Hana Khalaf

Email: h.khalaf@berlin.bard.edu

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

I’m from Cairo, Egypt and am enrolled in the Humanities, the Arts and Social Thought BA program at BCB with the Literature & Rhetoric concentration.

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

Having attended a German school in Cairo until ninth grade, when I had to move to Qatar, I had decided that Germany and particularly Berlin would be my ideal destination. In Qatar, however, there was no German school and thus I ended up going to an American high school where I did my IB diploma. Since my last three years were all in English, I was dreading studying in German and writing an academic paper seemed like a nightmare.

While doing my university research I came across BCB and things just clicked. Not only is the program taught in English and in Berlin, but its interdisciplinary nature combined all of my favourite subjects – history, literature, sociology and politics and philosophy. I hated the idea of having to choose just one major that would determine my career and here was this perfectly mixed cocktail.  

To add to that, the nature of the classes and the small community were major attractions as I did not want to feel like just an anonymous number sitting in a lecture hall. I wanted individual interaction.

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

I love how small and supportive the community is. Berlin is a big city in which you can be anonymous anytime, yet sometimes I need to be around a bunch of people that I know and like. The cafeteria is the epicentre of most of the interactions and when the sun is shining, it’s beautiful outside. Furthermore, the neighborhood and campus is very green and serene. I think those aspects are very crucial for an environment in which one can focus and study properly.

What do you enjoy about living in Berlin?

Berlin is in the heart of Europe and the capital of all the current artistic, political, cultural and academic innovations; which are greatly dealt with in our courses. Living in Berlin can be a bit hectic at times because there is always somewhere to go to, whether it is a new exhibition, play, or symposium and the city never sleeps. However, there is something for everyone; even tranquil lake swims or taking a stroll down the forest in the outskirts.

At first I was kind of lost, but a few months into living here I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Living on your own is not difficult as most things are facilitated, Berlin is so interesting and crazy in so many aspects yet serenity can be found in the heart of it.

To me Berlin is a city that can be mistaken for both a modern history book and an inspiration for political science, psychology and gender studies. It is the home for Marlene Dietrich and Magnus Hirschfeld. The host for arts and culture and the parent of history and innovation. It never ceases to amaze me by its most mundane sights and occurrences.

Write briefly about a text you've read for one of your courses that's left a lasting impression on you.

It’s so difficult to choose just one, but if I have to then I will go for Anonymous: A Woman in Berlin. It’s the diary of a German woman living in Berlin at the end of the Second World War as the red army marches in. I had read it before, but reading it again within the context of the course dealing with gender and sexuality and their development over time, made it seem as though I was confronting it for the first time. 

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 cliché as it may sound to answer this question I chose to include a quote from Dead Poets Society “Medicine, law, business, and engineering: these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.” To not only gain knowledge but fundamental and individual understanding of the humanities, of literature, of arts and of social thought is what the education at BCB is helping me to achieve. Awareness of the self and its underlying forces is crucial for the individual and the future. Furthermore, comprehending how the humanities and social sciences shape our very lives and society gives any desired career choice or future outlook an individualized and inherent foundation.