Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ende des Jahres Seminar in Berlin pt. 1

[ End of the year seminar in Berlin pt. 1 ]

11 months. Didn’t I just leave Saarbrücken yesterday? What happened in between – I went to university in Europe, learned German, got an internship with this new foreign language, worked in the German Bundestag – I haven’t even really stopped to appreciate my own personal growth and progress this year. I finally had one small moment to realize that everything is slowly wrapping up. This week was the Ende des Jahres Seminar in Berlin for all PPPler officially commencing the program for all scholarship recipients as we finish our Praktikums and then have a bit of free time to enjoy a bit of traveling in Europe.

This was the third time this year that I was part of the large group of American scholarship recipients and each time the stories of how our years played out became more and more diverse and unique. Some with host families, some with paid internships that will lead to possible careers, some with great new international connections, some that just didn’t quite fit in to Germany – there were successes to celebrate and challenges to digest and learn from. As I mentioned in the previous post, I felt more overwhelmed at the surplus of exciting new ideas and skills that I have accrued this year, but now my new challenge will be how to incorporate them into my studies and ambitions back home.

It wasn’t just the seminar that had me thinking however. This trip to Berlin turned out to be the most profound – it seems that each time I visit, this city becomes even more complicated and exciting. This trip the weather was hot and uncomfortably humid – yet, not having to trek around with my winter attire like last time [ and also with a subway week pass ] I was able to see the city with a whole new flexibility. The past two trips were central to my politically oriented praktikums – I visited government buildings and saw the most important of Berlin’s historical landmarks. This trip I had the opportunity to go even further and see what makes Berlin one of a kind – as one person noted during one of our seminars “Berlin is a city with a thousand villages”.

Berlin has no down town. There is not even a main street. It just seems like there is something happening everywhere all the time. After the wall fell down, organizers anticipated the sides to merge and a natural city center to eventually form. 20 years later this is not the case, and there is no one place in Berlin that is “the place to be” [ alluding once again to the famous quote that Berlin will always changing and will never be "Immerfort zu werden, und niemals zu sein" ]. I found corners of Berlin that had perfect intersecting streets of dense apartments and pedestrians wearing the most eclectic combinations of clothes I have ever seen [ whether it looked good or not was not the case, but it was fascinating]. Art galleries, second hand shops, restaurants with foods from all over [and cheap – Berlin is the cheapest capital city in the Euro-zone! ]. Upon earlier visits to Berlin, I critiqued the city and was pretty blunt, but it has evolved into one of my favorite places.

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