language and culture are preserved despite their geographic proximity, and how deeply the notion of the border runs within the human psyche.

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The participants of the 2nd LESC in Freiburg (Credits: Alexandra Sachariew, University College Freiburg)

Hello all you BCBers,

In case someone has been wondering about my absence from BCB in the past semester, let me reassure you of my return in Fall 2017: I am currently not in Berlin but studying abroad at AUC in Amsterdam. The first question one might ask is probably: Why would I study abroad in Amsterdam? Isn’t it just like Berlin, only smaller and with canals and actual bike lanes? I asked myself the same things. But if that’s all you know about Amsterdam, you should just come here and fall in love with this beautiful city yourself. Very few people are able to escape its magic spell.

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Smolny Campus. (Credit: Smolny Student Conference Organizing Committee)

Two weeks ago, I attended the annual Smolny student conference. Five days I frolicked about and ate lots and lots of pierogies. Not a single dull moment was lived. This article is a reflection on my experience of the city:

I boarded at midnight. The experience was positively surreal. I had run across Riga airport to catch my connection — a process significantly slowed down by the immigration police’s diligence in checking my passport and visa. When I ultimately reached the gate, steadying my heart rate, I saw my flight there was a tiny jetplane. The plane was crowded with a peculiar mix of people: businesswomen and football fans sat side by side. Its odor was a combination of garlic and sweaty old person. Everywhere I looked I saw  babies with the potential to spark total mayhem. The plane shook and puffed and finally got us there in one piece. All the while in front of me, a girl calmly edited her selfie for the duration of the 40 min flight, nudging the brightness back and forth to reach perfection — which of course took a while, because of the shaking and all. But there’s no questioning her determination. I had to remind myself I wasn’t on a bus to a rural town; I was flying to St.Petersburg, the country’s former capital. She greeted me with snow. Welcome to Russia!

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New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

I left New York City for Berlin on the 24th of January. The days before my departure were saturated with a dissociative pain that stemmed from their proximity to the inauguration of President Trump, which took place on January 20th. Mostly I was aware of a void-like sadness. This void enveloped my singular self, everyone I loved, communities experiencing oppressions that I as a cis white woman will never be subject to, and communities that I belong to as a queer person and survivor of sexual violence. The effect was tangible in the city, between and across neighborhoods, a dull reverberation. The fact that this collective mourning was distributed unequally due to the diverse lived experiences and levels of social privilege of those affected complicated the act of articulation. I found myself and my peers falling into spells of isolation, or, conversely, dispersing articles, posts, and personal rants at a frantic pace via the constantly replenishing outlets of social media. Neither of these tactics left me with any feeling of agency or productivity: The nature of voids is that they swallow and calcify anything dynamic, leaving their subjects in a state of vertigo.

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► Monday: Medieval Christmas Market

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Imagine a gate opening in the art, culture and clubs hub of Friedrichshain to transport you to the medieval ages. In this historical Christmas market, you won’t find the usual kitsch; you’ll find everything from live medieval performances in music, acrobatics, and a fire-show, to unique handicrafts, and a tavern serving hot mead. Everyone will be dressed in costume and all the masterfully crafted decorations make the experience truly memorable.

  • When: 14:00-22:00
  • Where:  RAW Gelände – Revaler Straße 99, 10245 Berlin
  • Admission: 2€
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► Monday: Not my Revolution, if …

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Staged as a musical, the stories of a fictional anti-globalization activist unfold satirically. Angie O. is the kind of activist you would come across in every movement, from Occupy Wall Street, to anti neoliberalism in the Maxican jungle, to hugging trees, protests against banks, and the list goes on. The performance tackles issues of hypocrisy, economics and self-serving factors as a motivation for activism in today’s neoliberal world and how activism can be a productive force in challenging and redefining the status quo.  

  • When: 20:00
  • Where:  Stresemannstr. 29, 10963 Berlin
  • Admission: 11€
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► Monday, October 3rd: Day of German Reunification Celebrations

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End your long weekend by participating in Berlin’s 26th anniversary of the German Reunification – which followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 –  at the huge street festival by the Brandenburg Gate. Not only will you get to take part in cheerful and celebratory atmosphere of a very important historical occurrence, but you’ll also have the chance to enjoy plenty of beer gardens, diverse snacks and an entertainment programme: Look forward to stage performances, a concert, horseback riding and horse races, big wheel funfair ride, and karaoke at the Berliner Dom.

  • When: 11:00
  • Where: Straße des 17. Juni, 10557 Berlin
  • Admission: free
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body

Credit: Charlotte Boccone.

 

One of the first things that the two women, a burlesque dancer and a party organizer, mentioned to me was how hard it is to be a woman in their businesses here in Brazil. I was interviewing them for an anthropological project on sadomasochism. In the room below us, a man was lying face up on the floor while a woman in a pink dress and four-inch stilettos was dancing on top of him. Another woman watched with a beer in her hand, sitting on the back of a man on his hands and knees. They were playing The Smiths very loudly when a man asked to worship my feet, but I informed him that I was just a researcher, thanks.

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