The End with DAAD: What Touched My Heart

I have officially ended my internship with DAAD, and let me tell you, it has been phenomenal looking back!

My colleagues and supervisors were very sweet that they prepared a little thank-you/farewell snack feast for me!

What really touched my heart was the presents they gave me. They bought a mug with a picture of them holding placards with a message “We will miss you!” I wanted to cry, as everyone was very sincere and genuine with the message they were conveying.  This mug will always be with me forever!

Michaela surprised me by giving me a large collage of 3 photos of our small dinner we had previously. The biggest one was a picture of me holding her cat Kasmir (however you spell it, LOL). I was really touched by it, because, I’ve never seen myself in a picture looking so care-freely and genuinely happy (and I have taken a lot of photos in my life). That moment of happiness and content she captured in me truly reminds me that this opportunity has been wonderful, and that, really, every moment in my life should be full of joy.  Even now looking at that picture still gives a shot/pinch of happiness.

I really feel thankful and satisfied with all the work I have done for myself, for my internship, for YIIP, for DAAD, and for the RISE scholarship holders.  Having been the first Asian and second male intern at DAAD along with my effort, I hope, I have enhanced York’s image as a diverse university student population and as an institution of students of great potential as well, so that this opportunity can be continued for future students in YIIP.

Now I’ll be traveling around Switzerland, Austria, and Germany; thus, this blog will still be active!

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A Finale

My internship has reached a conclusion with the annual scholarship holder’s meeting in Heidelberg, from Thursday, July 21st to Saturday, July 23rd.

I finally got to meet a lot of students in person!

Though I was technically the same age as they were, I was very busy that I did not have much time to hang out with them.  Additionally, being part of the coordinating team, I felt I was a bit obligated to keep my professional distance.

Nevertheless, I was really touched by the scholarship meeting itself.  I was touched by how successful (aka, non-dramatic) it was.  I was touched by the fact that all the effort I’d put into had result in good things for these students.  I was touched by the positive feedbacks that students gave me in person for my communication and assistance throughout their stay in Germany (“OMG YOU’RE OLIVER??? Thank you so much for all the reminders and help!!!”).  I was touched by the deep and rich enthusiasm, knowledge, and attentiveness of these students during the presentations and visits in the meeting.

I was touched by a bitter sweetness when the meeting ended.  On one hand, I was very happy that everything turned out right!  I got to know so many more students, and seeing them being content with the meeting, the events, and making friendships really warmed my heart.

At the same time, it meant a finale to my internship with the DAAD (I end on Friday, July 29th).  It’s all too soon; unbelievable.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to work in this environment again.  I don’t know when I’ll see these students again.  I don’t know when I’ll be in Germany again.  I really don’t want it to end.  I can really do this job for some years.  Really.

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Deutsche Schönheit

It’s time for another topic: Beauty in Vogu….. I mean, in Germany.

Frankly, I had a hard time trying to distinguish a difference in perception of beauty between Germany and North America.  I would look into magazines, newspaper, and occasionally TV and billboard ads, and people’s attire and grooming, but I honestly could not perceive the perception of beauty in Germany.

Thus I asked my colleagues!  I have divided into male and female beauty in Germany

Women

My colleague Karen and supervisor Michaela just wanted to give me quick answer for the ideal German beauty: HEIDI KLUM.

Blond, tall, slim, fair and naturally tanned skin.

They said pretty much it’s almost the same with North American perception of beauty.

I asked my rez friend Tim from Ukraine, and he mentioned that from what he has seen and heard, German women are notorious for not looking or dressing femininely attractive.

And my supervisor Michaela sadly agrees, for Germans tend to go for practical attire and comfort, rather than aesthetics.  Karen mentioned that when she lived in the US for a while, she felt American women would put more effort into their appearance compared to German women.

And I kind of agree.  Having lived in Spain for a year, I saw Spanish women of all ages would dress themselves nicely for public appearance.  But not in Germany.

Meanwhile, I needed another male perspective, and my colleague Alex added his opinions on desired qualities in German women: independence and strong-willed.

Interestingly, Alex grew up in Saxony in East Germany prior to the reunification, and he mentioned that growing up he heard that West Germany idealized East German women from Saxony as the most beautiful women in German.  Probably some imagination due to limited information of the area back then.

Men

It’s pretty much the same with North America, as the ladies in my office would say:  Blond, blue eyes, tall, athletic, and fair skin.

As for personal traits, they all mentioned reliability.

However, Alex did mention that in Europe, just like German women, German men have a bad reputation for not appearing or behaving attractive for the opposite sex; they would drink and hang out a lot in groups, not focusing on their significant half.

Interestingly, last time we had a discussion about World Cup Soccer, and all my female colleagues were discussing the best looking soccer athlete.  No one mentioned anyone from the German national team.

Hmm.

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Some Things I Very Value Now

Free Public Bathrooms

Here in Germany (and Belgium and Luxembourg) there are no things as free public bathrooms.

You have to pay for bathroom, whether it is in a department store, train station, or any other public spaces.

That is something very different from, let’s say, Eaton Centre.

Though, it’s not expensive (about 60 cents Euro is the most), frankly, it has caused some problems when I go shopping in downtown but don’t have coins for it!

Books and News

Not exactly from Germany, but you get the point.

Every book store here in Bonn is very… majestic! They are all very decorative in the inside, and full of ALL kinds of books, whether in German, English, or other languages. In some stores, there are also newspapers in  foreign languages, such as English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Greek too!

Moreover, I find Germans read a lot of books! Every day on the subway, I would see about half the passengers nosing down in their books, big books to say the least! That kind of make me feel bad coming from North America, as I find people do not read as much comparatively. In addition, being an English speaking country, we tend to think that our perspective from this linguistic characteristic, is correct, and other languages are unnecessary, whereas in Germany other perspectives and languages are encouraged as seen through the books and newspaper they sell.

Stable Weather

You think Toronto weather is bad? Well, come to Germany and you’ll appreciate our snowy weather! The weather in Bonn is absolutely SPORADIC. You never, ever, ever know when you would need an umbrella! When I leave my residence around 8:00 for work, it would be sunny so I would wear a T-shirt. Then when I’m on the subway, it would cloudy, and then rainy after I step out. Then it’d be sunny again after I’m in the office. And then rainy when I leave. And so on. The sequence changes so much that it’s driving me nuts! Moreover, this summer (yes, up until now in July) I would still wear a JACKET because the weather can be around 15~20. Bonn is not as sunny and warm as Toronto in the summer.

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A Moment I Will Always Remember: What Are the Odds?

I just got back from Stuttgart, the headquarters of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz!

But during my trip, an event happened that I will never forget.

I was on the S-Bahn (Regional Train) to the Porsche Museum, and I sat facing a group of students of different nationalities. One student was wearing a Roots cap, so I asked her if she was from Canada.

“No, I got this from Taiwan.”

“You’re Taiwanese? Me too!”

We started talking, and Kristy is an MBA student in Leeds, UK, and she was doing a study tour in Germany with her university. I told her about my internship, and she was really interested with the scholarship opportunities, as she felt very comfortable with the living and working environment in Germany!

(I always think I’m working a little too much with my placement :P)

When we got to the Porsche Museum, I decided to have lunch with her and her group. I started talking about my background, how I grew up in Taichung, Taiwan, and went to an American school.

“Wait,” she said. “I have a cousin who went to that American school too! Maybe you know her?”

“Um, maybe, what’s her name?”

“Tammy …”

“OMG TAMMY LIN????? YES I KNOW HER!!! SHE’S MY FRIEND AND WE WERE IN THE SAME CLASS FROM GRADE 2 TO GRADE 8!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

What are the odds??????

Now looking back to the moment when we sat facing each other in the train, it’s really funny how fate worked!

Frankly, this would not have happened if I had decided not to strike up a conversation with her! I could have just left her and her friends alone, like another person with a Roots cap since the brand is pretty international.

She was really happy to have met me and to have heard about the scholarship opportunities with DAAD, and at the same time we were literally one degree of connection apart thanks to her cousin and my friend Tammy.

We exchanged contact information just to be in touch and meet up again in the future!

It’s a small world after all!

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Money, Money, Money

ABBA can sing the rest, but this entry is not something I learn, but rather I reaffirm: Money gets on the ugly side of people.

Our scholarship program awards up to 2,000 Euros to students. Students would need to provide our office their banking details so that our finance department could transfer the funds.  However, sometimes the department can make mistake with thousands and thousands of money for hundreds and hundreds of program in the organization.  Students who would be hit would be very indignant, so indignant that they would be really rude to us, like accusing us as liars or even worse.

“Their situation is understandable, but it does not justify the angry tone at all!  It won’t speed up the process!” says my colleague Corina, who has had similar incidents as I have. “But after they have the money, they would be nice and friendly.”

Yup, money turns on the ugly side.

“So many students are taking this scholarship for granted!  They don’t understand they are privileged to be selected in this program; they just think money just fall off from trees like leaves!” said Daniela, my other colleague.

Some students, after arriving for about 2 weeks, (or some, just one week!), would complain that they have no more money in their account, and thus they need it immediately (and kind of blaming us for their crisis)!  Honestly, WHY WOULD YOU PUT YOURSELF IN SUCH AN ECONOMIC SITUATION?

“Wow, just 2,000 Euros, and they’re complaining so much?” said Tom, another York student in Bonn, who had worked for about 3 years in a huge business corporation on Bay Street.  “Some of our business partners would get very ugly about thousands or millions of dollars in transaction that they would send vicious e-mails and calls to our company.  What these students are encountering is nothing!”

I’ve always known that I would not be able to study or work in business firms; I’m not very whiny about money, but I can’t deal people who are and make a huge fuss about every cent.  Even if you are a patient or good-hearted person, remember, you’re living in an aggressive and pressuring working environment that it’s a bit doubtful if you can keep your sanity.

“People in my company or employees of companies in the building just don’t smile or talk to each other.  They’re cold and grumpy; it’s simply due to the work environment,” said Tom.

Money gets on the ugly side, boys and girls!

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Deutschland, Deutschland, Über Alles

In case you did not know, Women’s World Cup has finally kicked off in … GERMANY!!!

I feel really previliged to be in Germany during this time! Germany has won two back-to-back championships (2003 and 2007), and they are currently the defending champions as well.

“They are going to win again, Oliver. They’re better than the men’s team!” said my colleague Karen.

So far they are first in their group for the first round, defeating France, Nigeria, and … Canada… (T^T)

Last year while on exchange in Spain I witnessed the Spanish team won it’s first World Cup (Yes, I made history too!!!).

It will be very cool if Germany wins this year’s Women’s World Cup! That would prove that I have World Cup charm for the country I visit at the time of the sport event!

I hope you are reading this, Gen. Kim Jong Il.

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