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Five-Week-Long NEH Summer Seminar
for School Teachers in Berlin, Germany

June 22-July 25, 2014

Migration and German Culture
Berlin's Cultural Diversity Across Two Centuries

Some Questions and Answers

The twenty questions and answers below are designed to supplement the information given in the letter from the directors

1. When will I receive my stipend check, and in what amount?
You will be given your stipend shortly after final decisions are made about which applicants are selected, probably by late April. It will come in the form of a check issued from Texas A& M University. Since we have to pay in advance for your housing in Berlin, we will deduct that amount from your check. On your acceptance form, you will have to authorize Texas A&M to deduct that amount from your stipend check, and you would subsequently receive the remainder of your stipend as a check to pay for the remainder of your transportation to and from Berlin and other expenses while there.

2. Is the stipend taxable by the IRS?

Yes, the full amount of $3900 is considered taxable income for you, even though we will deduct the down payment for housing from the actual check. Texas A&M will not withhold taxes from your check. You will want to talk to your own tax consultant to determine whether any of the expenses are deductible in your situation. The IRS will know about the full amount of your stipend.

3. Will the stipend be enough to cover all of the costs associated with the seminar?
Perhaps just barely, depending on all sorts of things. Berlin is still a relatively inexpensive city, especially if you compare it to the world’s other major, and much more expensive cities, for example, Paris, London, New York, etc. You are responsible for paying for your own housing and food costs for the five weeks, as well as your travel to and from the U.S. Those coming from the west coast of the U.S. might have to pay more for their flights to Berlin than people who live near a major east-coast airport, and of course there is no predicting at this point what air fares next summer will be. Many of the readings will be available online, and the NEH will pay for some lectures and entrance-fee expenses associated with the seminar. How much you spend on food, acquiring your own teaching materials, personal travel, etc., is an individual matter. The other big variable is the exchange rate between the dollar and the Euro, and who knows what that will be next summer. But even if the seminar ends up costing you some money, it’s still a cheap way to spend five weeks in Berlin learning about some of the most important issues in German culture today.

4. Will I receive academic credit for this seminar?
No. We will ask you to lead a discussion of one of the works we read and to present a project of some sort during the last two days of the seminar, but no official credit is given. There is considerable prestige to participation in an NEH seminar. We will be happy to provide a description of the activities in the seminar, and that may help you to make a case for having your home school district award you in-service or professional development credit.

5. Will I need a passport and a visa for Germany?
You MUST have a valid passport that will not expire until at least six months after you return from Germany. You will not need a visa, unless you end up, for whatever reason, staying in Germany for over 3 months. You also do not need an Aufenthaltserlaubnis (residency permit) for the seminar.

6. When would I need to plan to arrive, and when can I think about booking a return flight?
The seminar begins on Monday, June 23, and we have reserved housing starting the night of June 22. Flights from the US typically arrive early in the morning, and we’ll be making sure that everyone gets to his or her apartment and then holding a walking tour of the neighborhood and some a get-acquainted reception Sunday evening. The housing people have informed us that most of the apartments will be available for the night of June 21, for an extra night’s payment. If you want to book the extra night, you’ll have to contact T&C Apartments yourself, once we have figured out who will be staying where and with whom. (If you decide to share an apartment, we will let you find your own flatmate from among the other Summer Scholars.) The seminar ends after the morning session on July 25. We’ll want to have some sort of farewell event, but we’ll set it up to fit into everyone’s schedule should some of you be leaving already that afternoon. The apartments are easy to reach from the main train station and Tegel, the Berlin airport. We will provide detailed directions on how to get to the apartments once we know who is coming.

7. Will I be able to ship belongings to myself in Berlin?

We will check with the housing folks to see if they can provide us with an address, but I wouldn’t count on one. It might, in any case, be better, more secure, and cheaper to plan to take with you what you will need rather than ship it. It is fine to travel light. Informality is the rule. There are coin-operated laundry facilities near our housing, and no one will object if the same clothes appear over and over again. After a few weeks, we’ll be family. The only difficulty people had in 2010 came after we got ourselves invited to the July 4 festivities hosted by the U.S. Embassy. Dress was “smart casual,” which was explained as no shorts or blue jeans. Some men had to find a pair of khaki pants to make the grade. The embassy didn’t invite us in 2012, so there wasn’t a problem. Who knows if we will find favor in 2014.

8. Will I be able to send and receive email and phone my friends and family?
Yes. All the apartments have high-speed internet connections. You will need a computer to access your email, but once you plug into the LAN line, everything else is easy. Now that many people rely on notebooks, which typically do not have Ethernet portals, you might want to consider bringing or purchasing something like an airport express, so that you can make your internet connection a wi-fi hub. There is a good electronics store two blocks from the apartment where those sorts of things are available at reasonable prices. Giving advice about phoning has gotten more complicated, but the good news is that there are ever more options. They are also becoming cheaper. Skype and Facetime provide the easiest solutions, and they have the great advantage of being free from computer to computer. You can also use Skype to make calls to landlines and cellphones, so you might want to check out the rates. Some people use US cellphones in Germany, and that used to be very expensive. A new plan from T-Mobile holds out the promise that even data usage on a US smartphone will no longer be prohibitively expensive. Other companies will probably follow T-Mobile’s lead, so you might want to wait until later this spring to decide what to do.

9. Will I be comfortable in my apartment?
We are very confident that you will. The apartments that we have stayed in have been very comfortable and extremely well equipped. There is even cable TV. The apartments are also not far from bakeries, supermarkets, and the Schönhauser Arkaden shopping mall, to say nothing of an amazing variety of restaurants, bars and clubs. The one caveat is that the apartments are not air conditioned; Germans don’t find it necessary. If it’s too warm a few days during our stay, there is always a shady sidewalk café not far from wherever we might be that day.

10. How much walking will be required?
Not an enormous amount, but we will want to take several walking tours and visit some places that are only accessible by foot. We recommend that everyone gets a public transportation pass, and the combination of U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus and tram should get us within a couple hundred yards of almost everything. Still, walking is a great way to experience a city—think Flaneur; there really are things and places to discover around almost every corner in Berlin. Both directors regularly take students on extensive walking tours of Berlin, and are likely to do the same for our group. You’ll want to be reasonably fit and have good walking shoes. Some days you will probably need an umbrella; if you don’t bring one, plan on making the small investment.

11. What if I get sick?

We will make every effort to find a doctor, clinic or hospital if one of the group needs medical attention. Our program assistant will also be able to connect you with a doctor or hospital in Berlin. If you need medications, the easiest thing is to make sure you bring along an adequate supply. You should sure that your medical insurance covers you will abroad. If phoning or writing the insurance company doesn’t reassure you about coverage, you might want to consider a supplemental policy for the trip.

12. Can I rent cheaper accommodations or share an apartment with someone else?
Due to the difficulty of finding affordable and appropriate housing for all participants, we have had to commit in advance to the housing. Except in exceptional circumstances, NEH Summer Scholars will be expected to choose from the options we have arranged. We will all be staying in buildings that in close proximity both to one another and to the facility in which the seminar is being held. Not only with that make our logistics much easier, but proximity also helps build group cohesion. The rental company has been very flexible in allowing us to book a block of apartments, such that Summer Scholars may chose to reduce their costs by sharing a two-room apartment, if they wish. We will let you work out the details of who wants to live where once we notify successful applicants on Monday, March 31, but in the meantime you can take a look at the options at specifically the 1-Zimmer and 2-Zimmer Wohnungen in Prenzlauer Berg, Kopenhagener Str. and Rhinow Str. The apartments are large enough to bring a spouse or partner, but that person will not be able to participate in the seminar.

13. What’s the story with electrical current in Germany?
German plugs look different from those in the US, and appliances all run on 220 volts. You will need an adapter and sometimes a transformer for U.S.- made devices, and they might be easier to purchase in the US. It’s easier, however, to check to see if your computer or hairdryer comes equipped to handle German current. Some appliances have 110/220 switches, and all Apple products handle 220 automatically.

14. Am I eligible to apply?
Please read carefully the NEH’s regulations about eligibility on the NEH website: eligibility_criteria
criteria.pdf Selection committees are required to give preference to applicants who have not participated in an NEH-sponsored seminar or institute in the past three years (since 2011), and the rules have changed to include part-time teachers. NEH has encouraged us to reserve one or two slots for applicants who are in graduate school and intend to teach at the secondary school level. Other regulations discussed in the NEH document apply.

15. Can I send my application materials electronically?
Yes. You will need to fill out the cover sheet at the NEH website, and we have decided that it would be easiest for all of us if you sent a copy of that sheet and your essay as email attachments to Professor Shandley.

16. What about the letters of recommendation?

The NEH has decided that we no longer need to require letters of recommendation. You do have to provide the names and addresses of two people who could speak about your qualifications.

17. Where is the Application Cover Sheet?
You need to access the cover sheet from the NEH website
Type your answers to the various questions on the website and be sure to print the completed form before you close the electronic document. You will need to scan this printed version of the cover sheet to include it as an attachment to the email that you send to Profewssor Shandley along with your essay and information on references.

18. If I apply, when will I hear?
Successful applicants will be notified by email and then by phone on Monday, March 31. NEH is very strict about the deadline, so we plan to send out emails right after midnight of March 30, and we will call to make a personal connection later in the day on March 31. Since the apartment people have been good enough to reserve enough apartments for everyone to share or to have a single apartment, we have a very tight schedule for accepted applicants to commit to the seminar and figure out their housing arrangements. We will also have a list of alternates, should some successful applicants be unwilling or unable to participate. We will also notify alternates and unsuccessful applicants by email on March 31. Successful applicants will have to accept or decline the offer by Friday, April 4.

19. What are my chances of getting accepted?
We wish we could answer that, but it depends on now many people apply. We offered this seminar in 2010 and 2012, and we had a very strong applicant pool. Who knows what will happen this time around. There are no guarantees in this sort of thing. The only thing we can be sure of is that if you don’t apply, you have no chance of being one of the sixteen NEH Summer Scholars who will spend five weeks in multi-kulti Berlin.

20. If I am accepted, will I have a memorable summer?
There will be some surprises, some things to adjust to, some rough spots, some new people to get to know, some unfamiliar ways of preparing food and of doing things to get used to, but memorable? Absolutely! Here’s what one of the 2010 Summer Scholars said in an anonymous evaluation, “My overall experience during the seminar was nothing short of amazing. Berlin as well as most of my colleagues offered a daily dose of stimulating and rewarding experiences. The ideas and experiences will present themselves not only on personal scholarship, but in my classroom as well.” In 2012, a Summer Scholar wrote,“Overall the seminar as presented was about as close to perfect as it gets in this world.” We have made a few improvements, so we are hoping it will be that good again.

Lawrence University
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National Endowment for the Humanities