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On April 17-18, St. Petersburg, Russia, gathered over eighty students and young scholars from Bard-affiliated institutions for a two-day assembly across disciplines. With “Science and Technology through the Prism of Humanities”  as its “umbrella topic”, the Fourth Smolny Annual International Student Conference was held at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of the St. Petersburg State University.

Bard College Berlin was represented by Lysan Boshuyzen (BA2, the Netherlands) with the paper “Art Generating Paradigm Shift,” Dylan Davis (BA3, USA) with “Beyond Hate: Exploring the Relationship between Hate and Equality,” Lena Kück (BA1, Germany) who presented on “Focus in Fractions – The Effect of New Technology on our Ability to Focus in Social Environments,” and myself with the paper “The Relationship between Scientific Knowledge and Political and Religious Power in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis.

After our altogether successful presentations and Q&As, we were lucky and organized enough to spend our free time traversing and wandering through the city’s grandiose boulevards, seductive avenues, and historical squares. St. Petersburg is a living architectural miracle – even mere walking feels like a visit to an open air museum. With sunset light accentuating the features of some of its most popular buildings, afternoon chats among young couples, early spring strawberries, birds on the Neva river, and some random wonders that new travelers always find a way to stumble upon, we had a kaleidoscopic experience of the city that sparked a curiosity which, in my judgment, one could never fully satisfy in a place so rich with history and culture, still in the process of building the bridge between the old and the modern. Below are few impressions from St. Petersburg, the iconic wonder of Russian aesthetics – the elegant dame of the Baltic Sea (all photos by Inasa Bibić):

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The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood I

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The Student Action & Youth Leadership Conference in Istanbul, Turkey brought together people from all over the world to the only city in the world that stretches on two continents – Europe and Asia. Although the busy schedule at the conference left us with little time to go out and explore the city, I had firmly decided to take advantage of our last day there, as well as the guided tour, to bring some snippets of Istanbul back to Berlin. Without further ado, here are some glimpses of Istanbul in one day, March 18:

Eye-shaped amulets in Turkey (better known as “nazar”) are believed to protect against “the evil eye” (ill intentions). They can be found everywhere – at bazaars, local gift shops, people’s homes… It would be almost heretic to leave Turkey without purchasing one. Beware though: the amulet only works its magical properties if given to you as a present! Photo: Inasa Bibic

Eye-shaped amulets in Turkey (better known as “nazar”) are believed to protect against “the evil eye” (ill intentions). They can be found everywhere – at bazaars, local gift shops, people’s homes… It would be almost heretic to leave Turkey without purchasing one. Beware though: the amulet only works its magical properties if given to you as a present! (Photo: Inasa Bibic)

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Rosenthaler Straße 39, 10178 Berlin-Mitte (Photo by Inasa Bibic)

Rosenthaler Straße 39, 10178 Berlin-Mitte
(Photo by Inasa Bibic)

It’s a rainy Monday in January. I have just finished my dentist appointment. Still under the influence of mild pain, I take the M1 to Hackescher Markt, one of the most hip areas in Mitte, to do some soul-writing and reflecting on the last year before I meet a friend for what was supposed to be a brief coffee encounter, after which we won’t see each other for a while. Just another day at the Café Cinema. I get there shortly before 12pm, which is when the café opens. However, as usual in Berlin, punctuality is of essence, so I spend the five minutes before the opening wandering around the passage just around the café that stretches to the back building hosting the Anne Frank Museum, a comic book shop, and – at any given time – a guided group of tourists in awe of the sight of the local graffiti and charming sketchiness of that small hidden corner in the midst of the Mitte buzz. A perfect time to reflect on what makes this café so special for all of us, regular visitors, who find inspiration in its old walls covered with vintage pictures and memories of the 20th century cinema.

Café Cinema is supposedly the oldest café in the Hackescher Markt, one of the rare places in Mitte without a heavy tourist vibe to it. Most of the time, the café is crammed––characterized by its romantic candlelight and reflectors, rather unpretentious in its feel, it is the ultimate refuge from the real world into a movie-themed realm. Intense talks and the atmosphere of an old-fashioned bar give this place a mid-‘50s vibe, reminiscent of Paris or Vienna where existentialism was discussed with wine, cigarettes and good company.

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"The Family without Borders” / 2014 (Photo: Inasa Bibic)

“The Family without Borders” / 2014 (Photo: Inasa Bibic)

If you thought Pankow was the most boring, uneventful borough of Berlin – think again! Only ten minutes from the U-Bahn station lives the most fascinating, unique family you will find in Berlin – “The Family Without Borders.” The Alboths are a travelling family who together with their small daughter Hanna decided to live their life’s dream in 2010 – doing a 6-months long road trip Around the Black Sea, through the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea and back to Berlin. In 2011 and 2012, they continued their adventures when their second daughter Mila was born – the Between the Oceans Tour took them through Central America from Mexico down to Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. In the summer of 2013, they went to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2014, they did their next big trip – Looking for Taka-Tuka-Land, through New Zealand and the South Pacific, with two big backpacks, a tent and hitchhiking enthusiasm on sailing yachts. It might seem strange to first introduce Anna and Thomas’s daughters in describing their travelling adventures – however, the Polish mom journalist and German dad photographer give their children a lot of credit when it comes to choosing the destinations and learning from people’s stories on the trips.

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Alumnus Florian Hoffmann giving a talk at Bard College Berlin (photo by the author)

Alumnus Florian Hoffmann giving a talk at Bard College Berlin (photo by the author)

On December 4, in the frame of the core course “Bildung: Education and Formation” led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Hurst, Bard College Berlin welcomed alumnus Florian Hoffmann, the Founder and President of the DO School, for a talk on “21st Century Skills and the Future of Higher Education.” Florian is one of the old “veterans”– an Academy Year (and later Project Year) student in one of the first generations of graduates. He is one of the people who witnessed how the college was taking shape, and still remembers the days when students, with great enthusiasm and joy, helped set up the classrooms by moving furniture, patiently eating tons of pizza before the Cafeteria was established – whilst enjoying a number of enlightening and educational early guest lectures that took place on campus. Florian says he would describe our college as “a small liberal arts education institution in the beautiful city of Berlin, offering courses in humanities.” As a social entrepreneur and innovator in the field of higher education, he is greatly engaged in helping liberal arts students actualize their greatest potential that the liberal arts education helps increase.

On our campus, Florian Hoffmann talked about the dynamics of the modern Western university system and how the DO School – a globally engaged social enterprise that educates, trains and mentors talented post-graduate individuals to transform their ideas into action – fits within the transitional period between college and professional occupation/post-graduate studies. He is a man of action, with a strong emphasis on doing, regularly engaging himself by contributing to the public debate on higher education and innovation. He has taught the DO School method at a variety of universities including Columbia University, Oxford University, and the Hasso Plattner Institute at Potsdam University.

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The opening of Socratea House - an Open Mic evening seasoned with tasty desserts and pastries

The opening of Socratea House – an Open Mic evening seasoned with tasty desserts and pastries

No, it is not a philosophers’ hub (although it might well be). Nor the cult of Socrates. Socratea House, playfully named after the first philosopher that Bard College Berlin students are introduced to upon their arrival here, is our first student-run campus café. The café opened on Friday, November 28, in the Student Centre – attracting students, staff and professors alike to a relaxing evening of good coffee, creative (cup)cakes, tea splendors, Glühwein, and brightly colored pastries. The evening was flavored with extra spicy musical performances that kept the first visitors of Socratea House warm on one of Berlin’s first freeeezing late November winter nights. One thing is certain: Socratea House has now become an unmissable stop on the Bard College Berlin campus – and will most likely grow to be the new hip café of Pankow.

View some photos from the opening night!

Mongolia - World c. 1914 (photo by MDF)

Mongolia – World c. 1914 (photo by MDF)

Monat der Fotografie Berlin (European Month of Photography Berlin), more commonly known as the MDF Berlin, has been taking place every two years in Germany’s capital as the country’s largest photography festival since 2004. It is organized by Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH in collaboration with various cultural institutions, galleries, museums, embassies, and photography schools in Berlin and Potsdam. The biyearly event presents a plethora of exhibitions on both historical and contemporary photography. This year its main theme is “Upheavals and Utopias. The Other Europe.”

The idea behind this umbrella topic is to observe the continuous changes that have been part of Europe as we know it over the past hundred years. From the two World Wars and the 1929 economic crisis, to the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Europe has constantly been facing challenges that left great marks on its development. The festival invites the visitors to confront the visual reminders of the past and reconsider their understanding of Europe today in relation to what came before. As stated on the official MDF website: Europe is frequently defined according to its borders. This poses a variety of questions concerning, for instance, the ways in which extreme or gradual changes and rejections are experienced; how utopias impact our idea of the future; what perspectives are currently emerging; and how the other and the foreign enrich our lives and culture. The 6th European Month of Photography Berlin embarks on a journey of discovery, responding to these questions with historical and contemporary exhibitions.

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