By Hilda Barasa
Whoa! Time does fly when you are having fun! Today, August 10th officially marks the end of ten amazing weeks at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. It’s been an incredible summer working with a fantastic group of young, passionate and uncommonly driven scholars from around the world. The Berktern experience cannot, in my view, be summarised in a blog post. You have to live it.
From the very beginning, I knew deep down that this was going to be a transformative summer – and I was right. Starting with a simple introductory thread in April, Berkterns from countries as far away as Japan and towns as close by as Andover, chimed into an email thread and virtually introduced themselves to each other. I remember sitting in my room writing my final undergraduate papers and thinking “Wow! What an impressive group they are.” I use the word ‘they’ because for a couple of days, I found myself stumped on how best to introduce myself on the thread .
Being a Berktern is akin to jumping onto a rollercoaster – you ride very fast! When you get off it, you find yourself caught up in the adrenaline rush with your heart racing really fast. You look back at the rollercoaster and for a few mins, it doesn’t sink in that you actually did it. That, funny enough, is summer at Berkman – an unbelievable ride that you don’t want to walk away from. When we asked our fellow Berkterns to share with us a summary of their summer in one word of phrase, the word ‘privilege’ came up. I want to reflect briefly on this “privilege” as I wrap up.
The Berkman Center is quite simply the people. When Becca asked us to introduce ourselves to the Berktern 2012 group over an email thread, I believe that this was an introduction to this particular Berkman culture. We all arrived here on the 4th of June having a sense of who our colleagues were – what they were passionate about and what, in their own words, defined them academically and socially. As we sat in the conference room on a rainy Monday morning, we were able to put faces to the stories we had read over the course of the previous month. Having these connections made working and collaborating with each other over the last ten weeks almost seamless.
The culture of collaboration did not just end with the Berktern circles. It was and is evident in how the Center engages the community through its weekly Luncheon Series. For ten weeks, we got to sit down with leading scholars from different academic fields whose works are defining the cyberspace discourse over lunch and have open conversations with them. How awesome is that? Personally, I walk away this summer with an intellectual curiosity that has only began to be satisfied. I find myself challenged to learn more, to research more and to engage myself more with technology when approaching societal quandaries.
And lastly, there is a diversity and passion within the center that will be hard for me to match elsewhere. From the PhD students to the high school students, this Berktern team has passion coded in their DNA. We have spent hours working around the kitchen table talking about our interests and there is always something new to learn. This passion has been transferred to our individual and shared projects and, truthfully, permeates from the top. From the fellows and directors, everyone gives 110% every day, and that’s inspiring!
So yes, being a Berktern is a privilege! For ten weeks this summer, I have had the privilege of waking up in the morning knowing that my contributions to the big picture count in this office and with my team. I have been surrounded by passionate people, with whom I have talked to, laughed with and had intellectually stimulating conversations with around the kitchen table or while walking to and from work. For ten weeks, I have called myself a Berktern and I will undoubtedly refer to myself as such for a long time to come.
Thank you Berkman for the best summer yet!
Kwaheri to all our readers!