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Una with the partisan women in Zagreb, Croatia (Credit: Personal Archives)

Una Blagojevic, a Serbian 2013 BA graduate, has been around the world. Currently residing in Budapest, Hungary and beginning her master’s thesis at the Central European University, Una looks back on her time at Bard Berlin, then ECLA*, with great fondness. I sat down for a late-night Skype chat with Una to discuss the transformative and orienting powers of core courses, her shift from Berlin to London to Uganda to France to Budapest, and the consistent and enduring eccentricities of Pankow wildlife.**

Tell me about your time in Uganda.

My Uganda trip was quite amazing! After I left ECLA, I was planning to stay in Berlin for my  master’s, but the program I applied for was all in German, and my knowledge of German was not high enough. I also couldn’t find any scholarships to do my master’s in England, so I was quite unhappy and disappointed. And then, just totally coincidentally, a friend of mine saw that there was a safari company in Uganda looking for interns, which was a totally new thing for me because it had nothing to do with my undergraduate education at all.  

Right. After four years of doing school, this is something completely different.

Yes, totally different! Sometimes when I tell people that I spent a year working for a safari company they think that this was some kind of place where people go to shoot animals, and I would never do something like that. I didn’t do that and this was not that kind of company. They had some lodges all around Uganda, large lodges in the savannas of a national park called Kidepo Valley. I spent approximately four months there. It was so beautiful. I was always in nature, helping out. My tasks also included working in an office and helping with boring administrative stuff, documents, calculating budgets in Excel. I always wanted to escape from this sort of work after finishing my Gymnasium. There, in Serbia, you usually go and work or study in a department, like natural sciences, math or physics After I finished Gymnasium  I said ‘Never again!’ and then I turned to humanities. It was nice to do it again in Uganda, though.  

What was the community in Uganda like?

Even though the administrative work was boring, I was very close with the staff, helping out as much as I could and also hanging around with the guests. It was a very small, intimate approach to work, so we would all eat at a big table and they would serve us and we would all sit and talk about which animals we’ve seen and things like that. Sometimes I felt like it was strange because it was a place where very rich people would come and spend time in a ‘wonderful African, Ugandan experience’. Sometimes I was kind of not sure what to think of myself being there. But I had this great time where every day was filled with new and crazy experiences. I lived in a small hut, too, made out of wood and leaves and such: They tried to make it as natural as possible to give an ‘explorer’s experience’. I lived in one of these, and in the morning I heard animals making such crazy sounds, and, even though the hut was off the ground for security reasons, we would get woken up by screaming animals. It was always wild boars.

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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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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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