Hallo from the Hanseatic City!

UNESCO blog photoBy Suzanne Fils-Aime | Hamburg, Germany

Guten tag and thank you for visiting the summer 2017 GW UNESCO Fellow’s blog!

I have been in this beautiful German city, the second largest in the country, for a total of 25 days. Wow, has it really been that many? I landed on a national holiday for Germany, therefore all of the shops were closed. Thankfully, my sweet host and new roommate for the rest of the summer, Stefanie, was thoughtful enough to stock up on some fruit, cheeses, and veggies for me until I could test out my German in one of the nearby markets.

When I arrived at my new home, there was Stefanie, smiling and waving from the balcony. I instantly felt welcomed and am so thankful to be spending my time here living with a true local. She has already helped me so much in navigating my way around the city and German culture. We have been having a great time getting to know each other more and laughing/screaming over the spiders that have decided to take refuge in the apartment during the rain. Over that first weekend here, I was able to find my way in the grocery stores, discover a new running path in the nearby Stadtpark, test out the public transportation, and even find time to ride one of those red double decker buses to get the tourist within me out of the way, all while overcoming my jet lag.

Hamburg is gorgeous. It is so green and completely lovely. I am finding it a little challenging at times with my lack of understanding German, however, everyone is so helpful and kind. I am becoming more comfortable braving the stores and restaurants with each day.

Currently, I have just finished the third week of my internship at the Institute for Lifelong Learning. There are several other interns finishing up their time at the Institute; most will leave at the end of this month. It has been so great to have a month to get to know them and learn from their experiences. The most valuable piece of information I have learned from them to date is where to find a cheap lunch. Every day we go to the Mensa, or student canteen.  It is the cafeteria for Hamburg University and a great way to get a yummy meal that is totally affordable on my intern stipend. One other intern, Tom, will stay at Institute for the duration of my time. We are the two Americans. Both of us are working with the Literacy and Basic Skills team. The staff are incredibly patient and doing everything possible to make sure we are well trained and comfortable in our role. The major tasks I will be working on over the summer are the case studies that are compiled to make up the UNESCO UIL LitBase. This project works to highlight successful adult literacy and education programs from all over the world in order to provide organizations, countries, institutions, etc. with best practices for enhancing adult learning. Currently, I am researching and writing a case study on a lending library program in Afghanistan. I am hoping to be able to find more programs within the Arab world, as some of those countries do not currently have featured programs on the LitBase, and they are within the region of my interest.

Last Thursday happened to be the day of a big event at the Institute. Arguably, the biggest event of the year. The garden party. Pause for obvious reference to The Office. This year the garden party coincided with the departure of the Director of the Institute who retired. It was really fantastic to go to this event within the first week of my internship, not only because it allowed me to mingle with the staff and my peers in a fun and relaxed environment, but also because it granted me the privilege to see the staff come together and say goodbye to their Director. It was incredible to see how close this staff is to each other and how well they were led over the years by Arne Carlsen. It is obvious how much they respect and care for each other. I have also had the honor of being inducted into the extremely exclusive office organization, the coffee club. In reality, I signed up to prepare coffee for the office two days during each month. It seems to be a really important role, so I am hoping to get some help from one of the librarians on my days!

My second weekend in Hamburg was not quite as sunny as the first, but the rain did let up long enough on Sunday and Monday so I could hang my laundry out on the line to dry. It was another holiday weekend in Germany, for Pentecost, so I was able to get a good bit done. I am planning on visiting a few other cities in Europe on my weekends and was able to get all of my travel plans booked for the rest of the summer. During the rain, I spent a good amount of my weekend huddled in a cozy corner of the Cafe du Passage near my apartment. Between reading, writing postcards, sipping coffee with vanilla ice-cream (genius!), and people watching, the afternoons seemed to fly by. When the sun finally peeked out I took advantage of the weather and went for runs in Stadtpark, which I have been frequenting nearly every day.

I am looking forward to several new experiences in the next coming week. I have signed up for the Hamburg City bike system so I can get to work properly in one of the world’s most bike friendly cities. When in Rome, right? At the Institute, I am busy researching adult literacy programs in the MENA region (if you know of any please contact me!), there is a work lunch planned to welcome Tom and me at a Lebanese restaurant, and this weekend I will travel to Berlin to do a little more exploring around Deutschland. Thank you for reading; until next time!

Auf Wiedersehen.

UNESCO Bio-photo

Suzanne is a first year Master’s student in the International Education Program at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of International Education, with concentrations in international exchange and education policy and a focus in the MENA region.  You can follow Suzanne on Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn.




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