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Congratulations! You’re on your way to a legal stay in Germany. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, modified)

An essential part of the Bard College Berlin experience for all foreign students is the residence permit application. The school provides assistance to obtain one, and the process generally goes smoothly thanks to Xenia Muth. But sometimes, things happen: you forget to submit a document, you fill out a certain form incorrectly, you put all of it off until it’s three days before your 90-day window. Should you find yourself in the sad — but not uncommon– predicament of waiting outside the Ausländerbehörde all night, here are a few tips to make the experience as enjoyable and memorable as possible:

Stage 1. Before Arrival

Preparation is everything. It is the lack of such a thing that landed you in this situation in the first place, so make sure you’re prepped and ready to go for your adventure.

Step 1.1. Be too nervous to take a nap before your overnight visit, and make irresponsible decisions that will come back to bite you later. For example, go out to dinner in Mitte and forget how long the M1 ride back home is.

Step 1.2. Make sure you dress for the occasion. If you’re planning on paying the infamous bureau a visit soon, wear three pairs of wool socks, all the shirts you own, and two scarves. Conveniently forget a hat and gloves.

Step 1.3. Pack yourself too many snacks that you will forget to eat while waiting outside the office and will find squashed in your backpack a few hours later. Make sure to download podcasts, music, or Netflix episodes that you won’t be able to watch because of some unforeseeable technological problem.

Step 1.4. Decide to get there at 1 AM instead of the recommended 3 or 4AM to ensure yourself a spot. You could probably afford to arrive at 3 or 4AM, but you want to feel safer and more responsible than you actually are.

Stage 2. On Your Way!

Congratulations! You’re ready to leave. The most important thing is getting there, so here’s how to do it right:

Step 2.1. Make sure you bring more bags than necessary so that everyone notices you struggling to leave campus and you have to explain in great detail where you’re going. Pretend that the “Good Luck!” calls aren’t patronizing and reminding you of your mistake.

Step 2.2. Get on the bus and type some journal-y sentiment with the notes app on your phone in an attempt to reflect on your predicament. Immediately get sleepy because of how nice and warm the M27 bus is, and think about how sad it is that such extreme circumstances finally led you to do the Berlin exploration you promised your friends and family you would do much earlier.

Stage 3. Arrival and The Infamous Wait

You’ve arrived. You’re armed and ready. Nothing can stop you now.

Step 3.1.  Get lost trying to find the nondescript parking lot and the tiny nondescript door to the Ausländerbehörde. Walk in a circle about eight times until you see some other sorry souls holding a piece of paper. Feel silly signing your name on the sign-up sheet.

Step 3.2. Have a seat in the parking lot where you will spend the wee morning hours. Make small talk with the group of people in front of you. You’re one of the first, which fills you with ease. Thank whatever you believe in for the fact that it’s not raining. Preoccupy yourself with your expertly packed activities until your hands get too cold or your eyelids begin to feel heavy. Stand up, call a friend or your brother, talk for awhile and be amazed at how quickly the hour passes. Maybe this won’t be as bad as literally every other person you talked to said it would be.

Step 3.3. At 4 AM, go with all the women that are waiting in the parking lot on a journey to find coffee. Ask where everyone is from, smile, and revel in your absurd shared experience. Cheer loudly upon finding a Späti, and drink your cup of watery, terrible coffee. Unexpectedly make a new friend.

Step 3.4. Pace the parking lot with your new friend. Talk about politics, friend each other on Facebook, talk about how annoying German bureaucracy is. When your new friend says she has to pee, spot her as she ducks behind a car. Afterwards, give her hand sanitizer and congratulate her on her first outdoor pee.

Step 3.5. Pace some more until all of a sudden it is time to line up. Stand in a huddle by the door until someone takes charge of this group of grown adults. Form a line, and laugh uncontrollably as one of the people ahead of you turns around and says, “It’s lonely at the top.”

Step 3.6. Struggle your way through the German and explain to the security guard at the door that you are here for your student permit. March up the stairs, take a seat. Fight sleep by making conversation with people who have a passport from the same country as you or your new friend.

Stage 4. The (Possible Non-)Bestowal of Your Permit

Step 4.1. Wait for your number to be called, and be greeted by an overworked, sleepy Ausländerbehörde employee. Try not to get mad when he tells you that your bank documents should have been notarized but that you’ve got some time to fix it. Ask him repeatedly that your overnight wait was not in vain. Receive a temporary extension and make a new appointment to come back that is at a reasonable hour. Alternatively, receive your resident permit and march out, successful. Pay for your permit at a nondescript kiosk while a security guard stares at you the entire time. 

Step 4.2. Congratulations! No matter what piece of pretty, pink paper you received in that hellish office, you’ve escaped. You’ve made a new friend, you’ve heroically pulled an all-nighter, you’ve experienced servicewürste firsthand, and you’ve got something that makes it acceptable for you to live here — at least for now. Emerge into the cold, cloudy morning and fall asleep on both the bus and tram ride home. Eat the food you packed for yourself when you arrive and remember you are hungry. Get your first sleep in 40 hours, wake up, go to class, and accept that your sleep schedule will take weeks to repair.

A night at the Ausländerbehörde won’t be as scary as other students have told you if you follow this expert guide. Embrace the restlessness, the bad coffee, the absurdity, and, most importantly, keep your new document close.

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Gotta get your partyin’ in somehow (Credit: Sabrina Slipchenko, BVG)

“Life’s not all about dancing, kid” I say with a pointed finger. I’m in the mirror giving myself a pep talk. There are readings to do, papers to write, yadda yadda- but I just wanna boogie. And why not, anyway? I didn’t come to Berlin to spend my Saturday nights in bed with Christian Joppke’s treatise on liberal democracy. The angels of my better nature are all a buncha nerds.

But there’s something exhausting underneath this necessity. There’s a scale underneath, weighing “cool” experiences against “not cool” experiences. If I don’t balance book learning with wildness, somehow I feel like a failure. Maybe I don’t have to take the night out, just because it exists. Maybe I don’t have to feel like life is moving too fast, without me. Maybe well-being means something other than staying up ‘till 2 am breaking a sweat. I just don’t want to be 80 years old, on my rocking chair, thinking of all the readings I’ve done. Or maybe it’ll be less lonely that way, later.

The Speakers and Moderator of Panel VII (credit: Tamar Maare)

Organized by the Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam in co-operation with numerous esteemed institutions including our very own Bard College Berlin, the three-day conference titled The Impossible Order: Europe, Power, and the Search for a New Migration Regime brought together researchers, artists, historians, academics activists, journalists and students from all over the globe to reflect, act and help resolve current issues facing Europe’s outdated migration structures and discourses. Divided into 7 discussion panels, performances, and an art exhibition, the conference aimed to tackle highly politicized and controversial questions surrounding how Europe’s migration regime is reacting to recent demographic changes and migration movements. The conference challenges the regulation of migration and further complicates the notions of ‘integration’ and diversity by looking at the history behind global migration movements.

Chaired by Dr. Kathrin Kollmeier (ZZF Potsdam), Panel VII on Crafting New Narratives considered how the forms in which migration narratives are verbally (re)produced not only influence the way academics conduct historical research but also how humans, as active cultural agents, conceive of and perpetuate hierarchical social structures and categories of knowledge. The speakers examined the interwoven nature of discourse, politics and identity by tracing discursive labels throughout history and analyzing the views of the employees in the Ausländerbehörden (Immigration Offices), ultimately putting forward a redefinition of ideas of national belongingness, collective identity and inclusion.

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“Sainte Sebastienne” 1992. (Credit: Louise Bourgeois)

I came to Berlin as a person with a complicated love relationship with cities. New York City often grips my heart so close it hurts. The relationship between the city and the survivor of sexual violence–or the survivor of any kind of violence or trauma–is a very particular one. Many stories and cultural narratives refer to the trope of “female intuition,” proposing that women have advanced capabilities to perceive underlying dynamics, know when and how to give love and care, and can even predict the future. Though I do believe that we occupy spiritually evolved forms, I don’t think this “higher plane” is biological. The ability to pick up on and mentally calibrate the unspoken truths that shape our lives lies in our conditioning and lived experiences with terror, with betrayal, with being hurt and punished and subdued. We are required to be alert and sensitive to our environments because we know that our physical and spiritual agency is at stake–our identities, our bodies. This is second and firsthand–learning from the experiences of other women; learning from living, through scar and callous. On the most basic level, hearing our parents tell us to be careful of strangers when we are young and traveling alone on the subway or tram for the first time. Seeing the violence done to our forms dragged as entertainment or exposé across pages of books and television screens. There is nothing natural or innate about it. Feeling the eyes the voices the eyes. The acquisition of psychic capabilities is a laborious process that involves more weight than is typically attached to “exceptional” qualities. It is a thorny gift: one that reminds me both of my own resilience and my experience of trauma.

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Kerry James Marshall speaking at the American Academy in Berlin. (Credit: Photos by Annette Hornischer | Courtesy the American Academy in Berlin)

Our class, Curatorial Practice: Past and Present, filed into the American Academy — a mansion buried deep in the affluent Berlin neighborhood of Wannsee — on a beautiful sunny day. Any sense of intimidation we could have felt at the very formal invitation we received to the American Academy’s event, “The End Of Criticality”, a master class with Kerry James Marshall, quickly melted away once he began his talk. A sweet, friendly man whose warm laugh immediately puts one at ease, Marshall is one of the most important and influential painters today. Our curatorial practice class was joined by art students from the Universität der Künste and Freie Universität. During his talk, Marshall spoke with us about everything ranging from ways of approaching art institutions built on a foundation of exclusion and exploitation to how his own love of the image began.

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► Monday: Between Spaces – Art, Urbanism & Public Space

Space only ever exists with a context, charged with socio-political and socio-economic interests, shaped by power structures and defined by boundaries. The 15 artists featured in this exhibition explore issues in urban life from 1970s New York to 1980s East Berlin through the mediums of photography, sculpture, drawing and painting.

  • When: 10:00 – 18:00
  • Where: ZKR – Alt-Biesdorf 55, 12683
  • Admission: 5,50€
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The Wheel (Credit: Anna Zakelj)

When I was little, I didn’t like biking. I had a long string of second hand bikes, none of which ever seemed to work quite right — a complaint that had some merit but also one I used as an excuse to explain my otherwise irrational dislike of the activity. When I left home for boarding school at age 13, I took my bike with me and rode it exactly once a year. I soon stopped owning bikes and didn’t ride one for four or five years. After highschool, I took a gap year living and working in the outskirts of Portland, OR, where the buses run only twice an hour but the city’s  cycling culture persists. It took my 9am job, the infrequent public transportation, and an old man named Lou to get me on a bike again.  Lou gave me his old bike, helped me replace the numerous punctured tires, and switched out the yarn-secured milk crate on the back with real saddle baskets. I soon began biking almost everywhere I went. The change came from the necessity of getting to work on time, but biking quickly became integral to my happiness as well, allowing me to both mentally and physically distance myself from the stress of work. The movement had become a stabilizing habit, and, despite the physical exertion involved, it was easier, somehow, than sitting on a bus.

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► Monday: Black German Cinema: “Sankofa – Return and get it”

Jump right back into Berlin’s cultural scene by attending the film series In-between Performative Films, which focuses on artists trying to break away from patriarchal and national production contexts. This month’s movie premier follows artists and curators from Ghana. It raises various questions: Does the artist imitate art, or is it the art that reflects the artist? How can Ghanaian artists convey their history and heritage in art that is distanced from home? There will be a discussion with the director Maman Salissou Oumarou after the screening.

  • When: 20:00
  • Where: Naunynstr. 27, 10997
  • Admission: 3
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