Meet the Editors

With the intent of getting to know the people behind the Digital Stories blog better, we would like to share a few thoughts with you, in this special Meet the Editors series!

Meet our Editor and Writer, Asmi Shetty.

“New Year’s Eve 2019 when we celebrated the start of a new decade, the “roaring 20s” while dancing and singing a very Happy New Year at the top of our lungs or at least in the right spirit, we had not the slightest clue of what was ahead of us. Fast-forward to June 2021- As a society, we lived through a pandemic that shook the world, we forced ourselves into a change that was inevitable and for the first time ever we were all united by the same fear for life and death and the same emotional vulnerability. In this vulnerability, most of us had the chance to rediscover a path back to our innate selves.

My story has also been one such journey of self-discovery. (With and without the pandemic)

Born and raised (mostly by myself) under the scorching heat of the South Indian Summer, eating Idli-Vadas, Masala Dosas, and running barefoot by the coastline of the Arabian Sea, I grew up wild, free and rebellious at heart. As per capitalistic guidelines set by generations before me, I too pushed myself through levels of education, graduations, professional excellence, and so on, but a big part of me still continues to be a wide-eyed dreamer. I believe all of us are dreamers or at least when we’re young, but it’s an inherent modern world deficit that with age our dreams are programmed to be about material, possession, success and most of us lose touch with our humble interest in a quest to grow up and in sync with the capitalistic world. Our inability to express and communicate correctly also growing in sync with it.

Having had the liberty to do what I please from a very young age had its own pros and cons and even though sometimes the cons outweighed me, I still had the luxury and the pleasure of knowing myself. I trusted my guts and moved through life without the fear of risks. It was a bumpy ride, but it gave me a passion for art, music, literature, language, and a beautiful eye to see the world in my own light. Now the same wind that carried me all my life brought me here to Berlin, a wide-eyed dreamer, only a sapling in a land of opportunities. Working, studying to sustain but most importantly writing, creating, and living for things that make me feel alive in the heart of Berlin- a city of the future, of free personalities, a place where everyone belongs!

—Asmi”

Meet the Editors

With the intent of getting to know the people behind the Digital Stories blog better, we would like to share a few thoughts with you, in this special Meet the Editors series!

Meet our Editor and Writer, Prashansa Devi.

“Graduating from university right in the middle of a global pandemic was definitely challenging.
Like many people, I was super anxious and stressed out. I was living alone, writing my bachelor
thesis, and figuring out what to do next. While I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start working or
continue studying, I was sure about one thing — I wanted to live in Berlin.


I fell in love with the city when I was visiting my Uncle. Even though Berlin and Kathmandu don’t
have much in common, Berlin reminded me of home. Maybe it was because of the people from
all walks of life, or the food or the tiny element of chaos; I finally felt like this is where I could be
for a while and make it my own. As luck would have it, I got into HMKW, and now I’ve been in
Berlin for almost a year.

Coming from a still somewhat conservative society and living a very sheltered life, being here
has made me feel freer than ever. Although I’ve had ups and downs in the past year, I’ve grown
so much. This independence has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, try new
experiences and start doing things that truly give me joy once again, like cooking, reading, and
writing more often.


For the past four years, the only writing I’ve done is for school or work, which rarely get
published and see the light of day. There’s also been no time or space to write something for me
or share a story that genuinely interests me. Now, with a podcast club and this blog, I have the
chance to do that – help showcase the hard work students put into their projects and share
stories of passions, hardships, and joy to connect all of us.


Hopefully, the second half of the year will be much better, and we all will get to experience this
vibrant city at its best. I can’t wait to hear and share all of your experiences, stories, and
projects.

—Prashansa”

Meet the Editors

With the intent of getting to know the people behind the Digital Stories blog better, we would like to share a few thoughts with you, in this special Meet the Editors series!

Meet our Editor and Writer, Erastus Kalenga.

“After completing my studies at the University of Namibia, I was looking forward to my graduation, which didn’t happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything was changing so fast, and I was confused, stressed, and didn’t know what to do with my life. I started seeking jobs here and there. Although I was working part-time at the National Theater of Namibia as an usher, there was no event happening during that time. Due to high unemployment in my country, which is about 60%, it was tough for me to get a job, not even an internship.

During the first lockdown in Namibia, we were not allowed to leave our houses unless you are going to buy food or going to the hospital; police were everywhere. The situation was depressing.

Spending much time on the internet, I decided to take advantage of the situation, do more research about MA programs abroad, and watch documentaries about different counties. After I gathered the information I needed, I started contacting universities and submitting my applications. A lot of universities rejected me, but in the end, I was admitted to more than 15 universities worldwide, including HMKW.

The first student visa I got was for Erasmus University, which ended up being cancelled because I
couldn’t travel to the Netherlands due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Then I applied for a German student visa, and that’s how I ended up in Berlin at HMKW.

Planning my travel from Namibia to Germany was hectic; a lot of flights were being canceled, and I was about to give up; and then one day, the German embassy in Windhoek announced that there would be a flight from Windhoek straight to Frankfurt, getting a spot on this flight was another struggle but thanks to the HMKW staff who managed everything for me.

This is the most challenging circumstance I have ever experienced as a student. Online learning in its entirety is great but, when you are forced to take this route because of a pandemic, the story is
different. It is difficult to be motivated to stay on the course when you are isolated, and all you think
about is how to get along as an international student during a pandemic. I never thought that a day
would come when I was going to admit that attending classes on campus is a privilege.


I miss attending classes on-campus, and I am looking forward to seeing you all on campus soon.

— Kalenga”

Meet the Editors

With the intent of getting to know the people behind the Digital Stories blog better, we would like to share a few thoughts with you, in this special Meet the Editors series!

Meet our Editor and Writer, Alice Preat.

“Not to start off with a cliché about COVID… but as for many of us, the pandemic shifted the trajectory of my life significantly — that’s in fact how I ended up in Berlin. Being from Paris, I was familiar with the city (mostly as a party town), and though I found it very enjoyable, it was never in the cards for me as one of my many adoptive homes.

After going to boarding school in the UK at 13, then to American high school in Paris, followed by college in NYC and Paris (at an American university), and a year working in Japan, Berlin is now the fifth place I call home. As strange as it sounds to many of my French friends, this constant moving around and being thrown in the deep-end of an entirely new country, city, culture and language is no longer scary or difficult for me — in fact, I thrive in it. What was difficult this time around though,  was doing all of this during a pandemic and in a city under lockdown, which kept me from doing all of the very things that make being thrown in the deep end so exciting.

Living in Japan, I experienced very little of the pandemic when it first broke out — there was a “soft lockdown,” which entailed clubs and schools being closed, and a curfew for businesses, but that was pretty much the extent of it for me. In fact, I even traveled to Okinawa (a paradise island in the very south of Japan) in May, as my friends were under an extremely harsh lockdown in Paris… In all honesty, I wasn’t quite ready to leave Japan — but because of COVID, I was finding it difficult to find a job, and a visa run to South Korea was no longer possible, so, with my tail somewhat between my legs, I returned to Paris in the summer of 2020, having made the decision to pick my studies back up in Europe.


To my great surprise, the Parisian summer was not so different than usual — lockdown had been lifted, it was a warm, buzzing, busy, and great time as usual. It was only upon my arrival in Berlin, shortly after which lockdown started, that I realized what the pandemic really felt like here in Europe. And although it hasn’t exactly been the easiest experience, or the most fun or exciting, I can confidently say that I have grown and learned a lot from being here in Berlin during this time. Living the student life, being part of a student body, with the structure of learning and projects like this blog to focus on — and most important of all, being able to write and create — has no doubt kept me together. Plus, summer makes everything better, right?

I’m very much looking forward to working with any and all of you,

Alice”

Meet the Editors

With the intent of getting to know the people behind the Digital Stories blog better, we would like to share a few thoughts with you, in this special Meet the Editors series!

Meet our Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Writer, Airinë Nuqi.

“The idea of creating, even in exercise form, but not being able to share the work, has always felt
somewhat wasteful to me. I noticed this especially, after starting my Digital Journalism
master studies here at HMKW Berlin. Not all exercises, homework, and projects might be
worthy of getting picked up, that’s for sure. But we hear that enough already from newspapers,
magazines, and other publishing houses. So, why shouldn’t we have a space to publish the
pieces we are proud of?


Starting the work on the Digital Stories blog, with Kim, allowed us both to do just that. Having
started a blog where all of us could share class and work projects, but also blogs and art
and photographs. One story at a time.


I’ve been in Berlin for almost two years now, and I would in all honesty consider it my first and
only real home. I have heard it being described as a “transitional” city, and of course a
“destination” city (for many things). But personally, I have always loved the idea of living
amongst people and things, events and possibilities so different and heterogeneous, that
nothing should or could technically catch you off guard anymore. You get used to a lot of things,
or at the very least, you are always expecting to be surprised. But it still surprises you.
It might have been my small-town background, or pre-existing hunger to see more, but whatever
it was, Berlin brought it to the table.


It is specifically interesting to observe new teammates, classmates, and people of Berlin, in
making sense of the city. Most of these newcomers have never seen Berlin in its full glory,
because of the events of the past year. Interestingly enough, it has still given them enough to
hold on to. And as days get better and warmer, locals’ smiles continue to grow without any
hesitation. Newcomers’ eyes are starting to form a sparkle, probably only seen in the early
stages of new lovers’ meeting.


In Berlin, like many other multicultural hubs around the world, it is not hard to form connections
but to sustain them, especially in the long term. Stories are the same. You can always find one, or have
something to say, but use this platform and this chance to look back at yourself and ask: “What
matters to me?”, and babe, go for it!

— Airinë”

The Political Limbo of Expats

A feature by Airinë Nuqi

Perched on the white bench of her wooden windows, Dona let out a long sigh, using the silent seconds to shake off an invisible weight off her shoulders and clear her throat. The words ‘voting rights’ brought back memories of her first meeting with the world of politics five years ago. Dona, originally from Spain, is an expat living in Berlin. Repositioning her septum piercing, she says: “Being an expat is similar to being in a state of limbo.”

To understand the position and voting rights of expats living in Germany, the layers of the German government have to be understood first. The german government is divided into: the local municipalities (which consists of officials such as mayors and councils), the federal states (which consists of officials who create the rules of the state) and the cherry at very top of the cake, the federal government (where the decisions made create the laws for the whole country).

In the fall of this year, the German federal election is planned on September 26th. This election’s purpose is to elect the 20th Bundestag. Whether expats can or cannot contribute to the country they reside in, is a divided argument. When it comes to Germany though, what are expat voting rights to begin with? 

Expats do not have the right to vote in, ultimately, the most important elections: the General election (german: Bundeswahlen) and the State elections (german: Landeswahlen). However, they are allowed to vote in the local elections (german: Kommunalwahlen) and EU elections. What does this mean?

In the local elections, taking place every fours to five years, expats can give their vote on most issues concerning the representatives for regional and local subdivisions, except for mayors. However, this right is only reserved for expats from the EU with a German resident permit. Additionally, expats can vote in EU elections, which take place every five years, but they can only vote once. If they give their vote in Germany, they cannot vote again from their home countries.

For expats living and working in Germany, it takes an estimated seven to eight years of residence in the country to be eligible for citizenship. In this time, the integration within not only social, but also working culture becomes an expats way of life. They are affected in the same way as any other person in Germany, who has German citizenship. Yet, they cannot influence state rules or the legislation in place all across Germany with their vote.

As Germany strives to have a relatively equal and varying portrayal of political outlets, there are quite a few political parties that are represented in the federal and European parliament. These include, but are not limited to: the Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU), Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP), Die Linke, Die Grünen.

Many expats living in Germany, specifically Berlin, give the city quite a diverse quality. Before she came to Berlin, Dona spent a total of 13 years in the UK. Having left her motherland as a mere preeteen, not having had the chance of being exposed to the world of politics in Spain, her first introduction to the mere concept of voicing political opinions on possible future leaders, happened in the UK. 

More than five years ago, Dona was standing in front of the polls, ready and prepared with her voting decision, when she was turned away. As she was not born, nor an official citizen of the UK, she would not be able to vote. At first, she was baffled. “I told them – What’s the difference between me and someone that was born here, or someone that has also lived here for the same amount of time as I have? My parents and I pay taxes, we contribute to this country, yet we have no voice,” she says in an exasperated laughter. And so, the country where she had become an adult, where she had thought she had the right and had formed the will to contribute with her vote, the country that had shaped her into who she had become, denied her the opportunity of choosing her leaders.

After the first attempt, and as of now the last, Dona had had a moment of clarity: there was no place in the world where she was rooted enough to either be allowed to vote, or to know who to vote for, if she would. A moment which became a clear point of disconnect, especially as she arrived in Berlin. Politics, it seemed, would not be something she “would be involved in,” she stated, throwing her hands in the air and making an X with her forearms.

To get a better understanding of the knowledge expats possess of the little ways available to contribute their voice in Germany, a survey was performed with thirty expat participants. These expats, currently living in four different cities within Germany, span across twenty one nationalities worldwide (Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, US, Uzbekistan, Venezuela), between the ages of 20-35, with a Germany living duration from: less than one year, going up to five years.

Through an informing paragraph on Germany’s government layers, and the voting rights expats do and do not have, the participants of the survey were presented with questions including, but not limited to: the desire of participation for the General and State elections should the opportunity present itself, their involvement in politics and their voting exercise in their home countries, long term plans of residence in Germany, feelings on voting as a concept in itself, as well as issues they face living in Germany as an expat.

The survey found that 60% of the participants had never known they were able to cast their vote in local and EU elections, with only 6.7% stating that they had known and actually participated in them. Additionally, 73.3% of the participants stated that they would vote if given the chance, specifically when it comes to influencing issues that they face as an expat in Germany themselves. These issues include: bureaucratic issues, basic human rights, infrastructure related, digitization, social solidarity issues, immigration rights issues, visa / immigration laws, scholarships opportunities for expats, dual citizenship & easier legal immigration, data protection, and racial issues, to name a few.

Finally, when asked if they cared about voting as a concept, the survey participants having chosen ‘Yes’ as their answers (73.3%) and ‘Maybe’ (10%) argued that: it’s a fundamental right, it makes them feel part of the society they are in, it is the only chance of political representation and democratic participation, a society with citizens and a government is “a two way street relationship”, voting is not just a right but a duty, if you don’t participate in the democratic process of voting then “you can’t complain about the outcome”, and finally, that someone has got to make sure the “neonazis dont gain power”. Moreover, 80% of participants stated that they have voted in their home countries, and 83.3% stated they are generally politically interested in their home country.

As a resident of Berlin for more than four years now, Dona has considered the chance to fight for a right to vote. However, Berlin and Germany are not her final destination. Rolling first her left, then her right shoulder, she sighed as she claimed: “I don’t feel I will live here enough to see the changes for which I would be voting for, in case I would indeed express my opinions. Apart from the housing rent cap and signing the pleading document for it, like everyone else of course.”

An argument given by Jonathan, an expat living in Aachen for the last two years, is that although the option to vote in EU elections, and particularly in German local elections is “quite progressive and positive,” it would be “unfair towards the permanent residents” for uninformed people who are most likely only passing through Germany, to vote.

Many expats like Dona and Jonathan might be put off by their own experiences or the lack of certainty in whether they will live in Germany long enough for their voice to matter, however according to the survey, 83.3 % of expats stated that they believe their vote matters, unrelated to how long they have been residents in Germany, 63.3 % stated that, if given the chance, they would vote in General and State elections.

As we go forward, the discussion on whether: sufficient knowledge on politics vs. the existence or obtainment of a citizenship is enough (to be able to vote), may continue, one thing is for certain: as the number of expats around the globe grows, it is not only in Germany’s best interest,  but that of the world, to include educated and willing expat residents, only striving for a better, joined life.

*names have been changed due to privacy concerns

93 Days

A short movie by Asmi Shetty, Prashansa Shreshta, Hala Abdalla and Dine Maria Soto Sanchez (MA PR & Digital Marketing) produced as part of the module Media Productionwith lecturers Jan Dottschadis and Philipp Möller Dorn.

The start of the year 2020 was expected to be the new roaring 20’s of the digital era. The year took a leap into the new world, but within a few months it was brought to a screeching halt when the pandemic began. New rules, strict curfews, and isolation were imposed restricting our movements and human contact. Millions of lives were disrupted and turned upside down – some stories were brought to light while most were left untold. Our film, called 93 days, revolves around one such story. It is the story of a girl, who was separated from her partner for a long duration of time, while also forced to quarantine by herself, away from everyone she knew. In this rapidly changing world, the protagonist tries many things to sustain her sanity, but the pandemic costs her more than she expected.

To watch the short movie, follow the link below:

How To Make Your Own Podcast Series: A Guide by Dr. Clarisse Cossais

A blog by Airinë Nuqi

Dr. Clarisse Cossais started her radio career in 1993. In her eyes, podcasts are something quite new, but very fast tracked. She explains how now, every broadcast program that she produces for the radio will, essentially, be uploaded as a podcast. Cossais is a freelance radio journalist and producer for Deutschlandfunk Kultur, as well as other public service broadcasters like: rbb, NDR, and SWR.

Having started her lecturing career at HMKW in 2017, Clarisse has been contributing to the Media Production module with her expertise regarding podcasts, for around 4 years.

In more recent news, she published her own podcast series “Littéramour‪s‬” with Sigrid Brinkmann.

Like the rest of us over the past year, Cossais found herself on a walk with her friend Brinkmann, coming to the conclusion that they both needed to do something during this time of total stagnation during the pandemic. The fact that Brinkmann loves french literature and Cossais loves german literature, was the push they needed to come up with the idea of “Littéramour‪s‬” and get the show going.

“We felt so stuck, we had the feeling that we cannot go to lectures, we cannot go to exhibitions, we cannot travel to the person we want to ask, and as a journalist it’s not so easy,” Cossais says.

The premise of the podcast is, inviting guests and speaking to them in both german and french. Each episode is done twice, in both languages, with the same guest. “We do everything together. She speaks french very well,” Cossais says on Brinkmann, “and I speak german very well, we both have an accent of course… but I think it is encouraging people to say – it doesn’t matter if you have an accent, because as long as you have the ideas and the willingness of expressing yourself, that’s it.”

Most guests aren’t invited after they have their work already translated, but rather before. Additionally, something that both Cossais and Brinkmann are enjoying during this project, is the freedom it has given them. “The first book we were speaking about, will only be completed in two years, and we were like okay, it doesn’t matter,” says Cossais.

Cossais and Brinkmann have known each other for 12 years, and work together on national radio.

So, if you are reading this and feeling inspired to start your own podcast, here is some invaluable advice from Cossais:

Finding your niche

Before starting their podcast, Cossais and Brinkmann did quite a bit of research on their idea. Has something like this french-german literature fusion ever been done before? Should it be short or long? Should it be discussion based or rather feeling a guest out and listening to them? How long will an author be able to talk about their work?

Cossais reflects on how Brinkmann and herself do not like programs, where people discuss for hours. Their goal instead is to take the attention away from themselves, as the hosts of the show, and shift the attention to the guest completely. “We wanted to have more time for the authors… and sometimes we speak a bit longer … but we don’t want to say ‘Me and Sigrid are doing…’ That doesn’t matter, it’s not about us,” Cossais says. 

Quality

Cossais heavily insists on the importance of quality. One of the first and main things to think about and prepare, was the professional studio. She stressed the point that the podcast had to have a very good sound quality. 

Cossais and Brinkmann are experienced radio hosts and moderators, so quality should not come as a surprise on their non-negotiable list. However, with new tech equipment, a professional studio does not always have to be a must. With the right mic, and editing skills, a quality podcast can be recorded in many places outside of a studio, especially if you are just starting out.

Do what YOU want to do

“For students, if they would come to me and say we would like to make a podcast, I always say yes! Even if it is a one hour discussion podcast… just doing something is always better than doing nothing,” Cossais says. 

If you are a student, a young professional, just starting out, and you have an idea? Go for it. The only way to learn is to try. And the way to enjoy what you are doing, is to actually do what YOU want to do. It helps, if you have a special idea, an interesting execution, or even a new strategy on how to present your work. But always do what you want to do.

Prepare

Preparation is a given. But haven’t you listened to a podcast at some point, and thought: this person is such a great presenter, so natural and seems somewhat… unscripted? There is no such thing. Sure, for some presenters, their natural charisma, a word, a sentence, some in-between joke, might be unscripted, but even their script most likely consists of a few bullet points. “I mean they are some beautifully talented people who can do it without preparation. I do not belong to them,” says Cossais.

And some final parting advice for prospective podcast creators:

“Do not underestimate the time it takes,” says Cossais. Cossais compared the public work you can do, like podcasts in this case, to a kind of business card that can be used, when people ask ‘oh, what do you do?’ and that you never know what might come out of it. 

“From the moment that you are doing something, things happen. Because you are already putting in some energy, and you are making something,” Cossais says, not giving too much away.

To check out Cossais and Brinkmann’s podcast “Littéramours” follow the link below: https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/litt%C3%A9ramours/id1548542614

To read more about Dr. Clarisse Cossais and her teaching at HMKW Berlin, you can visit her profile here: https://www.hmkw.de/hochschule/lehrende/fachbereich-journalismus-und-kommunikation/clarisse-cossais/

Just Go By Bike

A podcast by Paul Krantz (MA Digital Journalism) produced as part of the module Media Production with lecturer Clarisse Cossais.

“I met Damien Cahen in Hokkaido, Japan in March of 2020. I was taking a short break from my work in South Korea and he was taking a short break from his bicycle, which he had ridden from Paris — across Europe and most of Asia before hopping on a short flight from Vietnam to Japan. I was fascinated by his stories from the road, and we easily shared some hours talking about his recent cycling experiences.     

“Nearly a year later, after Damien had returned home to Paris and I had moved to Berlin, I interviewed Damien via Zoom and asked him to recount some of the interesting moments from his trip. In our conversation Damien recounted the most memorable parts of his journey: from discovering a rich and welcoming culture in Iran, to crossing the Pamir mountains in central Asia, to quarantining for a month in Mexico.

“Through all of his stories, one point came up again and again — that to experience the richness of the world traveling on the ground is far superior to catching a flight.”

PC: Damien Cahen (instagram: @damgc)

To listen to the podcast, follow the link below:  

Meet the Editors

With the intent of getting to know the people behind the Digital Stories blog better, we would like to share a few thoughts with you, in this special Meet the Editors series!

Meet our Co-Founder and Editor, Prof. Dr. Kim Murphy.

“When I first moved to Berlin from Dublin over eight years ago, I tried to convince myself and
everyone around me that I would be gone for “max two years”. I just needed a bit of time to find
myself and experience something new. I would definitely be back soon, I promised. But I realise
now how naive I was, I didn’t foresee how much Berlin would change me. Now I don’t know
whether I could belong anywhere else other than here.


Don’t get me wrong. There are things I love and hate about Berlin. I don’t have a rose tinted
view of Berlin anymore. Bars are grimy and dirty. Waiters are rude. The service is disgraceful.
The trains stink. The food is terrible. People skip you in queues all the time. And Berliners are
unfriendly as hell (at least compared to the Irish). Don’t strike up a conversation with a stranger,
they will think you’re crazy. Where I come from, starting a conversation and telling your life story
to a total stranger is normal. Not here.

“And now my two year old son has the privilege of growing up learning to speak three different languages.”


But what I love about Berlin is how nothing shocks me anymore (well not everything, full face
tattoos still freak me out). My Irish prudishness is a thing of the past. Now I love a good sauna
as much as the next German. I love that I have so many Italians, Germans, Greeks,
Portuguese, Norwegians and Finns, and many others, in my life. I love learning about their
cultures and hearing their languages. I would never have had this contact with so many different
cultures if I had stayed in Dublin. And now my two year old son has the privilege of growing up
learning to speak three different languages.


The past year and a half has been tough living in Berlin and being so far away from my family
and friends. But I know how lucky I am compared to my students. I am so lucky that I have
made my own little family in Berlin. I have a husband and son who cheered me up on those
rough days. But my biggest frustration over the past year has been that I could do so little to
help our students who had moved here on their own during the pandemic. I knew how lonely it
must be for them. I really hope that better days are just around the corner for my students and
that this summer they can experience Berlin in all its grimy glory.”