Today was a day of departures and arrivals for many of us. It was the departure from the program, as this was the first full day after the program had ended. I found myself driving through the mountains of Lebanon, Some found themselves in the train station of Amsterdam, some exploring the hill of Ireland, walking the streets of Prague, landing in Barcelona, reuniting with old friends, or finally throwing down their bags after surviving the ten hour flight back home. Regardless, we all had some hours of travel to reflect on our time in Berlin.
This trip was about negotiating identity in communities. We had gone to explore how Germany was negotiating its national identity and what it meant to be German with the arrival of so many new people, and the existence of an already strong community different from what was considered typically German. We all saw the intricacies of this negotiation. We learned about all the different layers it involves from policy to culture to social recognition to citizenship laws, and compared how our identities are defined and ingrained in US culture. We all took something away from this trip that has peaked our interest in terms of what identity is and what it means to create and change a national identity, and how communities adjust and try to integrate or push out change (which you can read more about in our individual blogs and our upcoming publication), that, for some, will continue to drive their education and their lives in the future.
This question of identity is not simple. The question of community is not simple, but it is one Germany, and the rest of the world must address with the new changes the refugee crisis and this new era of migration and international citizenship bring. Germany is an important case study of how one system of integration and citizenship works, one we can learn from and one that will continue to change and adjust and with each year, just as we must learn, change, and grow in our approach as well.