BERLIN – September 2016 marked yet another milestone for Minerva as the Class of 2020 was welcomed in San Francisco, and the Class of 2019 began the Direction Year courses in Minerva’s second city: Berlin.
After two years solely in San Francisco, the Founding Class and the Inaugural Class have combined to form the Class of 2019, which is now spending the Fall semester in Berlin and will spend the Spring semester in Buenos Aires.
Numerous changes and new difficulties faced students as they arrived in Berlin. In San Francisco, students live in dorm style residences, whereas in Berlin students are in apartments of three people. This has changed the way students interact with their cohort and poses new challenges for how to foster community engagement. It has also included new perks, such as one kitchen for each apartment, removing some of the difficulties of sharing a common kitchen for the entire class.
“Our second year has truly started off with a bang. Getting to know Berlin, getting bikes and flying through the streets have kicked off my first international experience with Minerva so well. Berlin is an interesting city and holds so much to be explored and I’m so excited to go out and see it,” shares Zachary Witzel, Class of 2019 student.
The infrastructure for internet is another stark contrast between San Francisco and Berlin. San Francisco, as host to Silicon Valley and a global tech capital, has seemingly endless Wifi options, allowing students to take class from many locations throughout the city.
Berlin has less internet infrastructure which has posed a challenge for Minerva students. Wifi is poor in many places in Berlin and cafes often do not allow computers during the lunch hours, which can restrict students to their apartments for taking class.
While for some this appears a setback compared to the ease of finding internet connection in San Francisco, for others it has resulted in students making other time to explore the city. This exploration has included weekend trips to different neighbourhoods, and hiking excursions organized by MORE (Minerva’s Outdoor Recreation Exploration) and individual students.
Unlike the Foundation Year when students all take the same courses, during the Direction Year students take courses in two or more (depending on the major) of the five colleges: Arts and Humanities, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, Business, and Social Sciences.
The Direction Year courses feed into student’s’ major and concentration choices in the third and fourth years. This change in course offerings puts students on different academic schedules, with classes anytime between 1:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, up to four total courses per semester and eight class sessions per week.
“Academically this year has been a huge improvement from last year. To be blunt, I did not learn that much from the cornerstones. However the classes I’m currently in have surpassed my expectations. They are more advanced, more interesting, and far more formative than last year. I’m so excited for the next, and last, two months to come in Berlin, and for the next five semesters that await,” says Witzel.