Posted by: Karinne Sandstrom
'Twas the night before presentations and all through the hostel, groups were meeting one final time. But before the flurry of Power Points and practicing, the day proved to be a very eventful one.
We had the wonderful opportunity to meet an artist, Catherine, and learn about her background as an immigrant to Berlin. She has lived in four different places, each having an influence on her art. While she studied art in Finland, Catherine did a lot of activist art, such as working with others to hang plastic bottles in a city center to make citizens aware of water waste. At times during her discussion with us, her raw vulnerability matched the experiences she had being a “foreigner” in a country.
One thing I found interesting about the talk with her is that because of her experiences moving around, Catherine considered herself a European and not any particular nationality of a country. This is an interesting identity formation, one that I have never really considered. I think of myself as an American from California, but not really a Californian or North American for that matter… so it’s hard to draw parallels with someone who identifies herself with an entire continent. Although Catherine did say that the European Union does make moving around a lot easier, there were certain instances in which she felt discriminated against. Overall, she was a truly brave individual with an interesting background that helped provide the group with another perspective on identity formation.
Before the meeting with Catherine, some of the group members and I went to visit the Neuss museum on Museum Island. While it was intriguing to see ancient Egyptian and Roman artifacts (my favorite was the jewelry pieces and coffins), I find it extraordinarily odd that this place in Berlin has all of these historical and valuable artifacts. At what point do we as societies take ownership of the past and who has the right to present this past to others? We all felt after visiting that it is a very colonialistic mindset to have this museum on display, but at the same time feeling that the U.S. has taken similar ownership to things not exactly “owned” by the country. Despite our moral dilemmas with the way in which past meets the present, it was a cool museum and seeing extremely old artifacts dating back to 3000 B.C. is pretty mind boggling.
I have the lucky opportunity to blog about presentation day. While it was definitely frightening to walk into Humboldt’s Senate Room and see rows and rows of chairs in addition to a stage with a podium, I am thankful for this opportunity to have our presentations in such a historical place.
Despite some technical difficulties, the presentations went off without a hitch. My group presented first and I thought all of us did a nice job showing the evolution of our projects and how we came to our conclusions at this moment in time. I felt myself relax as I began to unfold my own presentation. It is nice to share with a group of academics your own personal frustrations with arriving at knowledge because in more ways than not, every person on the study abroad ran into the same types of issues. What matters most from all these presentations is that we are reflecting and continuing to ask questions that dive further into the program themes as well as our own personal attachments here in Berlin. I enjoy how everyone has a truly unique approach to their research and am excited to hear how everyone’s projects go beyond our time in Germany.
As we head into a three-day weekend, I am looking forward to a trip to Poland and then heading to Jena with the group! I can’t believe how fast this trip has gone.
Auf Wiedersehen for now!