Like many other student initiatives, the idea for a student seminar originated in the "strike semester" in the winter of 2003/2004, a semester during which many classes were cancelled due to strikes from both student body and faculty, drawing attention to financial and organizational problems at the university. Last summer semester, the FSI student board carried out the fifth student seminar at the JFKI.
The main idea behind the self-organized student seminars is to offer courses on subjects that are often neglected in the university’s curriculum. The student board also wants to ensure that the seminar is open for new ideas and that everybody who is interested can participate.
The subject of the student seminar varies from semester to semester. The first seminars consisted of an introduction to the nuts and bolts of the study program as well as a theoretical part on a variety of topics. While the first seminars dealt with such themes as protest movements, subcultures, alternative media, Latin America, and foreign policy and security policy after 9/11 (War on Terror, PATRIOT Act, etc.), later seminars had the motto "USA (Un-)Covered" and focused on relations between the USA and Latin America (Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, the importance of NAFTA and the IMF, etc.).
In the winter semester 2005/2006, the seminar group dealt with one subject intensively: the central question was "How does the US government gain broad public approval for its current domestic and foreign policies?". Since the American mass media play a major role in creating this approval, the students discussed the work "Manufacturing Consent" by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, which deals with issues of corporate media and propaganda in the United States.
In the summer semester of 2006, the FSI student board organized a seminar in the form of weekly excursions. Under the title "The Real Life", the participants visited such organizations as the German Marshall Fund, the German Foreign Office, both the US and the Canadian embassies and the Human Rights Watch office in Berlin, and got the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes. They also took part in several discussion forums.