My internship has come to an end. I have come back from Hamburg and it is safe to say that I had some great times there. I have met some great people, experienced more of German and European culture, and learned a lot about UNESCO.
When I explored Hamburg, I was surprised to find that there were many Vietnamese restaurants there. In addition, many restaurants serving Asian-style food were run by Vietnamese Germans. I tried to understand the reason behind and learned that according to the German Federal Statistical Office, Vietnamese people in Germany are one of the largest groups of resident foreigners from Asia. Among these Vietnamese in Germany, there are two main groups. The first group are those who came to West Germany as refugees after the Vietnam War. The other group are those who came to East Germany as contract workers after World War II. Although Vietnamese came to Germany because of different reasons, it was great being able to see that today both groups of Vietnamese are integrated into Germany and there are many mixed marriages.
Another thing that surprised me was the relatively small amount of youth in East Germany. I realized this when I took a weekend trip to visit my friend Shouyi, who taught Chinese in the Confucius Institute at Erfurt. Although it is the largest city in the state of Thuringia in central Germany, Erfurt also faces the same challenge as other cities in East Germany that many young people have moved to larger cities in West Germany for better opportunities. The government has put a lot of effort into helping the East catch up with the West, but the regional differences in economic development persists.
One of the greatest advantages of living in Europe was that it was easy and cheap to travel to other countries. For example, it cost me just 16 euros to take a flight from Hamburg to Italy. Thus, I had an opportunity to explore different cities in Italy. Something I enjoyed in Italy was that there were many plazas, each with a fountain, coffee shops and gelato shops. When traveling to a new place, I love climbing up the hill or the top of a church to overlook a city. The following pictures are the birds-eye views of the cities that I have visited this summer: Cinque Terre, Rome, Venice, Paris, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Vatican and Florence.
Another highlight of my travel is that I visited Tory and Tamara (my classmates who interned at IIEP this summer) in Paris. It was a crazy weekend of glory. After celebrating their Bastille Day, the French won the championship in the 2018 World Cup Final! As the final whistle blew, streets and plazas overflowed with people screaming, singing the French national anthem, waving the French national flag, and setting off firecrackers. We walked through many streets and stood on the banks of the Seine. Seeing Notre Dame at sunset, we enjoyed the best ice-cream in Paris. That was the best time that I could have ever imagined in Paris.
Most of my work in July was devoted to writing online case studies for learning cities in the Global Network of Learning Cities to be displayed at UIL’s website. Online case studies include a city’s vision, motivation, challenges, plan and implementation about lifelong learning strategies and policies. The purpose of writing online case studies for learning cities was to share different cities’ efforts on promoting lifelong learning to all its citizens based on their needs.
In addition, I was involved in a workshop, which gathers international experts to discuss the development of a practice-oriented handbook on lifelong learning policy development and implementation. The handbook introduces aspects such as a conceptual framework for understanding of lifelong learning, governance of lifelong learning, case studies of lifelong learning, as well as monitoring and evaluation. One challenge of developing this handbook was that it should be regionally balanced as it is important to reflect the diversity of different regions and countries. After intensive discussion, I really learned a lot from their critical questions, including but not limited to: What is the attitude towards “policy borrowing” across national or regional contexts? How much can a handbook really change the plan and implementation of policies in a country?
Even though I had not known anyone in Hamburg before the internship, I never felt lonely during the summer due to the company of other interns. Besides helping each other in the office, we spent a lot of time hanging out after work. We organized farewell parties for everyone, had picnics by the lake, watched soccer games in the bar, went to farmers’ markets, cooked together and so on.
Overall, it was a great experience—interesting work and lots of travel. I have learned a lot from this journey, both professionally and personally. I will treasure the time I spent there and hope to go back someday. Finally, many thanks to GWU and UIL for making this summer memorable!
Meng is a Master’s candidate in International Education at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. This summer, she interned at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg, Germany.