Founded at the Free University of West Berlin in 1988, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the global education program Duke in Berlin offers unique opportunities for Duke students to experience Germany’s bustling capital first-hand while learning German and taking full Duke credit courses. There are programs both in the fall and spring semesters, special programs for students at the Pratt Engineering School, and a 6-week summer program rounds out the fabulous offerings of Duke in Berlin. The Duke in Berlin team also places students in homestays, leading to lifelong friendships across the Atlantic.
Course topics include art history and architecture, economics, environmental policy, as well as contemporary art, all with a focus on German and European culture. The program’s new resident director, Tin Wegel, is proud of what Duke in Berlin has to offer and excited about leading it, even if Covid-19 is posing unexpected challenges – but so far, she and the program assistant Lina-Sofie Raith have been able to navigate the troubled waters that a global pandemic brings along.
Dr. Wegel grew up in Hochheim am Main, a town in the federal state of Hesse, right in the middle of Germany. Mainz and Wiesbaden, the capitals of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse, were within easy reach, and, for a theater enthusiast like young Tin, this was the perfect place to be: the two cities offered a plethora of theaters and performance venues. Frankfurt am Main, financial capital of Germany and birthplace of its most important poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, was merely a dozen miles away as well. As much as she loved the area, Dr. Wegel wanted to see more of the world, and after her preliminary exams in the Master’s program in German Studies, American Studies, and Cultural Anthropology at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, she went on her junior year abroad to Middlebury College in Vermont.
Dr. Wegel received her MA in German Studies from the University of Vermont and her PhD in Germanic Literatures and Languages from the University of California Los Angeles, and in 2006, she came to North Carolina, where she began teaching German at UNC Chapel Hill, as well as directing the German department’s language program. As Language Program Director she was responsible for the pedagogical training and supervision of graduate students as teaching assistants. 2006 was also the founding year of the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies, a unique joint program between the two universities. At both UNC and Duke, she taught the whole gamut of German language courses, from beginning to advanced levels, in addition to First-Year Seminars – to great acclaim. Dr. Wegel is a passionate teacher and is truly invested in the success and well-being of her students, resulting in supremely positive course evaluations. Few instructors have received such rave reviews as Dr. Wegel consistently has, and fortunately for students, being the director of the Duke in Berlin program doesn’t mean that her pedagogical talents are not being taken advantage of: every semester, she teaches one of the courses offered through the program.
In the fall semester, she teaches a German language course and in the spring semester the course “Berlin in Literature and Culture”. While the two courses focused on economics of a united Europe and on European environmental policy are more traditional in the sense of taking place in the classroom, the art history and architecture course, as well as the contemporary art course are both mostly taught on location: in and around the city of Berlin. Little time is spent in the classroom, and students experience the city first-hand. Apart from coursework there are numerous other ways of getting to know the German capital and places within easy reach. Together, Tin Wegel and Lina-Sofie Raith organize a variety of excursions and city trips, such as visits to Dessau, the city of the Bauhaus art school, the historic city of Dresden, or the memorial site at Sachsenhausen, a former Nazi concentration camp north of Berlin.
Duke in Berlin students are an eclectic and diverse bunch, majors ranging from biomedical engineering to biology and philosophy. Given that the courses offered are accredited Duke courses for which students receive regular Duke courses and not just transfer credits, students don’t need to worry about falling behind on their timeline to graduation. On the contrary, a semester immersed in the language means that many Duke in Berliners, as Dr. Wegel likes to call the students, accelerate their German skills – nothing beats learning a language in an immersive environment. And a brief look at Duke in Berlin’s Instagram account shows that the program is not all work and no play; there is much fun to be had when exploring the biggest city of the European Union with first-rate tour guides. Dr. Wegel has been at the helm of Duke in Berlin since summer 2021. Together with her Berlin-based staff, she and her team are the go-to resource for all matters academic and personal while abroad.
In her free time, Tin Wegel likes to curl up with a book, go on long walks and take day trips with her partner Sara, or cook something from scratch. Recipes are not for her, she loves to improvise – and hates to follow strict guidelines, “which is probably why I’m not much of a baker,” she says with a grin. An avid globetrotter, Dr. Wegel hopes that traveling will be easier again post-Covid, but Berlin and the neighboring state of Brandenburg have so much to offer in terms of culture and the outdoors that she still gets her fill of new experiences and activities.
On Duke’s campus, please contact the academic director for Duke in Berlin, Susanne Freytag, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check out these two websites for more information: Duke in Berlin Fall and Spring and Duke in Berlin Summer.