This year marks the 60th anniversary of the German-American Fulbright Program -- one of the largest Fulbright Programs in the world. From March 18-21, the German-American Fulbright Commission held its annual Berlin Seminar and celebrated the program's success alongside the government of Germany and the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. Organizers and attendees recognized the Fulbright Program's decades of achievements and its growing network of 40,000 alumni.
The 2012 Berlin Seminar brought together 250 American Fulbright grantees based in Germany and 85 participants from 22 other European countries. At the opening dinner, participants traded stories and tips for making the most of the Fulbright experience with 140 German Fulbrighters headed to the United States this fall. As Ralphael Wüstner, a native Berliner who will study at the New School in New York City, noted, "I'm making connections, especially with people who have spent time in New York. You can read so much online but it can't replace the advice from people who have lived there."
On the second day, representatives from both countries commemorated the strong relationship between the United States and Germany. The conversation was anchored in the strength and maintenance of the extensive Fulbright Program network. At at the opening ceremony in Berlin's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dignitaries included Germany's Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office Cornelia Pieper, Fulbright Scholarship Board Vice Chair Susan Ness and U.S. Embassy Berlin's Charge d'Affaires Greg Delawie. Dr. Rolf Hoffmann, Executive Director of the Fulbright Commission in Germany, emphasized how the program invests in people. Thomas Sattelberger, from Deutsche Telekom, noted Senator J. William Fulbright's recognition of how people-to-people connections could break up "closed systems."
The following morning, members from the Berlin Senate Chancellery welcomed Fulbrighters to the Berlin City Hall. Events included a panel featuring German and American Fulbright alumni. They spoke of their experiences and the impact of the fellowship on their lives. Björn Böhning, the Head of Senate Chancellery, also held a Q&A session. Fulbrighters later enjoyed a concert at the University of the Arts put on by their musically-inclined peers, a 30-year-old tradition at the Berlin Seminar.
The Berlin Seminar ended with presentations from current Fulbrighters, whose projects ranged from Dutch water management to the social implications of consumerism. The presenters fielded questions from the audience, responded with clarity and, in one case, operatic performance. Afterwards, the crowd split -- Fulbright English Teaching Assistants learned new skills for the classroom, while other Fulbright students and scholars were briefed on the academic and cultural experiences of fellow Fulbrighters. The week wrapped up with a panel on the future of European economic integration. Closing lecturers included Carsten Dose of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, who spoke about European educational integration, and Thomas König of Mannheim University, who discussed bringing Europe into closer union. After unwinding at the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, Fulbrighters headed home, buoyed by promises of future visits and connections with new friends across the continent.
Happy 60th birthday To the German-American Fulbright Program!