A group studying German at Swansea University got an insider’s perspective on Berlin, one of the world’s most vibrant and fascinating cities, on a recent study visit, supported by a successful bid for German government funding.
The city is not only the German capital, but one of the main focal points for the entire continent. Its front-line role in the Cold War was recently in the spotlight once again thanks to the success of Channel 4’s spy series Deutschland 83. Yet this is just one of the chapters in its long and extraordinary history.
As well as visiting some of the well-known sites, from the site of the Berlin Wall to the Brandenburg Gate, the students also visited people and places which are not on the usual tourist trail, from immigrant communities to street artists.
They met Berliners from different walks of life and cultural backgrounds, giving them the perfect opportunity to improve their German language skills. The aim was to bring alive the language, culture and history of the city, giving students a real insider’s perspective on Berlin past and present.
Picture: the group on their bikes at the Berlin Wall See more pictures of the group in Berlin
The study trip was organised by German lecturer Christiane Günther, who submitted a successful bid to the DAAD, the cultural arm of the German government, which covered much of the cost of the trip, making it affordable for students.
Christiane, who led a similar trip in 2013, and who has also arranged public open days and other events for her students, won a University award for excellence in teaching in 2014.
Watch: Trailer for Channel 4's hit series Deutschland 83, largely set in Cold War Berlin
Caitlin Jones, one of the students on the trip, described some of the group’s experiences, and their reactions:
“Each day for a week we toured Berlin, taking part in workshops and discussions which gave us insight not only into Berlin’s past but also into the buzz of Berlin as a modern city. A member of the group would be in charge of documenting each activity for a report that would be completed upon our return to the UK.
Some of these activities included a three-hour bicycle tour of the Berlin Wall, guided tours of the Jewish Museum, Rainbow Quarter and Deutsche Welle broadcasting headquarters, discussions with students from the Potsdam University and workshops with pupils and street artists.
In between the note-taking and sight-seeing, we even had time to enjoy the areas of German culture that we, as students, were bound to want to explore, making pit-stops in breweries, chocolate shops and döner kebab stalls!
Not only did the trip provide an active (sole-destroying) insight into the cultural back streets of the popular tourist destination, but it installed in each of us a desire to return to Berlin, as well as a sense of community which we celebrated on our final night in Berlin by watching Hertha vs Hannover at the Olympia Stadium.
Picture: group selfie at the Brandenburg Gate, historic heart of Berlin.
Will Goddard, a member of the beginners’ German class, said that: “The experience was truly amazing… After experiencing the culture and atmosphere at the stadium, I feel it earned the best event.”
By the end of the week, we all felt a huge improvement in our knowledge of the German language and were ready to thank those that provided us with the opportunity to explore Germany’s cultural capital.
Xiaolong He (Bruce) said: “I really appreciate DAAD and our dear Christiane offered us such a precious opportunity to explore and experience Berlin”. Bethan Meadham stated, “I am so grateful for my wonderful lecturer Christiane for organising the trip and making it so special.”
The study trip was an unforgettable experience, and one that each of us would highly recommend to anyone that is given the opportunity. However, we advise you to pack for a long stay, as once you visit Berlin, you will never want to leave.
Christiane Günther explained:
“The theme of the study trip was ‘Intercultural encounters’, and we met representatives from many different groups in Berlin.
The study trip brings the culture and the history of Germany alive. Students had a very authentic experience and they were able to use their German on a daily basis.
It will hopefully have given students a real understanding of one of Europe’s most important and fascinating cities”.
Picture: Christiane Günther, who organised the study trips, pictured on receiving her Swansea University award for Excellence in Teaching, summer graduation, July 2014.
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