Berlin History, Culture, and Language Week



An 8 day immersion opportunity for students to improve their language skills, while connecting what they have learned about German history to the richness of present-day Berlin

Dates: June 8-15
Number of Students: 12
Leaders: Lisa Svec (Director), Benjamin Duclos, and Mary Mulligan
Themes: Language, Culture, History

The Berlin Week is designed to dovetail with “Berlin: From Imperial Capital to Weltstadt,” a collaboration between the German and History departments that will be offered in Spring 2015. The program has two compelling objectives: to offer PA students the opportunity to engage with native speakers of German to improve their language skills, while connecting what they have learned about German history to the richness of present-day Berlin.

This is experiential learning at its best. By exploring the rich layers of Germany’s past that are represented in Berlin’s art, architecture, and design, we will connect the language to the many histories of the city. Students will develop skills in cultural awareness and communication as they get to know Berlin. Off-campus learning promotes intercultural inquiry, along with reflection on one’s own culture – all valuable processes that will benefit students and the PA community as a whole. By exploring the city of Berlin we can open students’ eyes to the ways in which language and history inform each other, and vice versa.

Traveling to Berlin takes language learning and history learning out of the classroom and into the world outside Andover. By making the city on the Spree our classroom, we challenge students to engage culturally, linguistically, and historically with all that the city has to offer. We aim to foster confidence in language skills, critical thinking, and maturity. By showing them what can be experienced when one knows a foreign language and the history of where it is spoken, we hope to demonstrate the value of language study in an historical context.

Student Participation and Application Process

This week is offered as a supplement to the interdisciplinary German/History course taught in the spring term 2015. Underclassmen who will have completed this course (currently the 3rd term of German 300) as well as students who are enrolled in German 400, 520, and 600 and who complete a Berlin project as part of their coursework in the spring of 2015 are eligible to apply.

The eight-day trip will be chaperoned by German instructors Benjamin Duclos and Lisa Johnson Svec as well as History and Social Science Instructor Mary Mulligan. These instructors will also be teaching the interdisciplinary German/History course in the spring of 2015.

There will be a maximum of 12 students accepted into the program. The group will stay at a hotel in central Berlin, with easy access to all the sites. There are 6 days on the ground in Berlin, each day with a full itinerary. There is also an option for students to participate in the AATG (American Association of Teachers of German) summer study program in Berlin, which begins on June 18. Please see their website for application information. Those spots are filled on a first come, first served basis.

Phillips Academy is committed to providing needs-based financial aid for both of these programs. For questions about either the Berlin week or the AATG program, please contact Lisa Johnson Svec at


Sample Itinerary

Exact itinerary is subject to change.

Day 1

Departure from Logan Airport. Flight to Berlin, Germany

Day 2

  • Arrival in Berlin.
  • Hotel check-in.
  • Walking tour: Potsdamer Platz: Berlin Wall Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden, Foundation Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe
  • Evening: TV tower

Day 3

  • Bike Tour: (Fat Tire Bike Tours) Berlin Wall and Cold War: Karl-Marx-Allee, East Side Gallery, Treptower Park memorial
  • Museum Island

Day 4:

  • Museum Island
  • Humboldt Forum
  • Berliner Dom
  • Jewish Quarter Oranienburgstraße / Hakescher Markt /New Synagogue
  • Evening: Spree river cruise

Day 5:

  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Topography of Terror
  • DDR Museum
  • Afternoon options: Border experiences at Friedrichstraße , Museum Island
  • Evening: Reichstag

Day 6:

  • Bike Tour (Fat Tire Bike Tours): Potsdam: Sanssouci Palace, Potsdam’s Brandenburg Gate, Dutch Quarter, Cecilienhof, Glienicke Bridge

Day 7:

  • Ku-Damm
  • Tiergarten
  • Kaiser-Wilhelm Church

Day 8:

  • Return flight to Logan Airport

* Possible visit to the U.S. Embassy, facilitated by Tammy and Phil Murphy

Student Voices

From a student-written feature in The Phillipian:

For a week, twelve students transformed the city of Berlin into a classroom, exploring its art, architecture, and historical monuments to gain a better understanding of German culture and history. During the trip, students frequently traversed the city on their bicycles, engaging in conversations with locals along the way and improving their lingual skills.

“It definitely helped me with my German oral skills, because even though you do that during class, it’s really different being in Germany, using it on a regular basis and in conversation. I definitely learned the local language, instead of just regular grammatical things,” said Madison Pettaway ’17.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the day trips we took as a class; however, the time we spent on our own, whether for ten minutes or for the night, was the most valuable to me. It was special to use what we have been learning for the past two years and finally get a chance to use it with no dictionary or teacher to fall back on,” said Payton Jancsy ‘16 in an email to The Phillipian.

Over the course of the week, the group visited numerous cultural landmarks, including the DDR Museum, Humboldt Forum, and the Topography of Terror Documentation Center. According to Pettaway, however, the highlight of the trip was visiting the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The somber atmosphere of the monument provided context and perspective about the Holocaust that history books could not replicate.

“Just going there was so heartbreaking. Actually seeing the stelae which represented the ashes of the burned Jewish people, and going into the museum…There were videos streaming, but no one talked. It was amazing to see everyone caught up in it, because in most memorials, you don’t really see that. It was really beautiful to see,” said Pettaway.