Projects, Protests & Palaces

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By Suzanne Fils-Aime | Hamburg, Germany

Hello again!

It has been a busy six weeks since my last post and there is so much to write! I’ve decided the best way to share my time as a UNESCO fellow is to provide snapshots of each week since my last post, so I can make sure not to miss anything important. I hope you enjoy!

Week 4

One month into my time as a fellow and I am amazed with the many professional and personal experiences I have already had. At the Institute, I was asked to take on research for a small project within our program. The request, coming from a Moroccan office, was for a compilation of successful literacy programs in countries with decentralized education systems. I do not have a strong background in literacy and have had to do a great deal of background research for other projects in order to complete my tasks. Because I am very knowledgeable on the education system in Morocco (thanks to my Country Analysis paper from the International Higher Education course – shout out to Dr. Streitwieser!), I felt much more confident in taking on this research project. The main project of focus for my time at UNESCO is the LitBase, which I believe I mentioned before, but if not, is an electronic compilation of effective literacy programs. Since my last post, I have tried to research programs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as many of its countries are currently underrepresented, however, I have yet to find any new programs which meet our criteria. This research project for Morocco was a warm welcome for me back into the MENA region.

One of the fantastic aspects of spending the summer in Germany, is that it is so centrally located and that hopping over to new cities for the weekend is fairly easy. This weekend I went to Copenhagen, Denmark. Interestingly enough, this was my first time in a western country with a current monarch, so I spent a great deal of time visiting all of the palaces. One of my favorite sites was the National Museum of Denmark. This is an awesome museum! I find it completely fascinating how people and artifacts were naturally preserved throughout so many years and that we are able to learn so much about them through today’s science. Copenhagen was definitely a jam-packed trip between the little mermaid, Nyhavn, all the museums, palaces, and of course, Tivoli, which is the second oldest amusement park in the world and came highly recommended by my grandfather.


Week 5

As June drew to an end, it was time to say goodbye to the old interns who were there when I first started at the end of May. I really appreciated learning from them and getting their advice to navigating an internship at the Institute. At the beginning of July, 10 new interns will arrive from the Erasmus program. Between finishing up the research for Morocco, and writing the draft case study for the Afghanistan program I have been working on since the beginning, things have definitely picked up with work.


Perhaps some of you who read my last post are wondering how my cycling to and from UNESCO has worked out. It was a rough start. Many senior citizens flew past me in my first few weeks, but now I have definitely found my stride and have become accustomed to the bike lanes and cycling courtesies. On another note, a couple weeks in, I discovered a little street market that opens on Thursdays near the Institute. Now, every Thursday, our group of interns walk to the market to try the Vietnamese, Asian Fusion, currywurst, and fish stands.

Week 6

Well, I celebrated my first international Fourth of July this week. Tom, the other American intern, and I decided we needed to do something festive. We ended up bringing along one of our Irish colleagues, Lia, for burgers and then to the Planten un Blomen for the famous lights and water show in the park. These shows take place every evening in the summer in Hamburg and consist of water fountains and lights choreographed to classical music. It wasn’t fireworks, but we figured it was close.

planten un blomen

Throughout the duration of the show, helicopters hovered above the crowd, a reminder of, yes, the G20 Summit in Hamburg. Can you believe it’s taken me this long to discuss this event in my post? This was certainly an interesting week to be in Hamburg. For those that are unfamiliar with the G20 Summit, it’s essentially the gathering of leaders from the 20 major economies from around the world. These meetings always bring large numbers of protesters to the host city, and this year was no different. If any of you saw videos or photos from the protests, it certainly looked as if all of Hamburg was burning. In reality, the protests early in the week were very peaceful and especially creative and the violence later in the week was mainly confined to one neighborhood. Many seminars and events were during work hours, so I did not see them personally, but some of my favorite pictures came from the “Zombie” protest which was more in the style of performance art. While the protests were peaceful and family friendly towards the beginning of the week, clashes over rights of the protesters and actions taken by the police early on definitely led the way for more of the violent and angry protests later in the week. The general perception from many Germans who I discussed the Summit with was disappointment. It was difficult to sleep with the constant noise from the circling helicopters and interns were advised not to come to work Thursday and Friday. I escaped for the weekend in Brussels, Belgium.


Week 7

It was nice to get a quick break and eat my fill of frites and chocolates in Brussels. I was able to check La Grand-Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, off my bucket list and go to Mary, the shop that makes chocolates for the royals. Back in Hamburg and business as usual, I continued my work on the Afghanistan case study draft and also received a questionnaire from a program in Cambodia that I will begin drafting as well.


Hamburg threw their annual “Flower Power” festival, a summer celebration, which is essentially a parade of floats with dancing, singing, and drinking. It was certainly a sight to see, with grown men sporting seventies suits and wigs. This image was made even better when “Take Me Home, Country Roads” started playing and the Germans began passionately singing about West Virginia. Unfortunately, I managed to not take a single photo during this event.

Week 8

This week of work has been mainly focused on migrating case studies from the old website to the new platform. It’s a little bit tedious, but the task has certainly helped me with practicing my HTML skills. This past weekend, I took a quick trip to the Czech Republic. I spent the majority of my time in Prague and then took a day trip out to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kutna Hora to see the famous bone chapel, which is about an hour long trip outside of Prague. I absolutely adored Prague. Between the architecture, the mountains, and the sunsets, it was a fantastic time.

prague tower

It’s hard to believe that my time this summer is quickly coming to an end. With three weeks left, I have so much research to complete and more of Hamburg to explore. At the moment, I am also battling a summer cold. Thankfully, my roommate, Stefanie, has been taking good care of me and I’m beginning to feel much better. In the next weeks to come, I am eager to see the direction of my research and to possibly take on a few small additional projects before my time comes to an end. I am hoping to take advantage of every possible opportunity. 

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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