Study Abroad - Through the prism of berlin: historical memory, german unification, and the future of the european union
This is an abroad program with UW Comparative History of Ideas program (CHID). The website for introduction to this study abroad program could be found here.
Berlin is a city with many faces: In the last century alone, it has been at the center of two World Wars, the sight of the Cold War and the Wall, as well as the epicenter of unification and European integration of East and West. The fall 2012 CHID/European Studies program in Berlin will explore the city as a prism for German and European integration more than two decades after the fall of the wall. Have Berlin and Germany become unified? How can we read the social, cultural, and architectural markers of a divided past, and how do they extend into the future? What did political unification mean for the citizens of Berlin, and how have economic and social changes impacted post-Cold War German identities? What role does Germany play in the current European debt crisis and will the EU survive? We will address these questions by way of urban explorations, meetings with public officials, social activists, artists, and journalists as well as through a wide variety of thematic texts and other media.
I always want to go to Germany for its complex history. I am really interested in how the culture and history are preserved while at the same time introducing new elements to the city. Moreover personally I am also very interested in the Germany's history especially the time around middle ages but never had a chance to learn about it. This was a perfect program for giving me a chance to learn more about Germany and Europe, and to satisfy both personal curiosity and diversity course requirement. It was also a very special opportunity to learn about a different culture based on experiencing this city through field trips as well as understanding European issues from a different perspective with American classmates.
Living in Berlin for two month gave me many surprises. From planning perspective, I never realize how history could have such big influences on the city development and design. I could see buildings with different styles from division period on East and West that remind people about that part of history everyday. The palaces from Prussian time have also been well preserved and exhibited that show another part of history of this city. Museums and monuments related to WW2 are scattered in the city, telling stories from different perspectives in different way. Walking around today’s Berlin, signs about the war and the division could be seen here and there. I admire from heart how Germans embrace all these parts of their history and live with them. Although discussion about ways of memorial in this generation has been kept going, the idea of don’t forget and keep moving in general hasn’t changed. Berlin has grown in an organic way that it records the traces of history and grows with residents of this city. I think this is what a city should be like. The history is kept, and people building new things based on that. It is always a process of accumulation.
This study abroad experience also allowed me to travel to 14 cities in Europe. It was very revealing and inspiring to explore different living and architectural styles. From past internship and class project experiences, I realize the importance of visiting and feeling different cities since all these experiences will later become useful resources and references for new planning and design. Only by going on-site and living with local people can I learn the most authentic knowledge about city’s layout, history and culture. Moreover, I also found out traveling to be an attitude of living, an idea of always keep walking, exploring and enjoying the new findings. It is also about a romantic process of guessing and realizing. Even the time was short, I still went to Florence for one day. At the moment I was standing on the Duomo of Florence Cathedral and watching the sun set bathed this city of the new urban planning and Renaissance origin, the satisfy stayed long and sweet.