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on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

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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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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Nicholas Lecchi in contemplation.

Nicholas Lecchi in contemplation.

Please state your full name.

Nicholas Sebastiano Lecchi.

Where are you from?

Rockville, Maryland in the United States.

And where is your family from?

My father is from Milan, Italy. And I think my mother is from Seveso in Italy, but I can’t be sure.

Do you speak Italian?

Very little. Enough to swear in it, maybe get slapped.

Can you say something in Italian?

Ciao come va? Mi chiamo Nicholas.

Okay, I’ll try to get that into the interview. I don’t know Italian, I might need your help.

I don’t know how to write English, don’t worry.

How has it been to encounter the diverse culture at both Bard and Bard College Berlin? Have you noticed a difference between the two?

More people know who I’m talking about when I mention the name Stan Brakhage.

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Lucas Anthony Cone Møller

Lucas Anthony Cone Møller

The community of Bard College Berlin is very diverse. Students come from six continents and their life paths have taken the most peculiar trajectories. Whereas some had never even left their home country prior to coming to Berlin, others have lived in different places and traveled all over the world. In the belief that everyone here has an interesting story to share, the blog team decided to interview the students and find out more about their background, their interests and their decision to come to Berlin. In this first interview, you can “meet” Lucas Anthony Cone Møller, a first year BA student from Denmark who plays an incredible number of music instruments and is interested in politics and education.

Lucas, have you always lived in Denmark?

Yes.

So you don’t really have a multicultural background?

Well, my mom is from the States. She was born in Brooklyn, so I spent a lot of time in New York, passing back and forth between cultures.

Are you bilingual?

Yes. I guess I grew up with both cultures under my skin. I learnt children songs in both English and Danish – it is a useful insight into how to live your life within different cultural backgrounds.

Would you still consider Bard College Berlin your first multicultural environment?

Definitely. Denmark is very… monocultural. Everyone is kind of the same; we all kind of think the same – even though we like to say we think really differently.

What do you mean by “monocultural”?

We think alike, in the sense that we all agree on fundamental values regarding our welfare system, a green profile etc. So it is interesting to be in a place like Bard College Berlin where people come from different cultures and, of course, have different views on basic things that I would take for granted. From a Danish perspective, with our cultural history and the way we look at things, the international environment here differs from what I’m used to. In that sense it is my first experience.

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Michael Weinman during a lecture

Michael Weinman during a lecture

The Die Bärliner inaugurates today a series of discussions with members of the faculty. Listen to our professors talking about their areas of interest, current research, teaching at ECLA of Bard and life outside class.

Our first guest, Prof. Dr. Michael Weinman, joined the permanent faculty of ECLA of Bard in September 2012, after originally arriving as a Guest Professor in 2010. Michael received his doctorate in Philosophy in 2005 from The New School for Social Research in New York. He is the author of two books, on pleasure in Aristotle’s ethical thought and the connection between continental philosophy and modernist literature respectively, as well of several articles and books chapters on issues in Greek and political philosophy. His current projects include research on “Pythagorean Harmonics” in the Parthenon and Plato’s Timaeus, conducted jointly with ECLA of Bard faculty member Geoff Lehman, and an investigation of the connection between dialectic and rhetoric in Aristotle’s thought, in cooperation with David McNeill of the University of Essex.

Ira Melkonyan during a class trip to the Jewish Museum, March 2012 (Photo by Irina Stelea)

Ira Melkonyan during a class trip to the Jewish Museum, March 2012 (Photo by Irina Stelea)

Ira Melkonyan (b. 1988 in Ukraine) is an alumna of ECLA of Bard who took classes mainly in philosophy, art history, and aesthetics during her 2011/2012 Academy Year. She is a theater performer and a scientist who derives inspiration from the “contradictions and paradoxes found in the symbiotic and parasitic existence of all things.” Melkonyan was awarded a Master’s degree in Microbiology and Virology from the Odessa National University in 2010. It is in the Mediterranean region, on the island of Malta, that she found a breathing ground to merge her two great passions – art and science. In May 2009 she became a member of Malta’s national multi-disciplinary artist collective rubberbodies. Melkonyan is currently a member of staff at the Pharmacy Department of the University of Malta. Today we talked about her overall experience at ECLA of Bard, her life afterwards, as well as her views on art, science, and the concept of BioArt (an art practice that manipulates live tissues, bacteria and living organisms into artworks, using scientific processes such as biotechnology).

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Löwenkämpfer statue. Photo by Heidi Kontkanen

Löwenkämpfer statue (photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Our series of Berlin-revelatory interviews with ECLA of Bard faculty and staff continues. This time our guide through Berlin is Prof. Matthias Hurst, who has been a member of the faculty at ECLA of Bard since 2003, teaching various courses in film, but also literature and philosophy. We took the chance to find out more about Matthias Hurst’s life in Berlin, his insights and suggestions on how to enlarge our experience of the city and, last but not least, his ideas on the various facets of the ‘film capital.’

1) Where are you originally from and how long have you been living in Berlin?

I was born in Heidelberg (in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg) and for a long time I lived in or around this wonderfully romantic town. I also studied at the University of Heidelberg and worked there as a lecturer. I started working at ECLA in 2003 and moved to Berlin in 2005.

2) In which district do you live? Tell us a bit about it. Why did you decide to live there?

I live in Pankow/Rosenthal, not far away from ECLA of Bard. To be close to our campus was one of the reasons to move into this neighborhood. It’s a quiet district with lots of nice, clean houses, surrounded by nice, clean gardens with accurately mowed bright green lawns and nice colorful flowers, little bright white fences around the gardens … It’s creepy, like in a David Lynch film, you know, when there is something bizarre and evil lurking right underneath the neat, polished surface of middle class order and tidiness, something vicious hidden within petit bourgeois smugness. Maybe that’s another reason why I have decided to live here …

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Hannes Kloepper

“Students should be made aware of the fact that there is no such thing as knowledge as such – knowledge that just exists out there and is discovered by people as the objective truth.“

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Hannes Klöpper (Germany) is a 2006/2007 Academy Year alumnus of ECLA of Bard. He holds a Dual-Master’s in Public Administration from Columbia University and the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and a B.A. in International Relations from the Technische Universität (TU) Dresden. Hannes is the co-founder and the current Managing Director and Chief Academic Officer (CAO) of the online open-course platform start-up iversity, situated in the northern borough of Berlin called Bernau. Last year Hannes wrote a book in collaboration with Yehuda Elkana on the future of the university in the digital age. In addition to that, he worked on the “New Digital Society” project in 2010/2011 as an associate of the “Stiftung Neue Verantwortung,” and was also one of the initiators of the blog for “Causa Guttenberg.” Today we talked about his experience at ECLA of Bard, his life after the Academy Year, as well as the future of education in the context of his work on iversity. 

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