After a year of living a “choose your own adventure” lifestyle (highlights include but are not limited to: learning the proper way to slaughter a chicken in the south of France, running from a wild boar, catching a swarm of honeybees in the 19th district of Paris, and the serendipitous meeting of a member of the 1940s New York Photo League), the thought of returning to a rigid academic environment was a bit nerve-wracking. Up until some time in May, I, like the eight other first-year ECLA of Bard students, thought that the Hudson Valley would be my home for the next four years. Surely enough, my irrational fear of an insular campus-oriented university life was dissolved, upon receiving the news that I’d be spending my first semester at the European College of Liberal Arts of Bard in Berlin.
Before moving to Berlin, the nine of us first year ECLA of Bard students participated as a unit in an orientation program at Bard called Language & Thinking. There, we spent our days reading and writing, colored with trips to the waterfall, corn roasts, and awkwardly meeting five hundred new people all at once. It was, in a way, the most delightfully romanticized academic summer camp. Two and a half weeks was just enough time to establish myself within the Bard community, just enough time to have it be a bit bittersweet to leave, and more than enough time to build up excitement for my life at ECLA. Despite the 50 Euro fee Air Berlin made me pay, in cash, for bringing my guitar on our transfer flight from Dusseldorf to Berlin, the physical transition from Bard to ECLA was entirely fluid. Again, we spent our orientation days reading and writing, but instead of waterfalls and corn roasts, we had trips to the Hamburger Bahnhof, the parks of Kreuzberg, games of badminton at the SPOK gym complex, and Stefan’s culinary wiles (which deserve a blog post of their own, mind you).
So yes, the transition was easy. However, there was this undeniable America-shaped teenaged elephant in the room- the other ECLA students feared our seemingly homogenous presence in their amazingly diverse world. After some tension and some time, the idea of two separate entities (ECLA and Bard) has vanished, leaving a space where all sixty of us are finally able to come together. The only reminder of my status as strictly a Bard student is the sadness of that imminent December 22nd departure date. There is a certain cruelty surrounding our temporal status here as semester-long students – we’ve achieved a fluidity amongst each other, in lectures, in seminars (even changing seminar groups in a few weeks feels unjust), in discussion, in the cafeteria, on the badminton court, in the sauna complex at SPOK, and in our dorms.
But, until December 22nd, I can only feel honored and thrilled to live this incredible honey-glazed life here at ECLA in Berlin with all these remarkable souls, and from time to time, clue you all in on what is.