Elena Gagovska

Email: e.gagovska@berlin.bard.edu

Where are you from and which program are you enrolled in at Bard College Berlin?

I am from Macedonia and I am a part of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Thought program with a concentration in Literature and Rhetoric.

What drew you to Bard College Berlin and why did you ultimately decide to enrol as a student?

My high school education was a diverse one that inspired many interests. I was an AP student at an international school which also had two IB classes -- Macedonian and Visual Art. Having classes at high levels in different fields such as English, Psychology and History certainly made me develop intellectually, but it also made it hard for me to pick a specialized college major. Thus, picking a liberal arts college with two years of academic legroom seemed like the least daunting choice, as it would help me narrow down my interests to a more concrete field.

Eventually, I ended up choosing the Literature concentration, but I can confidently say that this is not the only field that I have knowledge in. The notion that was pushed in my high school (and in the world in general) that we should pick a discipline and specialize in it is one to which I cannot subscribe. In a sense, this idea implies that there are no connections between these fields and that they function independently of each other. The core curriculum, my film, philosophy, and politics classes have shown me that Literature, as a discipline, does not exist in a vacuum, but is something that is in constant interaction with other external factors and ideas. Thus, a liberal arts education of this kind seems to me to be fantastic way of understanding Literature in a deeper way.

What do you like about campus life at Bard College Berlin?

I lived on campus for the first two years of my studies at BCB. Moving to Berlin was the first time I had ever lived away from home, so living in a community with many people who were experiencing the same thing made this transition much easier. Practically speaking, getting three meals a day and eliminating the stress of looking for an apartment in Berlin made those two years feel much more relaxed and stabilizing.

Now I live off campus and one of my favorite place on campus is probably the cafeteria. Lunch during the week is a guaranteed meal for all students which makes the time from 11:30 to 13:30 turn into a time for hanging out with both my on and off campus friends.

What do you enjoy about living in Berlin?

Berlin is simply a place where a lot of things are happening all the time, which gives you a lot of choice. Activities range from reading at cafes, to going to bars, to taking part in political and academic events. One of the places where I feel most content at is the Staatsbibliothek at Potsdamer Platz. The architecture, the inviting cafeteria and being surrounded by other people doing academic work makes this library the perfect setting to get work done outside of home. Still, what I’d say is most important to me is being able to get involved in activism through both protests and going to monthly meetings with the Jacobin Magazine reading group and an international left-wing group for English speakers - both groups are conducted in English which makes them welcoming places for politically engaged non-German speakers.

Write briefly about one of your courses that left a lasting impression on you.

I’d say that two classes have left the biggest impression on me. The first one is the Elements of Prose class with Taiye Selasi that I took in Fall 2016. I can without a doubt say that this writing workshop class improved my writing exponentially. Taiye created a comfortable atmosphere that made people in the class receptive to the constructive criticism of their peers, which was key to everyone’s development as writers.

The second class that I would mention is the Origins of Political Economy class with Michael Weinman and Boris Vormann. This core class goes through different political and economic theorists and covers a huge historical period, from the social contract theorists, to liberalism, critiques of liberalism, the critical tradition, and to important 20th century debates. This class has been beyond helpful in making me gain a deeper understanding of concepts such as the social contract and the development of different philosophies, such as liberalism and socialism, in relation to the historical contexts and changing material conditions.

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?

Even though many don’t see its value or believe that critical thinking is too vague of a concept, I see it as the most important skill that I have developed and continue to develop at this institution. Critical thinking has enabled me to see the bigger structures affecting our lives, such as class, race and gender, and what their effects are on the lives and material realities of both individuals and groups.

Both this education and this skill have enabled me to write articles about various political topics for the school blog in a critical and coherent way. Without the classes I have taken here and the approaches that I have learned to apply, I highly doubt that I would be capable of writing well-researched articles that people are interested in reading. My blog job has made it clear to me that I want to pursue a career in journalism, both because of my writing skills and wanting to engage with the political issues that I care about. Indeed, this multidisciplined education will be a significant factor affecting my broader future. However, in the immediate future I see myself as a regular BCB blog contributor and working through my thesis as I prepare to apply for a Masters here in Berlin in a Journalism, American Studies, or Comparative Literature program.