Stories from Study Abroad: Berlin & Beyond

CATEGORIES: September 2014

“Berlin’s History and Culture” is an LAS global seminar that explores Berlin’s past and present through art, architecture, and memorials.  Dr. Mark Looney (the program’s director) and several of his students who went with him to Berlin this summer, talk about their experiences in Germany.

Dr. Mark Looney (Senior Lecturer of German): The Berlin program is now in its fourth year and is meant to be a small-group study abroad experience. Students live with a roommate in an apartment in the middle of Berlin; though the course is in English (you’ll earn 3 credits in International Studies), if you speak German you can use it all day while buying groceries or making new friends.

The course seeks to confront students with the history of Berlin and Germany from the rise of National Socialism in 1933 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The city is the classroom: the class meets out in the city at some piece of art, architecture or a memorial. The intellectual and aesthetic task is to not only learn about the history of Berlin but, more importantly, how that history is portrayed and preserved (and maybe distorted) in a certain building or memorial. The result is that students learn that history doesn’t just exist but is made, presented, transformed, and used in the service of other time periods.

Chris Perez (German, International Studies, and Political Studies major). My experience abroad was like none other. The first three weeks were spent with Dr. Mark Looney and other Iowa State students. We had a lot of time to explore the city ourselves and take advantage of the wonderful German culture, architecture, and museums within Berlin. This class has helped improve the way I think in many ways. I have become more analytical and am able to think critically about everything I encounter. I also have a better grasp on the Holocaust, racism, and other various topics that could be considered challenging to face. I have improved both as a scholar and a person thanks to this course, Iowa State, and more importantly Dr. Looney. I was also given the opportunity to practice the language that I have learned to love daily. Even after this course was finished, I stayed in Berlin for an extra six weeks and took an intensive German language course at Freie Universitat Berlin. While there, I was able to greatly enhance my language skills and have become both better and more comfortable with my foreign language speaking abilities.

I would not be the same person if it were not for both of the courses that I took in Berlin. The countless memories and experiences that I had while in Berlin are moments that I will never forget. All of the time abroad over the summer has prepared me for my semester abroad this coming fall in Salzburg, Austria.

Breeanna Planica (Linguistics and Anthropology major; Russian Studies minor). This summer I participated in a Study Abroad experience lead by Herr Looney for 3 weeks in Berlin, Germany. The experience is one I will never forget. Berlin was our classroom, which really helped us see the little quirks and truly get a feel for the city despite our short stay. Class discussions were very interesting (the topics were of value to everyone, not only German Studies students) and projects were geared towards really exploring and digging in to understand the history and culture of Berlin. My favorite part of this program was that we stayed in apartments in the city, like any other Berliner. On weekends we could explore our neighborhood or take the train (which was great!) to other areas of Berlin – there were no restrictions, which lead to many great adventures with friends.

After the three weeks in Berlin, I went backpacking around Germany for 16 days. Herr Looney was a great resource and support so I would just like to thank him especially for helping me (and everyone else) not only in Berlin, but also with advice for backpacking Germany and with suggestions on where to visit and what to see prior to departure. I believe my individual travel was an amazing compliment to my time and experience in Berlin. I feel as if I have gained an important understanding of and appreciation for all of Germany. This has already started to help me not only with my German language studies but also with finding new interests in my other areas of study. I can’t wait to go back!