Haniel Spring School 2014: Reflections

by: Krishna Giri

I had been waiting for the Spring School for a month. I was very excited as this school was taking place in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This school not only meant learning about new ideas but also the learning about a new country, its history and the contemporary issues.

Thus, the journey began when I left Erfurt. It was indeed a very exciting day. All of the friends who were traveling with me in the group from Erfurt to Berlin then to Saint Petersburg were having mixed feelings of excitement in going to a new place and a little bit of fear as to what we were to expect in encountering a new country altogether. The mixed feelings were soon gone when two Russian colleagues and Prof. Ettrich received us with a warm welcome at the airport. Though it was regretful to face some difficulties at the customs check upon arrival at the St. Petersburg Airport, everything was very smooth as soon as we got to St. Petersburg.

I cannot start writing about these most exciting moments without thanking organizers out there in St. Petersburg! The warm welcome we received from the organizers and the radiant atmosphere surrounding all of us made us all feel at ease. The lectures in St. Petersburg by different professors and CISR staff were very informative and engaging times during the school. It was also a great opportunity to learn about history. The rise and the fall of Soviet Union and other important issues about border policies that we discussed in different sessions were good. And mostly, I can not forget the city tour! As the cold breezing air was blowing against us, we were so excited to go around the city and learn about the history of St. Petersburg. Although the stay was splendid, we had to leave. And, with so many good memories and fruitful lectures secured in our heart and mind, we headed towards Ivangorod-Narva, the border of Estonia and Russia.

Ivangorod is a small town with a beautiful fortress that boasts of many historical stories. During the visit to that town, the table talk with the local administration was a road to another revelation for me to know about how the administration and policies work in Russia from local level to the federal level. Hats off to the local administrator who tried to answer all of our questions. It would have been nice if we had gotten the opportunity to know more details from Russian federal level, but I think it was not possible (I know how it works in Russia). The same day we met with the Ivangorod administration, we also crossed the border into Narva, the third largest city of Estonia with 82% Russian-speaking minorities.

In Narva we had the chance to get to know more about Estonia and Russia, and especially about the nature of the projects and the mechanism of collaboration at the local level despite having no connection to the federal level. It was quite surprising for all of us to have a close look at Narva through the perspective of bitter reality of language problems and stateless people. I found this to be one of the most important things that we have to learned or researched about during our Spring School.

With lots of information, we headed to Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, where we had a methodology lecture on PEST analysis by Prof. Grimm. After learning about it through the lecture, we also discussed with the professor about the problems and regarding other information we had collected during our talks with the local administration in the border region.

The presentation on the last day was another important and exciting part of the Spring School. We tried our best to prepare and present. As a result, Professors Ettrich and Grimm were happy to know about the information and the ability of the students to present these topics in a comprehensible way. And, we also felt highly privileged in getting the opportunities to discuss with the professors. The trip ended with a wonderful sightseeing in Tallinn and the farewell dinner of the Haniel Spring School. I couldn’t have hoped for a better finale.

The overall experiences, the emotions and the knowledge I gathered during the period are so overwhelming, I feel I cannot rightly express my impression of the Haniel School in words. We learned a lot of things. I believe the credit goes to CISR’s administrators, namely Darya and Evgeny, who helped us during our whole trip and provided a very good accommodation along with food facilities. All of us in the team, and I especially, personally appreciate their hard work. This was the first time I was participating and working in a group with the Russian students and feel spellbound seeing their friendly behavior and kindness. I sincerely appreciate all their efforts, and hope I could provide them with the same hospitality, if ever the chance be.

Lastly, I want to thank the Haniel Foundation, the Brandt School and CISR for giving me this golden opportunity to participate in Haniel School. I cannot finish this blog without thanking the Professors, Katie, Laura, Russian students and my classmates for their valuable time and friendliness.  Summing up it all, I deeply feel, it was a very great quality time spent in Haniel Spring School 2014, which helped me in bringing an insight, to an extent, about various matters related to that region.

For anyone thinking of participating in this school next year, I would strongly recommend you to do so. Believe me, it will be a journey of revelations, beyond your imagination.