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The Clouds in chorus (Credit: Tamar Maare)

The Clouds in chorus (Credit: Tamar Maare)

Maria Khan is a BA 2015 alumna originally from Pakistan.

Bard College Berlin has a special place in my heart. I love it. I adore it. I am shamelessly and unabashedly its biggest fan. I have loved all its transformations and will continue to do so. I spent my formative years at BCB, and my experience was enriched by the people I met, the friendships I formed, and the lessons I learned there.

Currently, I’m enrolled in a PhD program at Cambridge University, specializing in arts education. My PhD examines the use of drama for the purposes of cultural integration. I plan to work with Turkish immigrants in Germany and use Goethe’s Faust to instigate a conversation about interfaith dialogue, Western versus Islamic values, and how Muslim immigrants perceive themselves in a host community.

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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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Maria Khan debating

Maria Khan debating

Recently, there have been efforts to form a debate club at Bard College Berlin. A group of students have come together for this purpose and have collectively joined their talents and previous debating experience to produce a new trend among our community. The enthusiasm surrounding the initiation of the college’s own debate club motivated me to share my debating experience with the Berlin Debating Union at Humboldt University.

When I first came to Bard College Berlin in 2010, I decided to look for a debate club in Berlin, so as to continue to improve my debating skills. It seemed to me at the time that debating was more of a trend in the English–speaking world, particularly in England. As I was leaving Pakistan to resume my studies in Berlin, I had little hope that I would find English debating societies in Germany. To my pleasant surprise, not only did English debating exist in Germany, but Berlin itself also boasted one of Europe’s largest debating societies. And it was only by chance that one of my colleagues here at Bard College Berlin, April Matias, informed me of it and promised to take me there as well.

And so we went to Humboldt University on Friedrichstrasse, which was humming with the voices of students coming in and out of the university buildings, on a cold rainy November night. I was hooked even from the very first session.

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Osman Chaudhry (right) - photo by Syed Haider Ali

Osman Chaudhry (right) – photo by Syed Haider Ali

An 18-year-old born in Lahore, Pakistan has recently joined the Bard College Berlin community. Muhammad Osman Chaudhry is the third Pakistani student ever to be enrolled in the BA program. With a thick beard, cool reserve, and wearing a mix of Pakistani attire and jeans, Osman is seen roaming around campus as a thoughtful and relaxed fellow-student. As part of the blog team, I decided to have a casual conversation with Osman about his first impressions of Bard College Berlin and his life here in Berlin.

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Richard-Budd

The actor Michael Palmer in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Blackwell’s Bookshop (photos by Richard Budd)

This summer as I was visiting friends and family in the UK, I had the delight of watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Oxford’s famous bookshop Blackwell. The play was very interesting to me because it dealt with themes relating to the scientific practices of the early modern period––themes I had recently come across in my spring semester course on Early Modern Science at ECLA of Bard. Even though I watched the play out of coincidence, it was a way for me to further my thoughts on several things discussed in our class.

The play was a one-man show, in which the actor played all the parts by changing his voice and using different props and costumes. I must say that, given my theatre experience, the choice of the play’s acting method—a single man’s embodiment of different characters—seemed particularly accurate, as Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde aims to gradually disclose the two personalities and their relationship hidden in a single man, Dr. Jekyll. Thus, in a most emphatic presentation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, the audience was presented not only with the duality of the main character, but also with two emerging issues: the first being the ethical boundaries that any researcher has to explore and the second being the dilemma scientists can face when making new discoveries and having to deal with conventional ideas about morality and ethics.

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Maria (far left) and the other CELTA trainees

Maria (far left) and the other CELTA trainees

I have recently returned from Krakow, where I spent a part of my summer break to receive my Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults at the British Council. As a consequence, many people now ask me if I would see myself teaching English for a great part of my life. This led me to re-think and introspect deeply the reasons for going through four weeks of rigorous training in English language teaching. At the time when I registered for this course, I was teaching at a Teachers’ Training Institute in Pakistan. Although I was not hired as an English Language teacher, I was asked to impart the knowledge of English onto the students, as lack of fluency in English is a great hindrance in finding jobs and earning a decent living.

For two years now, I have been living in a part of Europe where English is a language without any colonial history attached to it. As I was growing up in Pakistan, however, knowledge of English determined the social class. The English-speaking Pakistani class is so small in number, that its representatives can still even be counted and form an educated minority in Pakistan. English middle schools charge exorbitantly, making it difficult for the common people to have access to this language. Not only are the common people marginalized in knowledge, but they also remain alien to the culture of the English-speaking population. And the social distance between the English and the non-English-speaking population has widened in Pakistan since the country’s independence from the British in 1947. My father often tells of what it used to be like to grow up in a newly independent country, making me more aware of the way the English language has affected the relationship the Pakistani people have, by and large, with the Western culture.

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Berlin Turkish Market

I have been fascinated with the concept of bazaars since my childhood. Growing up in Pakistan, my mother used to go to the Sunday market – otherwise known as the farmer’s market – and buy loads of fresh vegetables and fruits. Our house was known for the variety of fruits and food items that my parents very lovingly picked out. We never ate out, and thus we were those fast- food -deprived children who always wondered when other people talked about a new restaurant.

The source of this dietary routine was the farmer’s market. Half of me loathed these markets and the other half loved them, with the people standing in rows behind tables full of food, yelling to attract the customers. These markets reminded me of the bazaars from the Thousand and One Nights, a narrative that filled a large part of my childhood. From Sinbad the Sailor to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, bazaars retain a very special place in the action of the stories. Intricate plots and the role which bazaars played in those stories made me further romanticize the notion of these markets. And to date, whenever I visit a different country, I look for a bazaar as a place to connect back with my childhood days.

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Peter Thiem

Peter Thiem

I have recently come back from a few weeks of summer vacation to find scarcely populated student dormitories. Buildings that echoed students coming in and out during the academic year stand now quietly during summer break. Amidst these buildings lie the solemn yet green lawns that provide a necessary escape from the hustle and bustle of student life. And since they are always nicely trimmed and mowed, they are ever so more inviting. The caretaker of these lawns, Peter Thiem, gets to work very early in the morning. Sometimes we hear him mowing the lawns or trimming the tree branches as early as 6:30 AM.

Peter Thiem is ECLA of Bard’s gardener, and also assistant to site manager Lars Köhler. We often see him quietly going about his work, very fastidiously and effectively mowing the lawns, or at times also helping Stefan and the kitchen team in the cafeteria. Many of us have a much unspoken respect for Peter Thiem, and perhaps it is because of his helpful and independent nature.

I recently asked Peter about the kitchen garden that he has been preparing. He took me to the back-side of the cafeteria, where a reasonably sized planter is situated. The planter holds a variety of small herbs. Peter had planted garlic, thyme, lemon leaves, and millet. He also showed me rosemary, which was sadly dying. Peter sighed as he showed it to me. One can see the love he has for his plants; they are all like his own children.

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