One lesson I have taken away from the program is that I must be aware of how I am spending my time, both when I am deciding to do something and when I am in the process of doing it. The Berlin program went so quickly, and more than anything it opened doors to further discovery instead of providing answers. The amount I imagined I could do inspires me to come back to Seattle and wherever life takes me with a focused energy to take advantage of the moment. The opportunities one minute may not come up in another, so I should take them in that minute. I remember being in classes with students and thinking that I would come up with questions to ask them later. I remember being in class with the “Welcome” students and thinking about what experiences we would share as I learned German alongside them like I did the first day at Jens-Nydahl-Grundschule. I remember wanting to ask the students what they thought of the social workers’ classes. I did come up with some questions for the students, and I was glad I could overcome part of the language barrier that also challenged my time. But the last two things I didn’t really get to do. My experiences in Berlin push me to try things even when they aren’t perfect, especially when I’m in a safe zone like a school. I will learn something if I try, whether or not it is what I intended. I am taking that back with me to musical theatre and computer science.
The German confident bluntness has rubbed off on me in a good way, and I am more assertive in what I have to offer and say. Many moments involved me saying “I hope it’s ok that…” or “Can I do…?” that ended with some form of “Of course!” This occurred at Jens-Nydahl-Grundschule often. There are some things that are better done without asking, and I should remember that I can ask for forgiveness later. If you want the chocolate, just take it when offered.
I am inspired by the people I encountered in Berlin who were thoughtfully involved in politics. Sandy Kaltenborn stands out to me in that regard. I appreciated it when he mentioned that Kotti & Co. did not get tied up in political ideologies against monolithic ideas like capitalism but rather stuck to their goal of keeping rents affordable. With that in mind, I want to continue doing research on all the candidates when I am voting and look for opportunities to stand up for causes that I believe in within the political sphere. Some issues are best tackled by government policy and are worth the messiness. I might play a small role in a small cause, but inspired by Sandy it will be a role and a cause I care about.
After speaking with Sharon Otoo and reading Arrival Cities’s section about the Western world’s role in creating the Islamic conservatism that people fear today, I was left with the thought of what I can do as a rather mainstream American to let silenced voices be heard and make society more inclusive of people and their ideas. A familiar method has been reaffirmed through the program: listening. If we are not listening to a range of opinions including the stories of colored people, women, men, and eggs from Sharon, it’s impossible to make well-informed decisions that benefit most if not all people. But the new part I have added to that goal is to keep listening while asking questions and speaking my opinions because my ideas could propel others forward and my questions could unearth insights for everyone in the conversation. For this to be the most effective I have to be willing to change my mind. I need to be able to read To Hell with Good Intentions and realize how much the people I am interning with are giving to me. Then, I can move forward to figure out how I can accept that and how I can work to give back as much as I can.
This idea of changing my mind came up when completing the final write-up. When I found the activity that divided the student body from 2002, I realized that the school had past issues I wasn’t seeing. After that realization, I immediately asked myself if I should include it because it was a negative of the school’s past. I eventually came to the conclusion that it was a vital part of my discoveries to include, and it ultimately showcases the school’s ability to adapt their coursework. On the other side, I wondered if I was being too positive as I was writing my paper. I always decided that it was coming from an honest place and was supported by my experiences. I just hope that I did not make the schools’ work sound easy. The two schools I experienced were doing inspiring work and the many challenges they faced made the work even more impressive. By writing the paper, I felt closer to understanding the complexities of their work that made it a success but also a work-in-progress. It gave me a deeper appreciation of the school, its staff, and the Kotti neighborhood. I also came to appreciate how closely connected the readings, lectures, and group activities were to the course’s themes because I had a lot of rich options to add depth to my paper. Their differences in perspective made them each seem isolated, but the core concepts were consistent and were insightful to the last quote I found. Perhaps this applies to people too.
I am truly thankful for the opportunities to learn this summer and meet some wonderful people. Not relying good intentions, I am ready to take these experiences and let them inform my future work with the help of my reflection. What's on my mind is that I look forward to seeing how this program returns to me in future years and acts as a rich resource for future insights.
|A nice garden in Switzerland on the next step of my journey: relaxing|