4365 Miles later…

They say home is where the heart is and after only one day back at home I feel like my heart has been split in half between Germany and the States, which is a division thats around 4365 miles long. After only spending about a week in Berlin I feel a certain amount of attachment to the city and the people. 

Overall the city was a perfect display of how to value history and not forget and create new a problem, which plagues America. Looking back to when we were on the public transport I can vividly remember how some of the buildings (especially east side of Germany) showed the history and culture of the area. Another great example of this is how in the monuments around the Brandenburg Gate you could find bullet holes from WWII if you were to look closely. The same feeling was found in Poland especially in an area of Szczecin called Old New city. This area of the city was destroyed up to 90% to 100% in WWII, but after the war it was rebuilt to resemble it’s historical counterpart that used to exist. It is also interesting to note that before any building is built in Szczecin that there has to be a dig to check for remains of previous buildings. In America it is safe to say that we find newer to be better. We can say that cities like New York and Washington D.C. are rich in history, but how much of that history is really standing and not just words on a small metal plaque or monuments that represent something beautiful that used to stand in its place. Don’t get me wrong though new is good to, but I personally find much value in remembering our history through the tangibles and not just the replacement representations of what used to be. 

Although getting to the tangibles in Berlin was sometimes hard, because the people are pretty harsh about their walking habits. Once we look past the hurried atmosphere that even existed in shopping malls I realize now that on New Years Eve I had conversations with many locals who took a real interest in where I was from and why I was visiting their city. Not only that, but people took pride in what they contributed to the city of Berlin. One of my favorite conversations was with a man who was ecstatic about the fact that he worked for BMW and loved his job and where he lived. This man along with other locals also expressed their interest in things like how good they were at english, what it is like in America, and how they wanted to visit America someday. 

So I guess in the end (since this was my first time in a foreign country) it might just be a simple fascination with a new place that draws me back to Germany, but even that fascination is more than enough to make me want to travel the world more than even more than ever before. Although there is an important lesson to be learned from this trip (at least for me) put into words best by Ralph Waldo Emerson 

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

Going to another country really made me realize the different values and really just the amount of people in the world. It has made me more culturally aware only one day after our trip. I think overall this stresses the importance of international travel being a key factor in people become citizens of the world, which is of upmost importance in a world that moves ever faster towards globalist principles. People who are more globally aware are more conscious of this beauty that is required when immersing one’s self in another culture even if it is for a short period of time. 

Last, but not least I would like to thank you for reading our blog. Before you thank us though I think you should take some time to thank yourself for taking the time to learn about another culture that you may have never experienced before. I also would recommend taking a chance at traveling yourself it is a decision you will never regret and something you only get the chance to do at certain points in your life. So my last bit of advice is to really seize the day get out there and go, and if you can’t go learn.

Hope everyone’s New Years Resolution was to travel! 

P.S. Don’t forget to record your traveling experiences to the beauty of our worlds people depends on it!!!

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Think about it!

Reflection

*My posts do not follow the normal timeline of the trip to WUDC Berlin 2013 for various reasons*

So I didn’t break at the WUDC. While it’s somewhat disappointing, it’s not all together unsurprising. There’s a certain experience factor that the other judges clearly had over me. Since I had no experience with academic debate before this past semester, I had a disadvantage when compared to the other adjudicators who have obviously been apart of debate for a long time. With that said, I do like to think that I was very close to breaking since I was promoted to a chair for the last round of the preliminaries. Perhaps in the future, thanks to this experience and more to come, I’ll do better.

I am very fortunate to have been able to participate in this immersion to WUDC Berlin. What I find absolutely fascinating was the varying view points between teams from around the world. Even though everyone, for the most part, debated with variances on the same stylistic models, there was a vast difference in analysis and examples between teams from opposite parts of the world. Although, even with the differing examples and styles of analysis, I was particularly surprised how often I heard examples that came from the United States, especially because most of the teams were not from the United States.

As a political science: international relations major, watching all of these people from over 70 different countries interact was very interesting. There wasn’t any obvious, outward, animosity between teams because of differences in political views. It was like a bunch of friends getting together to argue about various issues during the day, and then coming together again at night to party about it.

One story that I find extremely moving comes because of some unfortunate events that took place during the tournament… I do not know the complete details surrounding this event, knowing only what was disclosed during the tournament, but the general gist is that the police were investigating a crime or disturbance near one of the hotels. As a group of debaters was coming back to the hotel the police singled out one of them and pulled him aside demanding for his passport while questioning him. The only thing that set this individual apart from everyone else in the group was that he was the only African (non-white) in the group. I am fairly certain that it was the convener that announced this to the entire tournament, and he advocated to file a formal complaint against the police department for the racist profiling and a few other things about the incident. By the end of the announcement there was a standing ovation by EVERYONE in attendance for the stance against injustice and prejudice. What makes this so moving is that it shows that just because we are all from different parts of the world, there ARE beliefs and views that everyone shares, regardless of the distance between. While it’s always assumed that this is the case, it’s another thing to see representatives from across the world stand up for the same thing in person. It shows that just because we are separated by language, land, culture, values, and heritage, there are some things that unite us beyond all of our differences.

If there is one thing that participating in this tournament has done for me, it has reinforced my fascination and fondness of international politics and relations. After this tournament I am definitely excited to get back to studying my major and am even more certain that international relations is what I want to get into for my career. As a second positive outcome, I am very interested and excited to become more involved with the British Parliamentary style of debate and intend to make another appearance to the WUDC next year when it travels to Chanai, India. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even break next year!

-Dylan

Judging Day 3

*My posts do not follow the normal timeline of the trip to WUDC Berlin 2013 for various reasons*

So after my last round of judging on day 2, I was very excited to get to day three to try and further redeem my poor feedback score I (may have) received on the first two rounds of day 2. Even with the bad couple rounds previously, I felt like I still had a good possibility of breaking as an adjudicator if I received positive feedback from day three rounds. Fortunately, even though I still didn’t get a full nights sleep, I was more awake than the previous couple days and was ready for the long day of judging.

The first couple rounds I was still in a ‘live’ room, meaning that the teams within the room still had good prospects of breaking into the open break or the ESL (English as a second language) break. However, the real surprise and excitement of the day came in the last round of the preliminaries when I was promoted from a wing to a chair. The reason this is exciting, for those who are unfamiliar with the format, is because as a panelist you are rated by chairs on how well you can judge the round. If the chairs consistently give you positive scores you have better chances of being ‘promoted’ to being a chair and of breaking as an adjudicator. The fact that I was promoted to a chair means that I was definitely doing something right during the previous rounds, and for someone who has never participated in academic debate before this past fall semester it’s a big achievement to be promoted to a chair at the World University Debating Championships.

Because of the last 3 rounds of the preliminary rounds are ‘closed adjudication’, meaning the results of the rounds are not disclosed to anyone except the ‘tab’, I am not exactly sure where the teams ranked in the round that I was chairing, even though I know it was not a top ranked round. Nonetheless, I was very excited to be able to chair a round at the WUDC.

The motion for this round was this house would ban political parties and require all candidates for national public office to seek election as Independents.

Surprisingly, the winners of this round were the Opening Government and Closing Government, respectively.

The opening government started with this idea that if you’re apart of a party you’re obligated to vote in accordance with that party to maintain good standing, even if you don’t share the opinion of others within the party. In addition, they claimed that in the current status quo, if you vote for one or two people within the party you’re indirectly voting in the other 30 members of the party, even if you don’t know who they are or what they stand for. They also bring up that political parties don’t allow for an individual within the party to be socially liberal in one area and economically conservative in another, or some other type of combination. They say that through this action you can vote for some one who actually represents your individual values.

The opening opposition argued that political parties allow for a bigger portion of the population to be represented at once. They also claimed that candidates cannot have stances on all of the issues within the governance of citizens because it’s impractical for these candidates to be experts in everything. Also, they touched on the idea that under this policy there would be a dead lock in the legislature and nothing would ever get done. However, the big thing that the opening opposition did was propose a counter model where instead of eliminating political parties, the government should institute new policies that improve the current systems.

The closing government came in with the ideas that people are forced to join a majority party, such as the republicans or democrats in the U.S., or else they don’t have an opportunity of getting elected. They also tried enhancing the argument brought in by the Opening Government that an individual within a political party may support one viewpoint, but opposes another and in order to hold office, they must give up their views on some points.

The closing opposition expanded on the opening opposition, even though they abandoned the counter model proposed. They also claimed that because people throughout a country have diverse backgrounds and interests, it’s necessary for political parties to represent the population as a whole. In addition, they expanded on the idea that the legislature would never get anything done if everyone is arguing for their own viewpoints and unwilling to concede points and come to a consensus on the issues.

My thoughts: I was very surprised to see the opening opposition propose a counter model. While it’s perfectly within the rules to do so, it’s very risky when the government sets up a good model in the first place. Secondly, I am very surprised that no one brought up campaign financing on the opposition. Essentially, both teams on the opposition were advocating the same things, even if the opening op had a secondary model, the closing opposition didn’t offer entirely new examples and analysis of the opening team.

During the round, it got somewhat tough to understand what some of the teams were talking about. Partially it was because this was an ESL/EFL (English as a second language/English as a foreign language) round, but more important it was because most of the teams, especially the opening opposition, were jumping back and forth from European parliamentary style governments and the United States system of government. Also, a lot of teams had U.S. examples and then analysis on parliamentary styled governments. In addition, there was a lack of clash through out the round. Almost every team focused on the small, almost insignificant, arguments and left out the main arguments of the round.

During the deliberations it was was a split panel. Although, eventually all three of us agreed that government won out because the opposition just didn’t make their cases well enough to dispel the governments arguments, and the opposition lost a lot of ground through the counter model. In addition, it came down to the fact that the government was more engaged with refutation of the oppositions case in comparison.

Over all it was a decent round, and I am very happy that I had the privilege to chair a round at the WUDC.

The other rounds of the day were:

R7: This house believes that European Union nations should forgive Greece’s sovereign debt.

R8: This house believes that countries with booming populations should allocate every adult a single tradable permit to have a child.

-Dylan

Judging Day 2

*My posts do not follow the normal timeline of the trip to WUDC Berlin 2013 for various reasons*

The second day of judging was a little more difficult than the first. Not only was lack of sleep an issue, it seemed like the Chairs of the first two rounds I was in had either inexperience in Chairing a round or a misunderstanding of what the role of a chair or judge is during the deliberation of the round. More specifically, one judge completed arguments for teams, which is not within the scope of adjudication, and the other judge seemed to have very little opinion of the round and didn’t make sure there was a thorough discussion of the round. Because of the first chair filling in the blanks with some of the teams arguments, my dissenting opinion on the round because I insisted to look at the round as it happened, and the second chair that seemed unable to evaluate and articulate his views on the round (even though I was having difficulty with the same thing on the round as well), I am pretty sure that I received lower marks for my judge feed back. Even though the lower marks (if they indeed happened) are disappointing, I was very fortunate to be a wing in one of the top ranked rounds between Yale, Monash, McGill, and Sydney.

R6: This house would legally permit soldiers to refuse to participate in military actions or mission on the basis of conscience.

In this round I listened to Yale, Monash, McGill, and Sydney offer up the best round I was an adjudicator for. Essentially the round was centered on the issue of consent. More specifically, the winner of this round had to explain at what point it is feasible for a soldier to refuse orders and to not participate in a military action or mission.

The opening government definitely set up the model of the debate based on consent. They began their case by claiming that even though soldiers have consented to take orders, they are are not absolved of their responsibility if what they are doing is illegal or amount to war crimes. They go on to claim that a democratic government is not enough when leaders use false information, such as the war on Iraq during the Bush administration on the basis of WMDs. They claimed that soldiers would stop government leaders would have to make sure there are good reasons for going to war because if not the military would simply refuse to participate.

The opening opposition opened their case by claiming that through this policy conscientiousness objectors would effectively be in control of the military. In addition, they present this idea that the military is mainly made up of individuals from the lower class and minorities and that they have less incentives to avoid war than the higher, more educated, classes because they don’t understand the legal aspects of war and the international impacts of war. We also got this idea that this policy would be ultimately ineffective because even if some people objected and refused to participate there would be other people there to take over the mission to get it done.

The closing government brings in a new idea that soldiers, even if they have consented to supporting the military objectives, have not consented to all actions the military can take. They claim the soldiers have consented to the defense of the country but not to military actions that don’t directly affect the continued security of the nation. We also got this claim that politicians don’t understand the true consequences of war and that soldiers know best on the front lines about what is really going on and that when their scope of understanding on the true events of the war change they have the right to remove their consent of the actions.

The closing opposition brings an idea that if this motion would be implemented soldiers would essentially use it to avoid going to war because of personal priorities of the individual soldier, such as not being killed. Secondly, they claim it would me the military leaders wouldn’t be able to make the tough decision, such as sending a unit on a ‘suicide mission’ in order to end the war quickly, because of the desire for soldiers to preserve their life. Finally, they bring in the argument that if this motion is enacted units would be less effective because the units would be mismatched, because the people who objected and refused to participate would leave and be replaced by other soldiers, and collectively the group would not have the higher level of cohesion because they hadn’t trained together throughout their military career.

My thoughts:

First of all, the biggest thing that was missing in this round is the fact that in international law, and even in the U.S. military, soldiers already have the right, and obligation, to refuse orders if the order violates the law. This was a very big point that the opposition left out, and could have taken out a lot of the governments arguments. Secondly, the fact that soldiers don’t always understand the reasoning behind military actions was left out. This round was centered on the ‘grunts’ of the military, and the fact is most of the lower enlisted simply do not have all the information about why something needs to be done. The reason the lower enlisted don’t have all the information is simple, their job is to carry out the orders of the people with the knowledge and the dissemination of all information could lead to just what this motion is calling for and that it would put the country at greater risk if a lower enlisted solider with all the information got captured and revealed this information. Also generally, the lower enlisted wouldn’t understand the complicated reasoning behind some military actions and why it’s beneficial for the country to engage in the military action, beyond the obvious reasons.

The government would have done well to center this debate on the leaders of the military, as in the higher ranking enlisted and officers. It’s these individuals who have the information and know what certain military actions mean and how it’s going to impact the country, and if their consent is removed it would be much harder for them to just be replaced like the lower enlisted could be.

Over all this was definitely a great round, perhaps the best round I judged. All of the teams had solid arguments, and speeches, and it was a very interesting deliberation among the judging panel. In fact, it was such a good round, and such a close round, that there was only a 5 point difference in speaker scores between the first ranked team and the fourth ranked team, and to decide the rankings we had to take a look at some of the minor arguments that were presented and which were better. The top two teams ended up being a split ticket, the closing opposition and the opening government took the top two spots respectively.

The other motions of the day were:

R4: This house believes that international development institutions (such as the world bank) should not finance natural resource extraction projects in corrupt states.

R5: This house believes that self-described progressive males of dominant ethnicity are morally obliged to refrain from taking positions of responsibility where there is a qualified alternative candidate from a historically disadvantaged group who would otherwise receive the post.

-Dylan

Coffee IV and Judging

*My blog posts do not follow the normal timeline of the trip to WUDC Berlin 2013 for various reasons.*

Judging Day 1

So day one was an early morning. I felt like I barely got any sleep at all, and I didn’t. Thankfully, the WUDC people kept an endless flow of coffee ready. I think I drank a few pots of coffee, and it wasn’t enough. Although, I was excited and awake enough to be thoroughly engaged with the rounds I was in.

I was really stoked to start adjudicating rounds. The motions for the rounds are listed below. I will be talking about the motion I thought was most interesting and include what was argued in the round and what my thoughts are on the round.

R1: This house would create public housing for the poor in wealthy areas

So this was a very interesting first round. The opening government started the round by setting up that the government should build housing for the poor on the basis that since the poor cannot afford housing in the city, where it’s very expensive to live, they had to live outside of the city which means they have to pay more for transportation. Also, within the areas outside the cities, ‘the slums’, the poor were subjected to more crime, violence, drugs, and health problems. The opening government also brought that the duty of the government is to provide affordable housing, and if they didn’t the poor would have to move out of the city. They also claimed the poor deserve help; there’s a discrimination issue that is unfair to the poor; it would lead to more job opportunities for the poor; and that it would reduce crime within the slums.

The opening opposition brings in an idea that there would be a conflict between the wealthy and poor. They claim that communities within these wealthy areas are already formed, and there would be a harm to the integrity of the community. This harm would then lead to a decrease of stability for both groups. They also claimed that if the poor moved into the wealthy communities there will be an increase in crime which the wealthy will blame on the poor. In addition they point out the problems of bias between the rich and poor; the poor would be envious of the rich and the rich would be upset the poor have moved in. Because of this, the opening opposition claims the gap between the two classes will not be improved.

The closing government abandoned the model originally set by the opening government and moved to a position on integration. They brought in ideas that the poor deserve more equality and access to better schools, roads, and hospitals. They also claimed that it would encourage the poor to change their habits, and that there was a moral obligation to promote equality.

The closing government revisited the same ideas that we saw in the opening opposition. However they did expand on the explanation for the argument that crime will increase and the jealousy of the poor would increase. They also brought up that the housing market in the area would lose value and the rich would end up leaving to form a new community.

My thoughts: I think the biggest issue of the round is integration for the proposition and class warfare for the opposition, even though the government didn’t make a very solid case for integration and the opposition didn’t actually explain class warfare.

Through implementing this policy of creating public housing in wealthy areas there would be a much higher level of integration of the society. Now some will ask, why is this integration important? First of all, it is the wealthy who are essentially in control of most countries. Through their wealth, and companies, they can implement changes within the commercial sector of the country that increase profits by increasing prices and reducing labor force through modern technology. In addition, they can also influence policies within the governance of a country. The problem with both of these factors can be seen through the fact that because the wealthy have very limited, if any, true understanding of the challenges faced by the underprivileged, they implement and lobby for policies that help the wealthy at the expense of the poor. If the poor are suddenly living within the wealthy areas, the wealthy people would essentially be forced to interact with the people they never gave a second thought about and could see and hear first-hand how they (the wealthy) are directly affecting the rest of the country. Through this integration, it could cause a higher level of understanding among the difference classes and could lead to better commercial policies and governmental policies that could benefit the country as a whole.

On the other hand, if public housing was built in wealthy areas there could be an increase in the level of animosity between the upper and lower classes. The wealthy would blame the poor for any crime, or increase of crime, the reduction of property value, and the poor would grow to resent the wealthy even more for what they (the poor) can’t afford, and for ostracization within the community. Conceivably these issues would lead to a class war that goes beyond organized slowdowns/strikes for better pay, labor issues, and equality issues, as well as occupations (such as occupation wall street) to a more open and intense conflict among the classes.

Since this was the first round of the tournament, there was an obvious skill difference between the teams. The opening government and opening opposition missed the opportunity to make the round solid. If the opening government would have focused on explaining integration issues and how it would benefit society as a whole, and if the opening opposition would have focused on explaining class warfare and the problems that could result it would have changed how the round played out entirely. As it stands, top teams were the bottom half teams because of the better analysis and heavier hitting cases.

The other two rounds of the day are:

R2: This house believes that Japan should acquire nuclear weapons

and

R3: This house would only imprison individuals who pose a direct and continuing threat to society.

- Dylan

10 Reasons I Loved This Trip

When I received an email about this immersive project my second week of college, I could not have replied any faster. There was one spot left, and I wanted to fill it. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to be that person. I am lucky to have learned how to debate, recruit students to our program and teach debate to others while learning about communication and intercultural awareness along the way. At times, the trip to Germany felt so far away, but as it grew loser my anticipation did as well. Finally being in Berlin certainly tied the bow on the hypothetical gift of the immersive project. I loved every minute of it. And this is why:

10 Reasons I Loved This Trip:

1. A common skill that we all have cultivated over the semester brought hundreds of people to one place.

2. This was my first airplane flight! (Flights)

3. WUDC held great socials!

4. Christmas never ended in Berlin until the day we left. And by that, I mean the Christmas Market.

5. Berlin had a calm and relaxed vibe to it.

6. Berlin gave us the opportunity to visit many historical sites.

7. I learned a lot about what makes a good public speaker along with tactics for debating. 

8. Berlin’s H&M had drastically lower prices than the U.S. 

9. The Appelman light changing signs are unique and entertaining. 

10. It was an opportunity to grow closer to everyone in the group. 

 

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Overall, all I can really say is that I am very lucky to have an opportunity to be a part of this group and travel to Berlin to end the semester. 

 

 

 

 

Last Day in Berlin

This last day of travel has been a rough one, what with getting a cold and having trouble at the airport (which included the delay of my luggage). But I want to leave on a high note, so for my last blog, I decided to compile a list of the top highlights from my trip. This pretty much sums up all of the things I enjoyed while in Germany. Here’s my list of highlights:

5. Christmas Market

I didn’t get to mention the Christmas Market in an earlier post, but essentially, it is a line of stands selling various authentic German and other foods along the street of our hotel. It was decorated for Christmas, obviously, so there were very pretty light displays and also things like windmills in-between the stands. I liked having this place because it was something I was familiar with because I saw it every day coming home from the subway station.

4. Szczecin

Traveling to Szczecin in Poland was definitely one of the coolest places to visit, mostly because of the architecture there. Another fun and beneficial part was seeing all of the signs and displays in Polish, even the announcements on the train were Polish. This was the first time I felt truly immersed in a place with a foreign language.

3. Worlds Universities Debating Championship in Berlin

Of course I enjoyed the event that we went all the way to Berlin to participate in. I made friends with a lot of great people who I would never have a chance even to meet otherwise. I had a different experience as an observer than the judges and debaters, such that I was able to take a different perspective on the debate than they would have. I know that I have come out of this more knowledgeable about debate and the culture of countries around the world.

2. Sachsenhausen

Sachsenhausen was one of the most important places I visited in Germany because of it’s impact on German history and world history. Its significance rested on the lessons we can learn from such an evil representation of an evil time. I have learned about the Holocaust before, but I would never have had such a greater perspective on it if I never visited the camp.

1. Berlin Wall

Seeing the wall was my favorite highlight of my trip because I feel like it represents the quintessential Berlin experience for both the tourists and Germans. It represents the transition that Berlin has come through. I am glad to have been able to have seen it.

My biggest lasting impression is that Berlin is a unique metropolis with so much to offer, whether it is an active city life or historical landmarks. I really enjoyed being here, actually more than I expected. It was definitely a great place for my first trip to a European country.

Thanks for reading our posts!

Rachel

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Berlin Skyline, as seen from my hotel window.