Alex Hurley ’14 spends summer in Berlin with KIIS
Alex Hurley ’14 may not classify himself as a ‘Berliner,’ but after studying in Berlin this summer with the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS), he can come close.
Hurley is one of Centre’s Brown Fellows, and is allotted funds for an enrichment project each summer. Fellow Brown Scholar Andrew Howard ’13, who attended the same program last summer, recommended the KIIS Program in Berlin to Hurley.
“I knew that I wanted to study in Germany because I have been a student of German since high school. The language, culture and history all fascinate me, so I wanted to see it firsthand,” Hurley says.
Studying in Berlin with KIIS gave Hurley the opportunity to take college-level courses with professors from colleges and universities from across Kentucky.
“Each student is enrolled in one or two courses for credit. I was enrolled in a German Enlightenment course,” Hurley says. “It covered topics similar to the humanities courses that first-years take at Centre — philosophy, art, architecture, music — but focused on German examples only. We read and discussed Kant, Leibniz, Schiller, Lessing, Goethe and others.”
Professors supplement their classes with excursions around Berlin, including visits to the Reichstag — home of Germany’s national government — and opera performances. Outings like these — along with excursions outside of class — helped Hurley get to know the city in a unique way.
“I loved getting off the beaten path. One memorable example was when a friend and I simply happened upon 20,000 or so Berliners in a city square listening to the Berlin Orchestra play Beethoven’s Fifth one lazy Sunday. We found a seat and were soon mesmerized by the music like everyone else,” Hurley recalls. “I will forever remember the abundance of cultural activities like this, the small tidbits of history that could be discovered all over the place.”
Weekends afforded Hurley the time to travel to the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, where he connected with a fellow Centre student.
“In the Netherlands I had the opportunity to visit my friend, fraternity brother and fellow Centre student Koen Hocker ’13. He lives only about 40 minutes north of Amsterdam by train and was more than willing to host myself and a friend for the weekend and to show us what it means to be Dutch,” Hurley says.
Having the opportunity to study in Berlin challenged Hurley to take risks, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Whether exploring the city alone, attempting a conversation in a foreign language or simply trying some new cuisine, I tried to take advantage of every opportunity that was thrown my way. This adventurous mindset, I am sure, will serve me well during my time at school and beyond,” Hurley says. “It expands horizons and breaks down barriers — the very core of an undergraduate education, in my mind.”
Studying in Germany with KIIS has impacted Hurley’s worldview.
“Diving into another culture greatly affected me. It slowly allowed me to open my eyes to novel perspectives. Not only do I now see how others live their lives, but also how they view my culture and the global issues that affect us all,” Hurley says. “I hope to bring this new perspective into discussions both in and out of the classroom at Centre.”
Although Hurley has returned stateside, he already knows that a second visit to Berlin is inevitable thanks to his study abroad experience there this summer.
“It was as if Berlin had its own complex personality that you had to unravel yourself,” he says. “I know that I was nowhere even close to accomplishing this and so will have to return in the future.”