How to not live in a bubble – talking with Filip Bubenheimer about the range of excursions at Berlin Worlds.

Datum: Oct 8th, 2012
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Category: international

One of the nice side effects of international tournaments is certainly getting to know other cities with their distinctive peculiarities. Thus, nearly every convener of an international tournament arranges excursions to the prominent sights a city has to offer. But what if this international tournament, with more than 1400 participants, takes place in a city called Berlin, which is full of historic, social, cultural and political sights? Filip Bubenheimer, student of law, winner of the north-German debating championships (2008, 2010) and member of the Berlin Debating Union (BDU) is responsible for organizing an enjoyable time for all the participants. Christian Landrock chats with Filip about this exciting responsibility at Achte Minute.

Achte Minute: Filip, debating tournaments often seduce debaters to stay in ‘debate-land’ and indulge only into the tournament. What is your strategy to prevent debaters doing this at Berlin Worlds and instead enrich their impressions aside of the tournament itself ?

Filip: For us at Berlin Worlds it is important that participants are able to concentrate on succeeding at the tournament, but we certainly don’t want them to live in a bubble throughout. It would be a pity to miss out on all the places in Berlin that carry the spirit of dissent. We want to give our participants the chance to bridge debating with societal reality and discover the things you can reach when embracing dissent. Many of our evening events will give the debaters the chance to do so, as well as many of the excursions and day trips on January 1st.

Achte Minute: To which extent, do you believe, did getting to know Berlin as a city and thereby Germany, played a role for debaters in deciding to come to Berlin Worlds? Did you hear about any such statements from participants?

Filip: For many debaters, the competition itself is probably the most important thing. But from their responses and feedback, we do recognize that Berlin does seem to have charisma. It is Europe’s “capital of cool” – in the sense of a culturally rich, history-charged, and in its charm quite rough metropolis. Tourism booms and being able to travel to Berlin does embody a very pleasant side effect for many participants.

Achte Minute: You described Berlin as a place where the spirit of dissent becomes quite notable and through it, things achievable. How will the Berlin Worlds team demonstrate this?

Filip: We don’t really want to “demonstrate” anything at all; we do not consider ourselves having an educational mission per se. What we instead want to achieve is enabling impressions, such as of German and European history or the topsy-turvy and colorful side of Berlin, from which debaters shall profit. To showcase, we will offer city tours that focus on how certain aspects of history or societal issues manifest in the urban image.

Achte Minute: Which thematic city tours will be on offer, and why did you decide to offer those?

Filip: We are offering a city tour through the district of Kreuzberg for instance, in perspective of immigration. The matter of who can be called an “immigrant” and who a long-established “resident” is a burning question that receives continuous attention up to now. Kreuzberg offers quite some visual evidence of how dissent can be transformed into societal productive dynamics – but also for the reverse side.

Achte Minute: Are you planning to offer excursions outside of Berlin too?

Filip: Yes, we definitely want to give participants the opportunity to take a step out of Berlin. This is why we are offering day trips to cities such as Dresden, Lübeck or Stettin. Concerning prices, we plan them to be surpassingly cheap and we will make great effort to provide an inventive program. Moreover, we will also offer relaxation trips into the green, for example a stroll through Brandenburg or to the ‘Ostsee’, which, in winter, awaits you with a rough as much as romantic character. Especially for the city trips, ‘christmas market’ will be an important keyword, as they are often opened up to New Year’s Day. The regularities that locals find to be quite usual and at times irritating are those things that tourists often appreciate most.

Achte Minute: How did you choose among the many possibilities that Berlin and the vicinity offer? Are you cooperating with any other institutions in this respect?

Filip: We do organize most of it on our own. But if it happens that 300 people decide that they want to have a look at Potsdam, then certainly we won’t be able do this on our own. That’s why we work together with professional guides – there are many of them in Berlin, but for Berlin Worlds we chose among the best of them.

Achte Minute: How many helping hands were involved in the organizational process?

Filip: Yes, above all, many people helped with the brainstorming. But we still need people that are knowledgeable about Dresden or Lübeck and might be able to help out with the precise organization of the day trips or could offer some insider-tips.

Achte Minute: Are you still in search for guides for the named places or did you already manage to find somebody?

Filip: Right now, we are just about to ask everyone about their preferences regarding our offers – this means we are not yet sure about the definite numbers of participants for every day trip. In principle we anyway need guides for the most places.

Achte Minute: How will you process the registrations for the trips and excursions? Is there a specific deadline that participants have to keep in mind or are they able to join a tour rather spontaneously?

Filip: Registration will be handled through the online form of the present registration phase to which everybody should have access to. Until the 21st of October participants are kindly asked to fill out the registration form, including their preferences for the tours. Whoever does not follow this registration process right now might be facing a situation where we are only able to offer a very limited range of free places later on.

Achte Minute: How about you, will you be guiding us through Berlin or any other city yourself too, or will you try to manage everything from your office?

Filip: I recently fell in love with a city called Stettin. This is why I will be planning the tour to Stettin on myself, and, hopefully, be there in person on New Year’s Day too.

Achte Minute: If you could wish yourself something, which experiences and impressions shall the participants take away from WUDC Berlin?

Filip: I wish most of all that the participants feel welcome in Berlin and Germany and that they gain the impression that we are living our main idea of ‘embracing dissent’. And, of course, I hope they will be up for visiting Berlin again.

Achte Minute: What is your plan B when the organizing committee for the socials does a to a too-good job and none of the participants, all tired from the New Year’s Eve festivities, are able to get up in time for the tours?

Filip: Good question indeed! We thought about this of course. While the tours in Berlin do start at quite human times, the day trips require the attendants to get up early. But then one can still cozily sleep while the train moves through Brandenburg.

Achte Minute: Filip, many thanks for your time!

The Berlin Debating Union was chosen to hold the World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC or Worlds) in Botsuana 2011 and was confirmed again in Manila 2012. Estimated 1400 debaters from about 70 countries will fight for the title of the World Champion from 27th of December 2012 to 4th of January 2013. The World Universities Debating Championship is taking place yearly around New Year’s Eve, and since 1996 in British Parliamentary.

Whoever feels like showing off his or her debating and English skills, or showing young people from all corners of this world the many parts of Germany, or wanting to help out as staff, is more than welcome to conctact Filip (f [dot] bubenheimer [at] wudcberlin [dot] com). All the offers of excursions and day trips can be found here: http://www.wudcberlin.com/guide/excursions/.

Interview: Christian Landrock / msi / tr

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