Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Student life: Experiencing ever-changing Berlin

For the past four years, Prof. Winrich Kühne, who holds the Steven Muller chair at SAIS Bologna, has invited students to a five-day trip to Berlin at the end of the academic year. Below Svenja Heins recounts this year's trip.

This year a group of 20 students -- many of whom had never been to Berlin or even Germany -- arrived in time for a Rhinelandian dinner at the Staendige Vertretung, a favorite of Prof. Kühne's.

Schloss Cecilienhoff
Throughout the week we experienced the contradictory nature of Berlin. We saw a vibrant, modern and fun city, but at the same time we were confronted with its indisputably dark past.

This was especially apparent in a trip to the former concentration camp of Sachsenhausen -- only a 40-minute train ride from the center of the city -- and of course also when we saw the physical manifestation of Berlin's separation: the Wall. Or as tour guide Nigel taught us: antifaschistische Schutzmauer (German words are notoriously long and difficult).

There were pleasant destinations as well. At the "Schloss Cecilienhof", the venue of the Potsdam Conference, students were in awe of former statesmen like Churchill and Truman. Upon entering the conference room, one student exclaimed: "I can't believe Stalin sat in that chair!"

A segment of the Berlin Wall
We were able to engage in some very interesting discussions at the Koerber Institute, where we debated the potential outcomes of German elections in the fall of 2013. At the German Foreign Office we learned of Germany's foreign policy challenges, especially as regards the crisis in Syria.

One evening we met fellow SAIS Bologna alumni for a rainy barbeque and learned about the career opportunities that lie in store for a SAISer in Berlin. We spent a morning at the Center for International Peacekeeping, which was founded by our host, Prof. Kühne.

The trip was a great way to learn about Berlin and Germany, and we participants are very grateful to Prof. Kühne who year in, year out, gives SAIS Bologna students a chance to experience the vibrant and ever-changing city of Berlin.

Svenja Heins (BC13/DC14)

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