The last couple of months as the new Director of the DAAD Information Center Johannesburg have been a whirlwind. Being introduced to new cultures is an exciting adventure: a new world opens up and this experience allows me to learn a lot, not only about South Africa but about myself as well. I have to reflect on and interrogate my own behaviour, my point of view and my place in this new setting. I would therefore like to thank everyone who has helped make this change as smooth as possible and for welcoming me in such an open and friendly way.
Coming to South Africa in October 2017, I could not possibly have imagined that my new career as the Director of DAAD Southern Africa would commence with a celebration. On November 1st 2017, my first official day as the new director, the DAAD Information Center celebrated its 20th birthday and I was introduced to some of the DAAD scholarship holders and alumni and my future colleagues and students here in South Africa. My first day could not possibly have been better. I am looking forward to meeting all of you in the near future and working together in supporting young bright students and researchers in their budding academic careers.
Recent discussions with alumni and partners have made me think of new ways in which we can share information in the best possible way, how we can optimise the workshops we offer at various events all over the country and how we as a team can be as approachable and supportive as possible. The DAAD team, which includes Ntsiki Mdlankomo (Event Management) and Jaco Herbst (Marketing Strategy and Social Media), gladly offers its expertise and creativity in shaping our future activities. We, however, cannot do it alone. It is vital that our partners, scholarship holders and alumni stay in touch with us. Change after all takes place when all of us work together.
Before I joined the DAAD South Africa team as the new director, I served as the managing director of the world-renowned Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School for Literary Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin during the last three years. The structured PhD-programme offers optimized support to young scholars in building up an interdisciplinary network, in financing international travels to conferences or for semesters abroad, and in offering budgets to organize workshops, conferences, and guest lecture series.
Heading a DAAD Information Center abroad is not new to me, however. In 2009 I had the pleasure of serving as the first director of the then newly founded DAAD Information Center in Pune, India. From 2009 to 2014 I fell in love with India and its people, whilst directing the Information Center with its manifold tasks of internationalisation.
I deeply believe that internationalisation within our home countries and joining international communities ourselves are highly beneficial for all of us. The institutional support of students and young researchers has been a pleasure of mine and the focus of my career over the last twenty years. Let’s build the future together. And let us be international.