July 23 – Ava
Today we went to the American embassy in berlin. this was the second American office we had been to on this trip. the embassy is right on the plaza of the Brandenburg gate. this historic area was filled with other embassies and international organizations. In the embassy we met with an economic and political representative. He spoke about how he interacts with other governments, specifically in the face of Brexit and the economic ramifications of it. We got the chance to learn more about how the American government has a role within Germany and the EU as a whole. I thought it was really interesting how all of those working in the embassies and consulates are a part of the foreign service and have the opportunity to travel all over the world.
July 24 – Niko
To start the day, we attended a workshop led by Polis180, a political think tank group. In the workshop, we were split into 4 groups, each assigned different issues the EU was facing. Then we were directed to provide our own solutions/opinions on our group’s issue, and discuss it with our group mates. Once we did this, then we shared our ideas with everyone. My group got the “European Unemployment Fund” topic. It was the proposal of a EU-wide fund for the unemployed of the EU. Each member state would pay into a fund each year, and when there was a recession, this fund would help those who lost their jobs recover quicker. While this makes the EU more prepared for a recession, it also means countries will lose money and sovereignty, which some political parties are not in favor of. Overall this activity was very engaging and was a way to get us thinking about politics regarding the EU.
July 24 – Zach
In the second half of today we rounded out our rush around the oven that is Berlin by going to Freideichshain to check out the graffiti scene, legal and otherwise, that defines both the borough and Berlin’s vibrant, working-class youth rebel/ punk/ anti-establishment culture. We braved the increasing heat to check out city-sponsored murals, illegal graffiti murals that mock advertising graffiti artists, and other illegal murals made to show off. We also saw many smaller pieces, a large amount of which were politically or socially oriented, calling for change or critiquing the state of affairs in one way or another. Persisting through the nearly hot weather, we went down to an old industrial yardarm checked out how much paint gets stacked upon as graffiti is made on top of other graffiti over years.
Following that, we went across town and entered an old warehouse that has since been converted into a temple of spray paint. At said graffiti workshop, we stenciled and sprayed and sprayed some more until we all made our own masterpieces of controlled graffiti. Though this workshop/ tour/ glimpse into the seedy and awesome underground of Berlin youth culture wasn’t at first sight connected with what we did yesterday or earlier, I believe that by giving us a view of the youth culture and the tangible products it generates we can better understand Europe, by better understanding the Europeans who are involved in this scene, as they are often, if not always the leaders on significant political and social movements that impact their city, country, and continent, leading to changes or developments that affect the European Union as a whole. As an aside, this workshop was hella sick and so much fun for all of us, which was the most important part.
July 25 – Chiarra
Today we started off the day by going to the European parliament information office and learning about Brexit from the Scottish perspective. This was very interesting because we all realized how Brexit will affect the smaller countries within the EU. We didn’t realize how much of an economic impact it could have. We then moved on to the Irish Embassy and talked about how Brexit would affect Ireland. What we learned overall was that Brexit would have major social and economic repercussions.
July 26 – Ananya
As the days get closer to July 29th, each day gets sadder and more meaningful. Today was spent at the University learning alongside university students about the EU, brexit, and the Balkan states. The professor teaching was a very interesting man, who was very passionate about teaching us. Similarly to our Germany group, the university students came from all over the US and elsewhere, so it was very interesting to talk to them. During our time at the university, we broke into discussion groups. It was really fun talking to the different university students, because many of the questions provoked heated debates. We talked a lot of identity, and the difference between ethnicity, race and nationality. Overall, it was a lot of fun and an amazing learning experience! After that we went to dinner at an Indian restaurant, which was a nice change in food because it finally brought spice to the meal. Like usual, a group of us went out to get gelato at around 11pm, and we hung out together for the last few times.
July 27 – Kagan
We woke up early today to visit the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg. This was a powerful experience for the group as a whole and I think we learned a lot about how prisoners in the camp were treated and how horrible life was for them. After our time there we visited the Bundestag, the seat of the German parliament. We got to tour the building and got to see inside its deeply rooted historical past. It was interesting to see the building’s unique architecture and learn more about its political importance.