SyriaWhere are you from and which program are you enrolled in at Bard College Berlin?
BA in Economics, Politics, and Social Thought (2021)
BA in Economics, Politics, and Social Thought (2021)
I am from Damascus, Syria. I am enrolled in the Economics, Politics, and Social Thought BA program.
What drew you to Bard College Berlin and why did you ultimately decide to enroll as a student?
I started a law degree back in Damascus in 2011, which I couldn’t continue because the Syrian revolution started during the first year of my degree. Then I became a war zone journalist and later a refugee to the countries neighboring Syria, looking for a place to continue my higher education again while working with several NGOs.
I moved to Germany in 2015. Here, I heard of Bard College Berlin through its unique program PIESC, which offers scholarships to students from areas of crisis. I wanted to apply for the Economics and Politics BA program, since I believed gaining this degree would be the best thing to do outside Syria, especially that it would be something I could use to help in rebuilding the country once the war would be over. Additionally, the concept of liberal arts appealed to me and was a motive to apply. I wanted to test different subjects in order to discover my academic interests and combine them with the experience I’d gained through my work.
What do you like about campus life at Bard College Berlin?
One of the main things that attracts students to this small college in Berlin’s suburb, Pankow, is its small community. It allows you to know everyone from all years of study by name. As you start living on campus with the onset of the L&T program, when they hold daily activities on and off campus, you will be placed in every activity with a new group of people. By the end of the program, you will not only know those living with you in the same dorm or flat, but literally everyone, and you will get to hang out later, when regular classes start, with different people with different interests, which is pretty much fascinating for me.
This can be said also about the faculty. I remember how in my first days at the college I went with the professor who is also my advisor to the cafeteria to have lunch and talk together. This is also one of the great advantages of living on campus: the cafeteria is the place where faculty and students have their meals together at the same table and also wait in the queue together.
And of course SPOK, the sports center, where Bard College Berlin students have free access to all the facilities (sauna, tennis, ping-pong tables, fitness hall, etc) is my refuge from all stress.
There are plenty of other advantages about campus life for one to discover. This gives me the sense of living with a community which I consider my family and it makes me appreciate having the opportunity to live on campus.
What do you enjoy about living in Berlin?
Berlin from my own perspective is not just a city that I am living in until I finish my degree. As I am unable to go back to my country of origin due to the ongoing war there, Berlin is now also my second and only home. I crossed 15 countries in my journey fleeing Syria and I lived in hundreds of cities, in some for a couple of days and in other for over a year, but only Berlin settled in my heart and now I am in the process of calling it a home. It is the only place where I started to create a bond between myself and the city -- perhaps because of the many opportunities it offers, as one can always find things to do in Berlin, or maybe because it is a place where all cultures come together, which is visible through the spectrum of people walking in the streets, the variety of food, museums, etc., or maybe when I look at its history, the war, the destruction, the similarity to the situation in Syria now. When I see how in no time Berlin became this great place that it is today, I am hopeful that Syria will heal too and be like Berlin today.
Write briefly about one of your courses that left a lasting impression on you.
One of the courses I had, which I can describe as demanding, informative, and mind enriching, was Globalization and International Relations. We discussed in this course different international theories and how they look at various events in the world. The material, examples and case studies we discussed during the class provided me with the tools that enabled me right away to have my own opinion and to analyze those current, ongoing or historical major events that changed or are changing our world. In this class I always felt that my efforts and pre-class reading would be realized through the exercises we had in class, in which one did not only get to present their ideas, but also hear their fellow students, learn from them and argue with them.
How do you think the education you receive at Bard College Berlin will help you in the future? What does a liberal arts education mean to you?
As I am one of the very few, among the millions of Syrian refugees, who were displaced and still able to continue higher education, I am very appreciative of the education I am receiving at BCB. Being one of these very few, I feel responsibility towards my country and I am sure one day Syria will need me. Especially that I am in the Economics and Politics BA program, I feel these two disciplines are the very foundation for a country which is on the ground now. So I believe this education will help me in different ways to contribute something to the rebuilding process.
Liberal arts is ideal for me now, as mentioned earlier, I had started a degree in law back in Damascus and I had many plans regarding the future, a master’s degree, a job, which I wrote down in my journal, but I never took into account that a war might break out all of a sudden and change everything. So I changed the way I think and the fact that I’m now studying liberal arts is allowing me to explore two different majors before I chose my concentration, as well as a variety of other courses, in order to discover more things and eventually find my passion. Who knows what I will read in a future class and what I will want to pursue as a career; all that matters to me now is to be productive on a daily basis and success will come.