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

View from Blithewood Garden on Bard College Campus featuring Annie Swett (EPST 2019) and Nancy Stanley (HAST 2019) (Credit: Emma Jacoby)

Studying abroad for one year at two separate institutions on two continents has been and will be exhausting but beautiful. The decision you made to spend two semesters in two separate locations was not taken lightly. After two years at BCB, you probably did know everyone and had taken classes across several concentrations; it was normal that you felt a little restless. You and most of your friends consequently decided to study abroad at BGIA, CEU, Bard, Lingnan, Sciences Po — and for two semesters instead of just one. Silly as it may seem, if you were considering spending those two semesters at two institutions, you realized it would be a good idea to come up with a kurz und knackig (short and sweet) introduction to your life. Even before coming to upstate New York, you’d been asked which state in the US you were from countless times. So your spiel was to establish that you were a German-but-international student from an undergraduate program at Bard College Berlin who has lived in places like Bangladesh and Georgia, yet always ended up at English-speaking international schools where picking up an American accent proved to be surprisingly easy (and franky unavoidable).

Your time at Bard during the Fall Semester began with an unexciting eleven-hour layover in Dublin, one that was made even more unpleasant than usual by the cold you had caught just twelve hours before your flight. After that fiasco of an airport experience, you would not recommend that particular AerLingus connection to future study abroad students.  Thankfully, things definitely picked up for you from there. Insider information about airlines or cafeteria food is something you’ve always appreciated in reflections about academic experiences when making big decisions, such as where to go to college or study abroad. You hope that your reflection, through the sharing of some of your unprofessional opinions on Bard and CEU, might be helpful to others in the middle of filling out their study abroad forms.

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Credit: Charlotte Boccone.


One of the first things that the two women, a burlesque dancer and a party organizer, mentioned to me was how hard it is to be a woman in their businesses here in Brazil. I was interviewing them for an anthropological project on sadomasochism. In the room below us, a man was lying face up on the floor while a woman in a pink dress and four-inch stilettos was dancing on top of him. Another woman watched with a beer in her hand, sitting on the back of a man on his hands and knees. They were playing The Smiths very loudly when a man asked to worship my feet, but I informed him that I was just a researcher, thanks.

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The view of Budapest from Gellert Hill.

The view of Budapest from Gellert Hill.

“I think, I think when it’s all over it just comes back in flashes, you know.  It’s like a kaleidoscope of memories, it just all comes back…It’s not really anything he said or anything he did.  It was…the feeling that came along with it.  And…the crazy thing is I don’t know if I’m ever gonna feel that way again.  But I don’t know if I should…”

Taylor Swift understands me, on a level that is beyond my love life.  In the opening of her 2012 hit song, I Knew You Were Trouble, she describes the suffering wrought by a deceptively charming ex.  Hair chopped, surrounded by dessert, trash bags, and flyaway toilet paper, she looks back on the days when life was too good. I see her experience as a dramatic version of my dreamy spring break trip to Budapest.  With warm weather, vast 38°C outdoor pools, island parks, Costa Coffee Coolers, and sweet cinnamon-scented air, it was as if life could not get any better. It was like real-world affordable Disneyland.  Fueled by magic, by “synchronicity”. 

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Students Tom McQueeny, Yishu Mao, Marissa Shadburn, Sharon Jiang, and Nora Krasniqi arrive in Berlin from New York.

Bard students arrive in Berlin from New York.

All through school my dad would reassure me that I was a “college person,” meaning that while maybe high school wasn’t the best, I would find whatever I was looking for in college. When I walked onto the ECLA of Bard campus, nearly empty—since I was a day early—I finally understood that he was right. I was going to be a “college person”; the freedom and independence that come with the self reliance and responsibility, taking the classes that matter to me, living in a dorm. ECLA of Bard then became the embodiment of all these things, from the old embassy dorm buildings to the walk back from the cafeteria. If I close my eyes and think of the word “college,” the ECLA of Bard campus, students, and teachers will come to mind. And then I remember that I’ve never actually attended the college I’m really attending.

I visited Bard College once; it was the spring break of my senior year, so my mom, my sister, and I took a trip from the West to the East Coast of the U.S. and ended up at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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Rio de Janeiro Clouds

Jelena Barac is an ECLA of Bard BA student who spent the 3rd year abroad at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro

When I was little, two ladies that were our neighbors took care of me while my mom was at work. They would feed me delicious smoked bacon, allow me to transform their living room every day into an architectural masterpiece—of which only children are capable—and let me rummage through their books. Among these books they had one on world wonders. I went through that book million times, marveling at the Colossus of Rhodes or the Great Wall of China. Among the wonders of the world there was—or at least that is what my memory would like me to believe—a picture of Rio de Janeiro. It was a picture of Copacabana beach with twinkling lights taken at night from a bird’s perspective. Later, my mother would tell me that this city was considered the most beautiful city in the world. The image of it as a beautiful place stayed engraved in my mind, more so for the light that kindled in my mom´s eyes and the conviction with which she spoke of it—an envy-less expression of mere gratitude that something so beautiful even exists in the world—than because of the picture in the book of wonders. That is why this city stayed in my mind adorned with night lights and the indigo gleam of the ocean: it mimicked the joyful expression of my mother’s face while she spoke about it, a face similar to that of a person immersed deep into a pleasant dream. And now, I am here, immersed in those city lights, as if I had become smaller and had walked right into that picture in the big book of wonders, with its shiny and sleek pages, that made a soft swoosh sound, during one of my numerous explorations of it.

Just like people who, after the first impression, form more sharply and settle deeper in the clay of our opinions about them, the cities too emerge clearer out of the fog of imagination and expectations. The streets become familiar, somewhat stricter and more real. The sounds and smells – anticipated, at times even ignored. Surprisingly, the more I get to know the city, the more its surreality emerges and blends in with the image from the book. Perhaps in this way my mind is attempting to contextualize all this beauty. It is because of this beauty that my brain is continuously left in a slight state of doubt over its real existence.

Another feeling overwhelms me repeatedly. I call it foreseen, or anticipated, or imminent nostalgia; or as the Brazilians would say, so proud of that word, saudade. Nostalgia is longing for the past, the things that have happened; it is reminiscence over what has been and no longer is. But, I experience it differently. In the moment of great joy, when I realize that ”these are the best times of our lives,” I feel nostalgia for what is already happening in the moment when it is happening; as some sort of reverse foresight for what will be. It is a very Pessoanian feeling. Like his regret today for the regret he will feel tomorrow, my nostalgia comes in a similar fashion before its due time, and so mixed with joy, defines the bitter-sweet Shakespearean sorrow. I could, indeed, never, feel time linearly. But after all, who could?

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Classroom in the Kalpakkam Model School in Tamil Nadu, India

Classroom in the Kalpakkam Model School in Tamil Nadu, India

I was invited to a conference in Chennai to learn about the results of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012. Various educators, activists and writers were invited to share their perspectives on the current state of the Tamil Nadu education system.

ASER is an annual educational assessment conducted throughout India to test the basic literacy and arithmetic skills of children aged between 6-14 years who live in rural areas. It compiles information on the percentage of children who attend schools and, if so, whether they attend government-run or private schools. Lastly, it researches the quality of the schools’ infrastructure and schools’ compliance with the Right to Education Norms (RTE).

The methodology used to attain results is relatively simple and as a result those who conduct the testing are not required to have expertise in the area of surveying and statistical findings. 811 villages were visited in the Tamil Nadu state and the results procured conveyed a dismal state of affairs across the state. The first test involves having every child read and comprehend a one-paragraph story written in the respective regional language. Only 43.4% of children in the 1st standard (6 years old) could recognise letters from the Tamil alphabet and only 43.6% of children in the 2nd standard (8 years old) could read simple Tamil words. Worse still, literacy rates do not seem to proportionately improve with seniority, as only 29.9% of the 5th standard children (11 years old) can read a story that is used in a 2nd standard class.

After reporting the statistical findings to the audience, the invited speakers expressed their thoughts regarding the stagnant condition of the literacy and arithmetic results. Firstly, government officials are unwilling to accept the responsibility of repairing the flaws of education sector. True enough, there were no representatives from the government to provide an explanation for the lack of progress in the education sector. Secondly, various problems associated with the manner in which the survey was conducted were noted, as indicated by the absence of evaluating teachers. After this brief diagnosis, larger problems were noted as follows: the need for life-skills education in the curriculum, the disparity between government and private schools, an urgent need to involve village council members into school management affairs so as to mend the urban-rural/state government-rural grassroots gap. Clearly, the common thread running through these matters is the widespread incompetence that has been continuously demonstrated by the Tamil Nadu government. As much as the speakers’ perspectives enabled a clearer understanding of the prevailing problems, it is not clear when and how these issues are to be solved. Most importantly it is not clear who is to initiate this process of radical education change.

I left the event with an understanding of the failures and the reasons behind the Tamil Nadu government’s inability to provide a well-functioning educational system. However, I began to question my own agency as a temporary participant in education reform. What effect would the outcome of my time at the Kalpakkam model school have on rural education?

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Una Blagojevic

Una Blagojevic is currently spending her Third Year at Goldsmith, University of London, and is reporting about her most recent experiences.

 So far, I have been really enjoying studying at Goldsmiths. The reasons for my appreciation of it range from very banal to more sophisticated ones. Not only is the college situated in an old red brick building, behind which is a vast grassy area usually packed with students even on a rainy day, but the general atmosphere in the college is very inspirational.

It is situated in the diverse south east area of London, which reminds me of Kreuzberg with its eccentric stores and unique people that can be seen on the streets. A more sophisticated reason is that one can, for example, hear the orchestra class playing, while getting lost in almost maze-like building. Above all, I’m impressed by how fascinating and engaging my courses are.

One of the classes that I am taking is “Democracy, Nationalism and Dictatorship in Eastern Europe in the 20th century”. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the History department at Goldsmiths has a course dedicated to this topic, something I have always been very interested in.

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McGill University

 “By hard work, all things increase and grow.” – motto of McGill University

Emma Hovi is spending her Third Year at McGill University studying history and environment and reports about the student movement at the hosting institution.

In planning my third year of the ECLA BA programme, I wanted to use this opportunity to tailor a year to fit what was interested in. Nevertheless, I found myself worrying over ending up somewhere random, somewhere where I would be disappointed. I wanted to choose wisely.

In fact, this was not really a pure matter of picking something you think you like out of a bunch of offers. Some doors closed on me pretty early on. For instance, in a flash of enthusiasm, I tried to get in touch with an eco-village outside of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

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