Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
Tag "Student Life"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

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.

L&T performances (Credit: Andrea Riba)

Students from all corners of the globe arrived in Pankow this past August to participate in a two-and-a-half week writing intensive called the Language and Thinking program. These academic exercises were at times trying, new, or unusual, but certainly left an impression on students and teachers alike. Over dinner in the cafeteria, we chatted about the nature of the program and student’s reactions. A special thanks to Ido Nahari, Hanna Bargheer, Hans Stauffacher, and (of course) the graduates of this year’s L&T program.


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As intelligent and emotional (well, for the most part) beings, we humans tend to hold on to things. We collect objects that remind us of places, people and experiences – or in some cases, even ourselves. In college, however, the physical load of things we keep is significantly reduced. What is it then that college students keep in their rooms – and more interestingly – display on their shelves? One of the common phrases, of unknown origin, says that we can learn a great deal about someone by looking at their living space. The truth of this saying I leave for you to determine. All I can say is that the heterogeneity of our students’ shelves definitely lives up to the diversity of their cultures, backgrounds and personalities.

Click here to see the photo gallery!
The Olympic Flame, lit by the torch transported all the way from Olympia. (Photo: Hervé Kerouédan)

The Olympic Flame, lit by the torch transported all the way from Olympia.
(Photo: Hervé Kerouédan)

The first impressions of an encounter are usually the ones that do not tend to stick once one gets more acquainted with the subject of the impression. However, sometimes first impressions do linger for a long time––like the undeletable mark left after an onerous attempt to remove a sticky label from a jar.

My first encounter with the Olympic Games is one of my most vivid child memories. I was a toddler when the XXVI Summer Olympics ’96 took place in Atlanta. Though still an infant, I remember the shiny gold medal awarded to Alexei Nemov on vaulting, an Olympic gymnast who grew up a Soviet, but became one of the first Russians to compete under the flag of the Russian Federation following the dissolution of the USSR.

This said, the most memorable moment for me from the ’96 Games as a whole was arguably Kerri Strug’s vault for Team USA that sealed the gold for the team, which would later on be called the Magnificent Seven. Magnificent indeed, she vaulted her way onto the podium with a landing that severely injured her ankle. But she persisted, and she was highly rewarded for it, as she should have deservedly been. Many have argued that one of the highlights of the ’96 Games was the moment when Kerri Strug was carried to the podium by her coach Bela Karolyi––a result of her being unable to walk to receive her gold medal in the team competition.

That inspiring summer was the ignition of the spark that later on would become a lit Olympic torch within me. That very summer, I started (as witnessed by the old VHS recordings my parents kept) doing cartwheels, leaps, and dangerous things on the monkey bars. At the ripe age of three and a half, I begged my parents to put me in gymnastics: I wanted to be a “Strug.” I wanted to be a “Nemov.” I wanted that gold medal wrapped around my neck.

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I am a third-year ECLA student, and I am currently in Nepal since the end of last September, interning as a photojournalist. I am intrigued by the Nepali culture and its people, so I never forget to carry my camera with me wherever I go. There is always something wonderful to witness and discover in this country!

Nepal’s landscape is diverse, and so are the cultures, religions, and ethnicities of the people who inhabit it. Nepal borders Tibet on the North and India on the South, East and West. From the point of view of population, Nepal is a mix of Mongols and Aryans. It is very rewarding to see people looking extremely different holding hands during various religious and cultural celebrations. Nepal’s harmony is incomparable and just overwhelms me personally, as someone who comes from a region where fear and tension are growing among people of the same race and religion (Tunisia).


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Schaubuhne Hamlet in Rain

Photo by: Arno Declair

Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and yet most difficult tragedies to perform. The reason for this difficulty is the complexity of Hamlet’s character. Often the actors choose one or more idiosyncrasies of character and focus on this, while ignoring the humor and cunning of Hamlet. I once watched a Hamlet who constantly desired to kill his uncle and expressed it through an exaggerated form of anger. Although it is true that Hamlet’s anger towards his uncle Claudius is a key element in the play, an overbearing focus on this can overshadow some other important aspects. Fortunately, German actor Lars Eidinger’s Hamlet had none of these problems in the play that was beautifully performed at the Schaubühne in Berlin on 23rd March (directed by Thomas Ostermeier). In what follows, I will focus on how educational this performance was in showing Hamlet’s character as perhaps Shakespeare would have wanted it to be.

The performance began with the funeral of Hamlet’s father, with all actors on stage attending the event in a comical manner. As they moved around eccentrically on stage, the backdrop showed close-ups of the actors’ facial expressions through a camera which Hamlet was holding. Simultaneously, we heard Hamlet echoing ‘To be or not to be’: ‘Sein oder Nichtsein’. The action then moved onto Gertrude’s marriage and then gradually it focused on Hamlet’s troubled disposition. We see Hamlet as a young man who is suffering from the loss of his father, and grieving over his mother’s marriage with his uncle which has taken place too quickly after his father’s death. Hamlet’s response to the whole situation remains aggressive, yet also very tactful. Hamlet suffers from hallucinatory moments in which he tries to rationalize his grief, yet amidst all this he remains aware of the fact that he has to take revenge for his father’s murder.

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My New Year Establishment in Berlin

My New Year Establishment in Berlin

I finished my fall semester in Berlin and went back home to Kyiv in Ukraine quite abruptly—leaving for the airport immediately after the Goethe Training Exam for the German Language A1 level, which I took in the cozy office of ECLA of Bard’s German Instructor Dirk Deichfuss on December 20th. This space served me well in the past few months, as the Instructor and I held mismatched exchanges in German, and as my efforts were rewarded with coffee, biscuits, and Christmas music. I would have been happy to stay a bit longer, as the challenging test dissolved into a part of relaxed singing and chatting with classmates, but time was pressing. Having read plenty of terrifying articles about the Mayan Doomsday predictions, I was determined to be home by the 21st of December, to melancholically contemplate the sunset of civilization from my balcony. No sooner said than done, a plane delivered me from the (almost) vernal Berlin to a freezing Kyiv boasting 20 degrees below zero and knee-deep snow drifts with twelve hours to spare before the global collapse.

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