Learning about Europe in the capital of leading EU economy: Berlin Seminar 2013

I was hoping to see spring buds when I arrived to German capital in the end of March for Berlin 2013 Seminar. Over 500 people – current Fulbrighters from all over the Europe, their families, program alumni, and those Fulbrighteres who were getting ready to begin their journey to the US – gathered for a conference at the footsteps of Berlin’s Fernsehturm (TV tower). I was surprised by the contrast between a gloomy snowstorm on the streets and a warm welcome from German hosts and cheerful atmosphere among the participants, who were all smiles.

I expected Berliners to lecture about their city and German economy and culture. Instead, I found Germans inviting everyone to share their experiences of European cultures. The spirit of sharing thoughts and ideas was striking during the week I spent there. Even though the Germans themselves and those Americans who are living in Germany told us how uneasy it is to sometimes find a conversational buddy there, the seminar proved to be a fertile ground for endless talks. The locals were more than willing to tell stories about Berlin’s past and present, how they envision the future. And the city itself provided many vivid world history mementos – from the building of functioning Reichstag to the remnants of Berlin wall.

The most memorable event to me was a workshop discussing current EU economic crisis and possible solutions. One would expect hundreds of bright minds would come up with quick bright ideas. But the more we talked about the issue, the deeper understanding of the intertwined complexities we gained and realized that, when taking into considerations many points of view, proposing solutions is not as easy as when looking at things from a single position. And Berlin 2013 seminar truly showcased how many points of view there are in Europe.

As I was riding to the airport leaving Berlin, morning sunlight led the way shining bright the snow on the streets and inviting me to stay longer. I vowed to return soon to continue learning about the people, the culture, and to again enjoy wonderful German breads.

 

Natalia Milovantseva
Fulbright-Schuman fellow 2012-13