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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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Susan Gillespie speaks at the alumni gathering of December 11th 2016 (Credit: Tamar Maare)

Susan Gillespie speaks at the alumni gathering of December 11th, 2016 (Credit: Tamar Maare)

My past experience with the college reunions of friends and relatives included marching bands, brightly-colored seersucker, and the revival of retro kegger culture. The Bard College Berlin alumni event, which took place this past December 11th of 2016, was tame in comparison, infused with the muted but eccentric quality of BCB itself. Student art from the Open Studios event still decorated the walls of the Factory. Former students greeted each other with inside jokes and embraces; professors and faculty also filled the small room. A pile of black, mid-length coats were stacked in the waiting room in classic BCB fashion (some things, like style choices, apparently don’t change after graduation).

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start-up

Berlin skyline at night (credit: Talent International).

Liberal arts students and graduates might be comforted by the claims in recent years that their degrees might not be as “useless” as they thought (or were told) they would be. The discourse around the demand for liberal arts graduates in the workforce especially revolves around hi-tech companies. It is skills such as “critical thinking, an ability to deal with ambiguity, to reach conclusions based on considered mastery of research and context” that make liberal arts graduates vital for growing hi-tech companies, says a Washington Post article called Why the Tech World Highly Values a Liberal Arts Degree. A Forbes article says a liberal arts degree has become “Tech’s hottest ticket” and describes similar, “human skills” to be required by high-tech companies and provided by liberal arts/ humanities graduates.  So we might have a “hot ticket” once we graduate, but is it really the hottest? Some of Bard College Berlin’s (ECLA) graduates and a current BCB student working in the start-up world shared their thoughts on their liberal arts education with me.

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Discussion

Students discussing matters of grave importance (credit: Inasa Bibic)

 

Dear all,

it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new semester for all of us and we at Die Bärliner feel more than just good about accompanying you also on the next episode of Bard College Berlin life. We hope you’ll savor on our pages its distinctive blend of effervescent craziness, deep conversations, playful idleness, and homely conviviality. Welcome, and welcome back!

The last semester concluded with debates and reflection on the diversity and lack thereof on our syllabi and the new semester, too, promises many occasions to continue thinking through what we are doing. Michael Weinman called for discussions on Public Seminar and a lively debate has ensued. Soon we will publish a longer article by Tamar Maare based on a series of interviews with BCB graduates in which they reflect on liberal education and the job market, continuing also our long-standing commitment to featuring alumni and alumnae on the blog. Two upcoming events  will offer further occasion to discuss the liberal arts in the contemporary world: the upcoming Berlin Weekend will feature a discussion session dedicated to this topic and a public panel discussion with BCB students and faculty is set for February 12th. More details to follow; save the dates!

Another focus for us this term will be student art. We want to continue publishing poetry regularly, and also aim to include accompanying audio recordings with it. Additionally, we look forward to sharing more visual and especially video art. To start us off we have a series of student short films forthcoming over the first weeks, and you will also find video recordings of guest lectures on the blog in the future (there are already quite a few on our YouTube channel!).

Creative content in all forms will come from our blog team – you can still apply! – but we also would like to use the occasion to call for contributions from everyone. Whether it is a poem for the Slam Poetry Club, a photo series of the neighborhood, or an installation for a practicing arts class, please consider submitting it to the blog. There is a small budget available to compensate your efforts.

Looking forward,

Yours,

David

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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.

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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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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Andrei Poama

Andrei Poama

I’m meeting Andrei Poama, a Romanian PhD candidate in Political Theory at Sciences Po in Paris, where he is working on theories of punishment. This fall he co-taught a class on Foundations of Moral and Political Thought, which I attended. He is also an alumnus of Bard College Berlin’s (previously ECLA’s) International Summer University of 2004, and studied in Bucharest, at Oxford, and Yale. We talked about his experience of the ISU, his current research, and models of education.

D: You joined the ISU in 2004, right?

A: Yes, I was there just for the summer school in 2004, when I was 20 years old. I arrived one week earlier, which made it almost two months.

How did you find out about the school?

I remember I was watching about it on television. The director of the program at the time was Theodor Paleologu. He talked about it in very nice terms. During the communist times there was this ‘Romanian Heidegger’—Constantin Noica—who founded the school Școala de la Păltiniș: kind of elitist, not so phenomenological as Heidegger, but close – in places as unintelligible as Heidegger. Noica’s idea was to create a school where the professors would learn more than the students, and Theodor presented the ISU as being sort of the same as Noica’s project. He really advertised it, and so I went on the internet, looked it up, and eventually applied.

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