Professor Ben Kohn

Next up for study abroad program: Berlin

By Meg Jackson

Every year, several opportunities are available for Whatcom Community College students to study abroad.  For the first time, Whatcom is offering a trip to Berlin, Germany for spring quarter 2016.
“I was ecstatic when I heard Berlin had been chosen as the new study abroad destination,” said Ben Kohn, a German language instructor at Whatcom who will be teaching on the trip.

Kohn has participated in other study abroad programs both as a student and a teacher.  He strongly encourages students to consider applying for the program in Berlin, where they will have the opportunity to learn about another culture firsthand.

“I have always believed that students can learn more in a few moments with true masters of their craft and the art that they have created, than in a month in the usual academic environment,” Kohn said.

Kohn said that students who take advantage of a Study Abroad program can learn so much about another culture.
“You’re immersed in an environment where you can’t help but learn,” he said.

Kohn will teach two primary classes while in Berlin; a music appreciation class and an introduction to film class.  A German Life and Culture class will be taught by a guest lecturer local to Berlin, where students will learn German language basics and aspects of the culture.

For his music appreciation class, Kohn plans to take students to several concerts in Berlin and expose them to a variety of genres.

Professor Ben Kohn
German and humanities instructor Ben Kohn holds a display case containing pieces of the Berlin Wall. Photo by Meg Jackson.

“Because we are lucky enough to be situated in Berlin, we will focus most intensely on the musical contributions of the composers and performers in this region,” Kohn said.  “What is even more exciting is that we will be in the most musically innovative, dynamic, and vibrant city on the face of the planet at the very moment it is exploding with all kinds of new sounds!”

Kohn’s introduction to film course will include a visit to Babelsberg, an old film studio just outside of Berlin that was intended to advance German filmmaking before World War II.

“As we will be examining film as an art,” Kohn said, “we can easily use German films and film clips, almost exclusively, to illustrate in detail the technical elements of film, as well as investigate how films can make us see, then feel and think differently.”

Classes will take place four days out of the week, so students have longer weekends to explore the city and travel to surrounding areas, like Prague.

Ulli Schraml, Associate Director of International Programs at Whatcom, said that students will be living in centrally located apartments in Berlin with other community college students from Washington.  Students will also have access to public transportation, the cost of which is included in the trip fee.

While the cost to study abroad can be expensive, there are a variety of scholarships available for students who are interested, like the Gilman scholarship, which provides up to $5,000.  There will be a workshop on how to apply for a Gilman scholarship in Syre 211 on Aug. 5.  International Programs also offers two $1,000 scholarships for fall and spring programs. Additionally, students can use financial aid money to help alleviate Study Abroad costs.

Applications for the program are due Jan. 15, 2016, along with a $50 non-refundable application fee.  Students will arrive in Berlin on Mar. 25 and stay until June 3.  They will receive a total of 15 credits for the quarter.

Kohn emphasized s the positive impact that participating in a Study Abroad program can have on their lives, adding that he has greatly benefitted from his own experiences studying abroad.

“It changes who you are completely,” he said.  “[You] see America differently after something like this.”

Having been deeply involved in the Study Abroad program throughout his life, Kohn has received two awards from the Ethnic Students Association for “countless hours of devoted service to students” and “outstanding contribution and dedication to multiculturalism.”

While studying abroad can be a difficult arrangement for many students to make, largely due to the cost, Kohn strongly recommends taking advantage of such an experience if at all possible.

“Yes, it is relatively expensive to go on these study abroad trips,” he said, “but you’re going to end up 45 years old and massively in debt anyhow, so you might as well have this incredible experience that will change you forever.”


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