Sometimes I forget that we’re here to study, not galavant across Berlin, Léon, and Madrid in search of the adventure of our lives. Therefore, when I woke up on Monday morning, I was a bit apprehensive. Painful memories of recent finals and sleepless nights had painted a rather dim perspective on what we were going to do at Humboldt University for the next few days. However, Humboldt has truly turned out to be a home away from home. I didn’t realize how much I had missed the bustle of students, intellectual curiosity, and thirst for knowledge. The professors have all been wonderfully engaging and thought-provoking.
On Monday morning at around 10am, we left for Humboldt. On the way there, I guess you could say we learned a few tidbits about public transportation in Berlin. The Metro doors closed on Rummi and wouldn’t open up. Poor Rummi had to wait a good 30 seconds until she finally managed to squeeze through the doors. Needless to say, we haven’t tried to cram into the trains since. Afterwards, we arrived at Humboldt University where we met Professor Markus Heide, Professor Reinhard Isensee (briefly), Ms. Romy Schreiber (a graduate student in Education), and Dr. Anna Broemmer (Director of International Programs). After introductions, we were glad to see that everyone was so welcoming and excited about our projects. They really made the transition to Berlin seem much less intimidating. Then, we went to the main building for a guided tour of Humboldt. We learned all about Humboldt’s history—that Max Planck and Albert Einstein studied here, that book burnings took place here during the Holocaust, and that the main building used to be an estate—and got a chance to see the beautiful buildings.
When we were all tired and hungry, we went to lunch at Cum Laude café, which was apparently the faculty cafeteria. We had “fancy” food and although it was strange, it was interestingly delicious. My “lukewarm potato and cucumber salad,” or so it was called, definitely made the meal. The most enjoyable part of the meal though was talking with the professors and students. It was great to discuss our projects with people so knowledgeable about our topics. It was also a shock to see how differently Germany and the United States deal with their education systems. After lunch, we had a short lecture about theory and different modes of research. It cleared a lot of things up for our projects and I’m glad that when I research over the next few weeks, it’ll be more than a random conglomeration of observations.
On Tuesday morning, we started off with a lecture from Dr. Heide. When I saw that he had a PowerPoint, I was a bit worried. Powerpoints have never really worked well with my short attention span. However, I was very surprised at how he made the lesson so interactive and interesting, peppering the presentation with important historical films. I know that for me personally, history classes have always been either lectures or heated debates. Compared to those, his lecture was really refreshing. Afterward, we went to the Palace of Tears. Above all, it really hit home that people said goodbye to some of their closest friends and family without knowing when they would see each other again. It made me feel really disappointed in myself about emotionally brushing off the Palace of Tears when I read about it in high school. Finally, we ended our day at the Bundestag and Reichstag tour. It turns out that Germany decided to preserve a lot of the old building. We saw old Soviet graffiti on the walls, gunshots from World War II, and much of the old building material. It was interesting how they managed to blend the old and the new so well. As for the new parts of the building, although I thought that they were indeed modern, they were a lot less luxurious than I had envisioned. All in all, our first two days were phenomenal!