Mail from Berlin: Meet the Student Life Staff!

Student Life at NYU Berlin is about YOU – our ex-, current, and future Berliners. As part of a new generation of cosmopolitans, you are becoming experts in cultural, emotional, and even linguistic transitions. Coming to Berlin is part of this very exciting journey. We feel privileged to become your support group and your partners as you create new communities and tell your own Berlin story.

Linn Friedrichs, Assistant Director for Student Life

Linn Friedrichs, Assistant Director for Student Life

Linn Friedrichs, Assistant Director for Student Life

 

Anne: Linn, what is your Berlin story? And when did NYU Berlin become a part of it?

Linn: Like many others, I fell in love with Berlin because of its unforgiving yet engaging vibrancy, enriching diversity, and unique creative energy. I moved to the city for an internship with the government in 2004 and, completely enthralled by the magical summer atmosphere of this city, decided to never leave again. Since then, Berlin has become my emotional and intellectual home, a place that, while still in the process of negotiating and exploring its own identity, anchors and inspires me at the same time. I am a cultural studies practitioner, trained in North American Studies, Modern History, Political Science, and Philosophy, and interested in all aspects of transcultural communication and education. I taught primary and high school students from different cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood before I joined NYU Berlin in 2011. For me, education is at the heart of social transformation and the point of departure in all attempts to work towards a future vision of an inclusive, democratic society that welcomes new sources of creative and imaginative thinking. When my path crossed with NYU Berlin, I had found my match.

 

A: What makes NYU Berlin so special for you?

L: The passionate commitment to our shared vision, the hopeful spirit, the great sense of humor, and the family atmosphere. I see this in all members of our community; and hope it inspires our amazing students as much as it inspires me.

A: I know that you spent some time in New York. Has the Berlin Bear devoured the Big Apple or does the city still hold a special place in your heart?

L: Natürlich! My relationship with New York began as an academic love affair. I was a student in the city when in 2009 the first section of the High Line opened. In its formative stages, this project epitomized what I understood as the politics and poetics of urban space in the 21st century, community revitalization, and the urban power struggle. I was fascinated by the fact that, in a city like New York, this space had simply been forgotten for years. People wouldn’t see it, therefore they did not want to own, transform, or sell it. The High Line Park still offers very unusual perspectives on the city that surrounds it. Every time I come back, it is the place I visit to re-acquaint myself with the beautiful urban monster that is New York. I have said Hallo and Auf Wiedersehen to New York – my favorite places, friends, and colleagues – many times. It has been beautiful to discover that New York will always be home as well.

A: Our new Berliners will arrive in late January. While the Berlin summer is magical, even long-term Berliners struggle with the perpetual greyness of long winters. What are your recommendations for “cozy” introductions to the city?

L: Berlin has wonderful coffee shops, perfect places to warm your cold hands on a cup of hot chocolate and indulge in some waffles after browsing the flea markets with other brave Berliners, read, practice your German, or just people-watch. I enjoy Street Food Thursday at Markthalle IX, Sunday afternoons in Berlin’s museums, like Berlinische Galerie, just around the corner from the Student Residence, or catching a movie in one of the community cinemas, like Il Kino.

A: Just returning from our street art tour with students, I am wondering if you have a favorite piece in Berlin?

L: Berlin has graffiti on every corner. Berliners might disagree whether a particular piece is art, a form of protest, a trademark, or just an indicator of how gentrified an area has become. I liked what Blu did on the lot facing the former Senatsreservenspeicher building on Cuvrystraße: Two white figures representing East and West – one upside-down and brandishing an E-shape with his fingers, and the other a W – trying to tear each other’s masks off in the process of reunification. The mural has been erased a little over a year ago. I like the fleeting existence of this art form; it’s part of Berlin’s collective imaginary as well as its lived and felt reality.

A: Berlin is host to all kinds of international food, but I must ask: what is your Berlin comfort food?

L: There is nothing better than Döner with scharfer Sauce when you come home late at night. Definitely. During the day, I prefer a mixed platter of Mediterranean appetizers, Italian tapas, or the legendary Berlin brunch. If I can’t make up my mind, I meet with friends at one of Berlin’s great farmers’ markets and browse the food stands. Delicious, fresh produce from the region.

A: What’s on your bucket list in Berlin that you still haven’t done yet?

L: I have always wanted to organize a street festival.

Anne Strauss, Student Life CoordinatorFoto Fehling

 L: Anne, do you have a Berlin theme song?

A: Aber klar, the song “Dickes B” by the Berlin group Seeed.

L: I wonder if this choice identifies you as a “real Berliner.” In a city that has become very international, do those still exist?

A: Real Berliners have indeed become very rare and hard to find. As someone who grew up in the suburbs of Berlin, I was not by definition a Berliner a few years ago. This has, however, changed and I feel that – today – I can (proudly) say: “Ich bin ein echter Berliner” and Berliners accept it. Over the years I have seen the city change and I remember Berlin when it was still divided and one could only guess what was on the other side. After the fall of the wall the city opened up and all of a sudden traveling the world became a possibility. Several years of living, studying, and working outside Berlin as well as Germany gave me an understanding of what it’s like to live away from home, but also what and where home is exactly. For me, Berlin is the place that I chose to return to after my time abroad and where I can see myself in several years. And that’s quite enough to make me a real Berliner I would think!

L: As a real Berliner, what’s on your Berlin bucket list?

A: One day I would really like to go to a real Turkish wedding and – being an avid cyclist – bike around the Mauer-Radweg. I would also love to own a scooter to cruise the city in the summer.

L: Berliners like to celebrate. What’s your favorite holiday celebration in Berlin?

A: The Festival of Music on June 21st is my favorite because there are musicians and artists playing all over the city and it’s a wonderful excuse to wander around and hear new and interesting music – it’s the perfect Berlin experience! I have first come to love this festival when I lived in France, and I am happy that it has become so popular also in Germany.

L: In all its beauty, we both have felt the need to escape the city for some hours, days, or weeks. Where do you go when you need to breathe something other than Berliner Luft?

A: When I need to get out of the city for a bit (even just for a day) I usually decide to visit my parents who live far enough that it feels like a mini-vacation but close enough that I can return to Berlin within only half an hour. In general it is fairly easy to escape the city: just get on a regional train or the S-Bahn (as part of Berlin public transport), choose a direction and go. No matter which way you go, you will land in an area with lots of lakes, forests, and fresh air. Perfect for day or weekend-trips and of course for passionate campers!

L: From one passionate traveler to another: Share your favorite memory from a recent trip!

A: A few years ago, I went on a road trip through France with my roommates. We drove through the French Alps and countryside, stopped at little villages along to the way, ate lots of cheese, and eventually ended up at the Atlantic Coast, where we went camping, visited vineyards, and relaxed on the beach. It was a really amazing experience!

L: I know you are fluent in various languages. Have you ever felt “lost in translation”?

A: This happens on a regular basis, especially when I haven’t spoken a language for a certain amount of time or when I get together with friends with various nationalities and backgrounds. At times it can be irritating to have this feeling in my native language, but I like to look at it with some sense of humor… especially when I get quizzical looks from my family because I have invented a new word again.

L: I always think that it is such a privilege to be able to join our students for part of their unique academic, professional, and emotional journeys. Looking back at your 3 years in the Student Life Office, do you have a special moment you would like to share?

A: I agree with you that it is a big privilege to work in this job and share these journeys with our students. Since I started working at NYU Berlin, I have had a lot of memorable and funny situations. The most special moments for me are arrival and departure of every semester. To see a group of students arrive and to know almost nothing about them and then build a relationship over the course of the semester until I have to say Auf Wiedersehen again is always very touching. In the Student Life Office we also have many very funny encounters and stories. However, I prefer to share these in person when we meet!

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