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Getting to Know New Walks of Life

Students at Freie Universität show elementary school students from Kreuzberg that there’s more to Berlin than just their own neighborhood.

Jul 30, 2010

Mentorin und Mentee: Antonia und Eren bei ihrer Stadtrundfahrt durch Berlin.
Mentor and mentee: Antonia and Eren on their tour through Berlin. Image Credit: Melanie Hansen

Eren and Antonia first met eight months ago. Since then, the nine-year-old schoolboy from Kreuzberg and the 21-year-old student have spent one afternoon each week together. What brought them together was the Nightingale mentoring project, in which students in teaching credential programs at Freie Universität and elementary school students from Kreuzberg, themselves either immigrants or the children of immigrants, explore Berlin together.

Eren smiles when he recounts his activities over the past few weeks: He has been to the zoo, the Legoland Discovery Centre, and the aquarium. And his mentor, Antonia, always went along. Today, the pair is gearing up for a city tour of Berlin. It will be a new experience not only for Eren, who comes from a Turkish background, but also for Antonia: “I moved from Schwedt to Berlin two years ago for my studies, and I haven’t gone on a tour of the city yet, either,” she explains.

Schoolchildren and University Students Benefit from the Project

The Nightingale mentoring project is not only an opportunity for enrichment for the schoolchildren involved, but also for the university students who mentor them. “You get to know completely different walks of life. Before the project, I had never been in the part of Kreuzberg where Eren lives,” the future teacher says. “Through my contact with Eren and his family, I have gained insight into the Turkish culture and learned to broaden my perspective.”

Eren also benefits from the project: He is getting to know areas outside of Kreuzberg, and improving his German skills by talking with Antonia. “Eren has become much more talkative and self-confident over the past eight months,” Antonia says. “It’s really a great feeling to see him blossom.”

Nightingales Sing When They Feel Safe

This positive development among the younger participants is also reflected in the project’s name: Nightingales are rather shy, nondescript birds known only for their beautiful song – and they sing only when they feel safe. The mentoring project was initiated four years ago by Freie Universität and the Otto Wels Elementary School in Kreuzberg, where four out of five students come from immigrant households.

Like the other children who have participated in the project to date, Eren was selected for the program by his teacher. If the parents agree, the students are free to start their shared explorations; to date, 64 mentor/mentee pairs have formed.

Eren and Antonia have recorded their weekly experiences in a shared journal. The journal will eventually stay with Eren, “so that down the line he can still remember the time we spent together,” says Antonia. That time is scheduled to end, for now, with their city tour – it is the last Nightingale meeting between Eren and Antonia. “But I hope we will continue to see each other after the project, too,” Antonia concludes.

Written by Melanie Hansen

Further Information

Alexandra Tünke
Department of Education and Psychology 
Primary Education
Habelschwerdter Allee 45, Room KL 23/143
14195 Berlin
Telephone: +49 (0)30 838 562 58
Telefax: +49 (0)30 838 542 06