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Tuvshinzaya during the 2012 Commencement ceremony, held at Rathaus Pankow. (Credit: Personal Archives)

On the BCB campus, it’s not uncommon to find students who switch seamlessly between their three mother tongues. Someone might hesitate before answering the question “Where are you from?” or “Where will you be next year?”

Last month, I sat down in front of my computer to chat with Tuvshinzaya Gantulga, a BCB alumnus who is also always on the move. Born in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Tuvshinzaya was studying economics at the American University in Bulgaria when he decided to come to BCB (then ECLA*) to attend its Academy Year program. Before the year was up, he had decided to stay in Berlin and complete his BA studies at ECLA as part of its first graduating class in 2012. Upon his return to Mongolia, he worked in a grassroots NGO, founded the Mongolian Rowing Association, and headed the American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia. My webcam caught him in Manhattan, New York, where he had just graduated with a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Over the course of a few hours we talked about Berlin, rowing, and education: what does a liberal arts education offer to students who are exceptionally mobile, and what can being mobile offer students who are exceptionally curious?

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winter

Winter impression of Oberbaumbrücke in Berlin. (Credit: Jackson.)

Rumours of a fast-approaching and fickel Berlin winter are making their way around the BCB campus. These rumours are not unfounded. With the rotation of the earth and Science, days are growing shorter and colder; light is growing less and dimmer as the sun is shrouded behind unknowably dense, grey clouds. The happy symphony of autumn has fallen to a barely audible whisper. Only occasionally does one hear the murmur of dry leaves as they skitter across the grey pavement, or the rustling of yet unfallen points of colour as the ominous wind whistles past. If we want to be optimistic, we could say the greyness is making way for the possibility of the cleansing white of snowfall, and that the silence is in respect of the oncoming holiday cheer.

But what if we don’t want to be optimistic? What if, with the draining of life and light from the earth and the bleaching of its colours, one begins to feel more than a little blue? [Read on to find out what then…] If you’ve endured such a drastic seasonal change before, you likely know what I’m talking about. If you come from somewhere where seasons are less inspired variations of one another, as they are in countries closer to the equator, you’ve probably already guessed that people might be crankier than usual in the upcoming months. Of course, most of us will get by just fine, and we will all have days when we’re just not feeling so great. But what if you begin to feel not so great more than occasionally? What if you get… SAD?

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Berlin: Appearence vs Reality

Photos: Irina Stelea

Before Arriving

I arrived to Berlin on a late February morning, along with other fellow students from Bard College supposed to spend a semester abroad at ECLA of Bard. As any good student would, I heartily researched my new home before arriving there. Speaking with many who had either previously lived or traveled there, I developed a sense of confidence that only a lack of first-hand experience can bring about. Below is comprehensive list of the most common pieces of advice and/or stereotypes others shared with me about Berlin.

CONCEPTIONS ABOUT BERLIN

1. DO NOT stand on the bike lane. Bikers WILL run you over.

Consequence of not heeding this advice: While trying to figure out where I was in the city, I inadvertently wandered onto the infamous bike lane. Before I could correct my mistake, an elderly woman overtook me. After she swiftly passed me, she paused to reprimand me loudly in German (and yes, being yelled in German is scarier than in English for the simple fact that I do not understand German).

2. Do not cross the street if it is not your turn. People WILL correct you.

Reality: People do often wait for their turn to cross the street. If you do cross the street when it is not your turn, people glare at you. I have only seen people jaywalking in the touristy parts of the city.

3. Berliners are rude: you MUST learn to fire back.

Meaningless Stereotype: There are rude people everywhere. However, I find Berliners quite helpful and friendly.

4. Night Life is crazy.

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