Berlin

Becoming a Citizen of the World

Odis Babski Vassar '19

In my mind, education is about more than ideas--it’s about becoming a citizen of the world and, in so doing, recognizing that your fate is deeply and beautifully entangled with the fate of others.

My year abroad in Berlin, Germany with the BCGS program was beyond a doubt the most formative year of my college career. Having the opportunity to immerse myself in another culture—to live, study, and thrive there, and have the resources and support to do so—has not only influenced the course of my studies in general, but it has also strongly shaped who I am as a person. Studying abroad opened up a space for a certain reflexivity in me—about my nationality, my culture, and my place in the world—that could only be made possible through an extended stay in a foreign country. Living in this space of reflexivity led me to question my assumptions about myself and about others in a way that was more profound and far-reaching than anything I had thus far experienced--to undergo intense personal and intellectual development, it was not enough for me to learn about the world in an institutional setting; that superficial understanding had to be grounded in real-life experience. Finding my own way in this place, adapting to an environment and customs that were different from my own, studying and living in a language that was not mine, and facing the challenges attendant to that situation both allowed me to mature as a person and provided me with invaluable life experience. To me, having the opportunity to live in and adapt to another culture is a vital aspect of any education, in the true sense of the word. In my mind, education is about more than ideas--it’s about becoming a citizen of the world and, in so doing, recognizing that your fate is deeply and beautifully entangled with the fate of others.