The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Experiential Learning

Students travel abroad over winter break for experiential programs

Excerpt from "Students travel abroad over winter break for experiential programs" by Coalter Palmer in The Dartmouth. Read full article here.


Students in PBPL 85, “Global Policy Leadership,” led by government professor Herschel Nachlis, traveled to Europe to investigate international responses to the global financial crisis, Eurozone crisis and the rise of populism across Europe. In Athens, students had group meetings with prominent figures in Greece’s government, meeting with former deputy prime minister Evangelos Venizelos and former finance minister Gikas Hardouvelis, in addition to meeting with the director general of Greece’s leading think tank, the vice president of the largest nonprofit in Greece and the chief economist of the Bank of Greece.

Public Policy 85: Reflecting and Returning Home

For the PBPL 85 students, the penultimate day of the trip very much blended into the final day, as we worked tirelessly throughout the night to incorporate all the insights we accumulated throughout the trip into the final policy memo.

Fueled by candy, Bugles, and an inordinate amount of chicken McNuggets, we spent the night poring over our interview notes, reflecting on how each speaker fits into the broader narrative, and drafting a thorough and comprehensive memo.  Luckily, the hotel staff did not mind that we annexed an entire corner of the hotel lobby.

Completing the memo took incredible teamwork, brainpower, and endurance, and by the end, we were exhausted. But the immense pride for having finished such a colossal undertaking was visible on our faces, set behind the obvious looks of fatigue.

Public Policy 85: The Final Day

On Saturday, our final day and night in Europe, the group spent time unwinding from the busy trip, exploring Berlin, and then furiously finishing our policy memo.

 After the fun evening on Friday night, many of us spent Saturday morning working on the memo over breakfast, then exploring Berlin in small groups, despite the rainy weather.  Some went to see the Berlin Wall memorial and museum, Checkpoint Charlie, and East Side Gallery, and reflected on the significance of the Cold War.  Others went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Berlin Jewish Museum and reflected on WWII and the Holocaust.  Many visited the famous Brandenburg Gate.  And others simply took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in.

 We took a nice DB train from Berlin to Frankfurt in preparation for our flight home on Sunday.  We arrived at the hotel, checked in, and then went to a burger restaurant for our last sit-down meal as a group (though some lobbied for a return to the African Queen for yet more Eritrean food).  At the burger restaurant one of us even had our first ever hamburger -- we will leave it to our readers to guess who that might have been. 

Public Policy 85: Berlin

We began our second day in Berlin by working on the group memo.  After 12+ weeks of focusing on these issues, our travel and course are sadly coming to a close.  But in addition to work, we also managed to have some fun, as we took time to explore Berlin's many historical sights and museums (in some cases with impressively elaborate travel plans to cover just about the entire city).  There was also some fleeting evidence and discussion of the delights and surprises from the prior night's outings, including an establishment owner's family heirloom treasure box, and the YMCA.

Public Policy 85: Basel to Berlin (and that time we pretended to be from Harvard)

Although we were sad to depart Switzerland so soon, we woke up early on Thursday ready for the journey ahead.

We arrived at the Basel train station at dawn. After finding our seats in the train car and storing our bags -- our skills in these areas are improving -- settled in for the eight hour ride to Berlin.  As the train moved amongst the snowcapped hills and small towns of central Germany, we napped, snacked, and most importantly, we began to revise the final version of our voluminous memo.  After some initial panic on the latter point, we set to work for what would become a quite productive ride. 

Public Policy 85 - From Frankfurt to Basel (aka three countries in one day)

Our final day in Frankfurt began with a visit to the Geldmuseum of the Deutsche Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank.  During the tour we were able to learn more about the evolution of money in Germany and the EU.  The fear of hyper-inflation, which seized the German economy in the 1920s, influenced and led to tight German monetary policy for the last century.  We were able to put this acute inflation worry in context given the newer European Central Bank’s chief objective – price stability.  We also discovered delightful visual representations of both The Economist's famed Big Mac Index and the paradigmatic financial bubble and crash, the Dutch tulip mania of 1637.

We next took a Deutsche Bahn train through the countryside to Basel, Switzerland.  Our tickets were initially addressed to Hanover, Germany, instead of Hanover, New Hampshire. This global DHL package chase caused more than a small headache for our Professor, but ended up just fine, as we avoided being forcibly removed from the train. 

Public Policy 85 - The ECB, the IMF, and Global Populism

We began our second day in Frankfurt by puzzling over the public transportation system.  A bit of collaborative mapwork eventually got us on the S-Bahn, headed toward the European Central Bank.  Along the way, much was made of the quietness in the car and the smoothness of the ride.  For those of us used to the rattle and bustle of American public transport, it was quite a change of pace.

At the ECB, we were treated to lecture on the ECB's institutional framework and its monetary policy by Dr. Michael Sturm, Advisor to the Directorate General of International and European Relations.  We weren't the only ones in the audience — we were joined by other groups coming from nearby Mainz, and also Poland and Thailand.  We were, however, first to arrive, representing the positive trend in the PBPL85 Aggregate Punctuality Index.

Public Policy 85 - From Athens to Frankfurt

After five eventful days, we bid a fond farewell to Athens, and began our day with an early morning flight to our next destination: Frankfurt, Germany’s financial capital and home to the European Central Bank and Bundesbank.  To keep our final moments of Athens memorable, our caravan of taxis seemed to take the initiative, making it from our downtown Psyri hotel to the Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in what must have been record time.

Public Policy 85 - Weekend Sightseeing and a Farewell to Athens

The Parthenon was a delight,

Among additional historic sites,

Like the Temple Olympian,

And Socrates’ prison,

Our sore feet; for tourists, a plight.


At night we explored the Foundation,

Among the best spots in the nation,

To enjoy tasty snacks,

And also relax,

the light shows were quite a sensation.


Today was our last day in Greece,

We enjoyed learning and (relative) peace,

Tomorrow Deutschland,

With more meetings planned,

Now farewell to the fresh feta cheese.

Public Policy 85 - Third Full Day in Greece: Protest and Questions of Economic Justice

During our third full day in Greece, we had the opportunity to explore the city of Athens and all it has to offer.  Many chose to tour a variety of cultural and historical sights, while others chose to observe a large protest that was occurring near the University and Hellenic Parliament, an annual event commemorating the 12/6/2008 police shooting of a 15-year-old student and the riots that followed.  A building we had visited for meetings on each of the two prior days -- the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank -- was now festooned with a freshly spray-painted anarchist symbol on its main entrance.  Indeed, there are no shortages of sightseeing opportunities -- whether political or archeological -- in Athens, and we were grateful for beautiful weather to accompany our mostly open day.


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences