University of Washington

Summer A Term 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

Daily Diary: June 26-27

With about a week in Berlin under our belt, we are finally getting into our regular routines. Most of us are jetlag-free, learned our ways around Kreuzberg, able to get on the U-Bahn and S-Bahn without getting stuck in the door, and struggling to find the perfect balance between our classes and having a blast in Europe.

Wednesday was a relatively low-key but somewhat stressful day. We started the day at Humboldt, where we met Sabine Heprich, the director of the documentary Neukolln-Aktiv. I didn’t really know what to expect as I would not be able to understand German and I could not imagine what German documentary would be like. Sabine first talked about her documentary and her approach to the film—her motivation and message. Neukolln Aktiv is a place funded by the Job Center and Youth Welfare Service, where unemployed youth are “activated.” The documentary was quite interesting as we saw different progressions of interactions between the youths and social workers at the Job Center. The documentary was very relevant to our program as we are learning about youth unemployment in Eurozone crisis.

Afterwards we took a lunch break and headed toward the hostel. Then we started group and individual meetings with Julie, Edgar and Manuela about our research projects. Because there are so many of us with so many things to talk about, the meetings were longer than planned and some of us had to wait quite some time for our appointments. Some of us were stressed out and intimidated by our research project. We are in Berlin for another week and a half and there seemed to be too much to do! At least, I felt that way after my group meeting. When I went for my individual meeting afterwards, I had more clear direction of where I need to go and what I should do for the next 1.5 weeks in Berlin. That cleared some stress away for me.  The day ended with many of us using our “free” evening to rest and catch up on some sleep. We were getting ready for the big day.

On Thursday, we went on a tour of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. The day started with a mini bump as we waited for about half an hour for Julie as she had to go back and get our train tickets. In the meantime we got our “sack lunch” and took a lot of pictures outside of Friedrichstraße station. Then we were able to get on S-Bahn to the end of the line. Sachsenhausen concentration camp is located in Oranienburg, a small town just outside of Berlin. Read about Sachsenhausen concentration camp here. It was nice to be outside of the city and having a different view outside the train. Oranienburg looked pretty and peaceful, which was quite contradictory of what I was expecting out of the concentration camp.

Train ride and double rainbow!

The tour of the concentration camp was quite emotional. Our tour guide was really good as she gave us narratives and multiple perspectives of history, as well as her personal perspective. I had a lot of thoughts to digest and had a hard time trying to comb out different and complex layers of history. Most of us spent our time at the camp, speechless and mournfully looking at what remains of the camp. The weather complimented our feelings as it poured down rain on us for a bit. We ended the tour with a walk around the crematorium. That was the hardest and the most emotional part of the tour. On the train ride back, we reflected on our feelings and thoughts about the tour. When we came back to Berlin, some of us went to the holocaust memorial, dedicated to Jews. We walked through the memorial individually for about 20 minutes and came back to the hostel.  Check out our student blogs (links on the side) for individual reflections.

At the end of the day, I was emotionally-drained and it was a lot more intense than I expected. The program is more than just travelling and exploring Europe, but rather really challenging ourselves with complex questions of history and social issues around us. I am curious to see where the next four more weeks are going to take us.

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