A journey to Berlin, a Trip for a Lifetime

Aida Baghernejad,  Lead tutor – Berlin: City of Reinvention, explains that getting to know Berlin helps us understand how community and civic engagement can make a difference.

This year I’ll have the pleasure to lead a study tour to Berlin for the second time. Last year the students came from all different disciplines, but they each shared an eagerness to learn and to experience this city and its unique history.

Berlin is known by some as the capital of big-scale rave, but also as a city that allows creativity and individualism to thrive. A German proverb says “you are crazy, sweetheart, you must move to Berlin,“ and indeed, Berlin can be a haven for those who think differently.

On our course, we follow in the footsteps of Prussian kings, learn about the chilling history of the Olympic stadium in situ, talk about Berlin’s wild and creative years during the Roaring Twenties and hear about what Berliners endured in the post-war years. We met lawyers who gave historical walking tours with a twist, young creatives who took over an old warehouse and established a co-working place where you pay for your desk with your creative labour by contributing to a self-organised conference and a writer whose blog has become to definitive guide to Berlin. In short, this course introduces you to dynamic people who have taken their life and their destiny into their own hands. It’s all about personal agency and responsbility; about not only dreaming of a utopia, but actually just creating it yourself – that’s the Berlin way!

By the end of the week last year, as one of the participants observed, this group of students from different backgrounds had become a group of friends. By travelling together through the different time periods in Berlin’s history, learning about the legacies and the bright and open future of the city, we come to understand cultural difference as a precious resource to learn from each other and broaden our perspective. Berlin can teach us what it means to not only live somewhere, but also strive to make that place better. It is a living example of how community and civic engagement make a difference and provide a glimmer of hope even in the direst of times; of which Berlin has had many…

I am looking forward to welcoming the next cohort to Berlin and re-experiencing the city through their eyes. Berlin is constantly reinventing itself – and you might just do the same!

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