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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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Dr. Galbaatar Tuvdendorj, Mongolian ambassador to Germany

Dr. Galbaatar Tuvdendorj, Mongolian ambassador to Germany

Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about ECLA is its international community. ECLA is a place where one meets people from all over the world, where one can embrace many different cultures by having the world in just one room. On Wednesday, May 27, all the members of the ECLA community had the chance to attend a Mongolian Evening, dedicated to the presentation of Mongolian traditions and culture.

Tuvshinzaya Gantulga (AY 2009, Mongolia) opened the evening with a very sincere confession: “If I—a Mongolian—would never talk about my country, never make my culture accessible, how could I expect others to know about my country?” For his speech, Tuvshinzaya prepared answers to the questions most frequently asked by students. This proved to be the right method, mostly because the questions were so honest, a true blend of natural curiosity and a will to learn more. In order to present a clearer picture, he constantly made comparisons which were familiar to everyone, so that we were acquainted not only with the meaning of what he introduced in numbers or words, but we also managed to truly grasp what he was referring to by having it presented in concepts close to our established way of understanding. For example, Mongolia is “four times larger than Germany”.

This brief explanation of Mongolia’s tradition, culture and history was followed by the introduction of the Mongolian ambassador to Germany, Dr. Galbaatar Tuvdendorj, who addressed the audience and talked in more detail about the turbulent changes in the political organization of the country that took place over the past years, the impact these changes had on society, and the current situation in Mongolia. As far as economy is concerned, Mongolia, like the rest of the countries in the world, is caught up in the financial crisis that has been shaking the world over the past year. What is important is that Mongolia is focused on education and makes sure that its students have the opportunity to study abroad so that later on they can apply their knowledge to better the prospects of their country. Dr. Galbaatar, who, prior to accepting his post as an ambassador in Germany, was the Vice President of the Mongolian Academy of Science, said that he was very pleasantly surprised by ECLA’s programme and the focus it has on an understanding of values. He believes that it is exactly this focus that the world lacks, and that only through respecting values can we strive towards the establishment of peace and balance in this world.

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Thinking Big - Great questions!

Thinking Big

The night before Barack Obama delivered his speech in front of the Victory Pillar, in a covert location in Pankow suggestively referred to as ‘24’, ISU 2008 students came together to practice their oratorical talents and reward the best among them. Professors and students of the ISU gathered – outside the classroom this time – to listen to some of their most courageous and creative give philosophical or satirical dissertations on the big questions.

The voluntary participants were asked to hold 4-5 minute speeches in front of their demanding peers and, of course, a jury composed of the ISU faculty. Depending on their field of choice, students were given a statement and had only ten minutes to prepare speeches on their respective statements. The task was demanding, but the hours spent on Marx, Nietzsche, or Dostoyevsky seemed to have inspired passionate rhetoric on politics, economics, religion, and art.

“Democracy is dead” – a statement that left the audience pondering – was fiercely debated by Anna Michalkova (Slovakia), Vasil Vulkov (Bulgaria), Rilind Latifi (Kosovo) and Mila Sanina (Kazakhstan). The statement for the economics section – ‘Greed is good’ – would have certainly scandalized Marx or Engels, but ISU students Sascha Azarhoush (Germany), Dinara Ismailova (Kyrgyzstan) and Tuvshinzaya Gantulga (Mongolia) told different stories. The echoes of a plaintive “Oh my God, why have you abandoned me?” were taken up by Lior Fadlun (Israel) and Anastasiya Prymovych (Ukraine) in a real display of theatrical talents. Last but most definitely not least, given the importance of arts at ECLA, Yevgeniya Ovsiyenko (Ukraine) and Iulia Mihai (Romania) tried to demonstrate or disprove that “art corrupts”.

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