On the symposium, I had a chance to talk with people who are smarter and more experienced than me, and very inspiring. I love these kind of meetings because it encourages my desire to grow and to do more. As a student of journalism, I was honoured to interview professor Wydra, Mr. Giovannucci, and Dan Blackman – and all of them generously gave me their time and shared their wisdom. My takeaway from the symposium may be summed up in one sentence: our generation needs to be more educated in moral issues, not only how to use technology; we need to learn what it means to live in community across borders and discuss even complicated issues in an atmosphere of friendship.
I found attending the Dissent, Conscience and the Wall symposium an engaging and enriching experience. The diversity of young Europeans that attended the conference brought stimulating discussion and exchange. It opened my mind to the complexity of European issues both past and present, historically and politically. I particularly enjoyed the debate at the end of the symposium, to understand and challenge perspectives different from my own and to clarify my own ideas. It was brilliant to meet a wide range of new people and I hope to meet them again at the next symposium!
It was suggested during the final roundtable discussion that perhaps the real date to keep in mind is 1979, as opposed to 1989, as the historian Niall Ferguson has proposed. The idea met some opposition, as it presents an arbitrary date, which might fit Professor Ferguson’s own views.
The claim is valid, but as most historians are aware, all dates are in a sense arbitrary. We use them to make sense of the past, and 1979 may very well be a relevant date. The same can, however, be said about 1968, or going back further to the 1830s, 1848 or even 1789. These are all cases of revolutions and historically important events. The real question is, what is the meaning we are looking for? Is it merely the fall of communism? What does 1989 actually represent? Has the Wall, so to speak, actually fallen or are we always building walls?
The keynote speaker, Professor Harald Wydra, mentioned Hobbes and Hobbes’s view of the state, in his talk. Is this, perhaps, what we are discussing? The meaning of a state and its legitimacy? The revolutions I mentioned and the topic of our symposium “1989” is interesting not only for their significance for the countries affected, but also as a wider phenomenon of conscience and dissent. Our question must also be able to extend to why some countries were not affected. Are countries that have previously experienced revolutions more likely to face new revolutions? Another interesting question to pose would be if the dissenting voices may be seen as sceptics, and those who push for a new alternative order termed, for example, “progressives”, the interplay between the two thus producing a conflict if the right institutions are lacking? All in all it was an interesting and well-organized conference with many good inputs on the years around 1989.
AMAND (THE NETHERLANDS)
The DCW symposium was a great experience for me; not only academically, but also socially. Due to the speakers at the symposium, I have gained more knowledge about the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain and its current situation.
The main speaker, the senior editor of the Economist Mr. Edward Lucas, gave a great lecture about the struggles between Eastern and Western Europe – pre-1989 and post-1989.
After his lecture, students from different countries all over Europe presented their papers, which all concerned an aspect related to the Iron Curtain. For example, a scientific, philosophical, political or sociological approach to both sides of the Iron Curtain.
These students have become friends, even within the short amount of time we had. During the symposium, but also in between and after, we had many interesting conversations. During this weekend, I had an amazing time which is something I will cherish for the time to come.
When attending the London Symposium, I was pleasently impressed by the high standard of presentations delivered by the students-panelists. This element was something that greatly differentiates the DCW Symposia from other Conferences: the opportunity for students to be in the first place actors presenting their own paper and not just listen to well-established scholars. Thus, I strongly believe the symposium a uniquely European gathering, one of a kind in the European University scenario.
I had already attended to the first symposium in London, which impacted me a lot because previously I wasn’t aware at all of the high level of the environment. So it encouraged me to prepare myself for the second symposium in order to be at that level. […]Brussels astonished me with the formality of the event. […] I personally think that I gain a lot: first of all the experience of being surrounded by those people with such skills, also the knowledge I acquire by looking for all the information required to prepare the symposium (and also with the information given by the staff). And overall, being with different cultures let me know the different perceptions about the same (sometimes controversial) issue. So I find it really enriching. […]In short, the symposium was absolutely wonderful and useful. Thanks a lot!
The DCW final event in Brussels was a thought-provoking one. It was great to share opinions with many young people from all over Europe about the shared European memory and despite the variety of different viewpoints to see that we share actually a lot, regardless if we are from Estonia, Portugal, Belgium or Germany. I was glad to be part in the experience once again and I hope some of the contacts we gained and knowledge we learned helps us to make better decisions in the future at our countries.
For me, history has always been very important, I have always liked studying it, and I have always liked knowing more stories; not only about my people, but other peoples as well. It became important for me to know about other countries’ histories when I realized that Portuguese history was not the only one from which I could learn from. But for me, history had never been about the present. It had always been about learning from mistakes of the past, and knowing how to act or not to act in certain circumstances. I see that for me history was a dead end, it was a collection of stories in the past, with certain morals attached to them, but much like a fable, it would never have a concrete life, a concrete and tangible impact. It would always remain in the background, very much like a cool story that one would hear from one’s parents. I applied to the 2nd Symposium about Dissent, Conscience and the Wall precisely with this in mind. I was going to go there to learn more in depth about a story I knew only mildly, and about which I only had a single perspective. It was not meant to change me, and because I didn’t look for ways for it to change me, I didn’t change. It remained a useful story attached to a very good environment of people, but I enjoyed this environment so much that it compelled me to apply to the 3rd. The 3rd was totally out of my area of expertise; it was talking about the present, and the consequences of the Fall of the Berlin Wall on Europe and the rest of the World. This was new to me, as I never really enjoyed studying the present (Portugal’s glory was in the past, not the present), but this intrigued me. I was able to apply some of what I knew of the past to the present, and I ended up enjoying the exercise. Again the environment was great and I then decided to involve myself with EUCA a lot more. I can see that deeply in the background, these symposia changed the way I thought about history: it is no longer a dead end, a means to justify itself. It now has a purpose; it could now be applied to the present. I can look at the past and not only study individual events that rest in books, but also try to connect it with the present. To look at past events and ask, “where can I fit this event?” It will obviously have different people, different countries, different nations, but if history tends to repeat itself, where can I see repetitions in the now? Not in the then, not in the past, but in the now; because with this in mind, we can try to find the consequences of current actions and events. We can look at the Hungarian wall and ask, “what happened in the past that was similar to this, and what conclusions can we reach?”, and then we start comparing and contrasting this wall with the Berlin Wall. We find similarities, we find differences, and then we ask, “will it end well?”. This is what I learned from the DCW project. Thank you EUCA for this.
Attending the closing event of the DCW project was really an extraordinary experience.For me meeting new people,communicating with each other and also debating in sensitive topics was really very interesting and useful as a person. The young Europeans that attended also the symposium brought fruitful discussions and exchange of different thoughts and ideas, something that opened even more my mind and gave me an enriching experience. I am very thankful for this experience and for the chance that EUCA gave me in order to attend this event. I hope that they will keep doing this good job and I am looking forward for more interesting events.
I had the great honor to participate in the second symposium of DCW project in Brussels. Euca did a fantastic job for us, as a young people: it reminds about historical facts that have an impact on the present. You cannot understand the future without knowing what it passed, therefore a deep understanding of building and overthrow of the Berlin Wall is so crucial. DCW was for me a special project, because it was a symbolic meeting of “East” of “West” in the 25th anniversary of event that united the Old Continent. Thanks to stay in Brussels I had the opportunity to meet prominent, in their communities, young leaders from all over Europe, improve my knowledge in the field of modern history, participate in a fascinating debate and meet friends as well as specialists in their disciplines – including Gian Luca Giovannucci or prof. Harald Wydra. The organizers did not forget about the training of soft skills by organizing British Parliamentary Debate and the total care of us during the weekend. Time spent in Brussels was short, but very enriching experience, so I hope there will be an opportunity for the next common inspiring projects.
Being part of DCW project was the great opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of European history, which is our common heritage, and help me to develop my political and social awareness, and widen my horizons and culture. This conference also provided an opportunity to meet students from all over Europe, with whom I am still in touch and who inspired me to learn more, get to know history of other European countries and their current situation as well, and to strengthen the sense of European unity. If I need to choose one aspect of this project, that inspired me the most, that would be a motivation to use my knowledge and potentials, and become socially active, joining the social events that will change the face of our society. I am very grateful for the encouragement that we all can do great things, beginning with small steps.
I would also like to commend EucA staff for the great organization of DCW project and their efforts for bringing excellent speakers and taking care of student participants. Everything was on a high level and I would like to recommend future EucA’s project to all students, since I found it very useful for my education and formation as a whole. I shall never forget this wonderful experience!
The DCW symposium was a great and outstanding opportunity for college students. Not only did it provide a new insight from diverse aspects into the happenings and the aftermath of the ‘Berlin Wall’, but also it was a unique experience to meet brilliant student minds. What I found a great idea in particular was the given chance to students to perform their papers and researches on the topic, in front of their European counterparts, ending it with a row of questions and answer, evolving into a discussion among the participants.