The office of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in New York is located in the German House at 871 United Nations Plaza, right across the United Nations Headquarter. The New York office, one of 14 international branch offices of the DAAD, has been founded in 1971 to support academic exchange between the United States, Canada, and Germany. The DAAD New York office has three major tasks:
- to act as a bridge between universities in the United States, Canada and Germany, higher education professionals and students by providing information and assistance
- to administer fellowships and other programs for students and scholars in the United States and Canada,
- to contribute to Germany’s public diplomacy by promoting Germany’s academic, scientific, and cultural achievements in the United States and Canada.
Upon our arrival, we received a very warm welcome by the staff members of the DAAD office. The briefing was opened by Mr. Peter R. Kerrigan, Deputy Director of the DAAD office in New York. He is responsible for marketing German higher education and DAAD scholarship opportunities and programs to the U.S. and Canada. He told us his job history in order to give us a good example of how to get from the FU Berlin into the world of international affairs. He told us that after receiving his B.A. in Political Science and German from Bates College, he graduated from Freie Universität Berlin with a Diploma (M.A.) in Political Science in 1993, financing his studies by teaching English. Mr. Kerrigan then worked as marketing consultant and Vice President of Membership Development and Services for The Forum on Education Abroad before joining the DAAD. He told us that he had worked in more than 30 countries worldwide and in three different languages. He is a founding member of the Friends of the Freie Universität Berlin (FFUB), which had been founded in January 2003 with the support of Freie Universität Berlin and currently serves as Secretary of the Executive Board. One of his latest programs included an exchange opportunity at German universities for students from New Orleans who after hurricane Katharina had not been able to continue their studies and who had been studying in Germany the last year. Mr. Kerrigan reminded us to always stay open-minded in our professional careers, as life could always turn out different than we had expected, and that we should take the opportunity we were given by the NMUN program to gain from this experience as much as possible.
Ms. Kristina Graaf was next to introduce herself. She is Program Officer and responsible for DAAD Professors and Chairs, German and German Studies, University Summer Course Grant, Intensive Language Course Grant. Ms. Katja Simons, Project Director for the German Academic International Network (GAIN) had studied at Freie Universität Berlin as well.
Then Ms. Hélène Sostarich-Barsamian, the Executive Director of FFUB, told us about her work at FFUB. For the Friends of Freie Universität Berlin, Ms. Sostarich-Barsamian’s responsibility is to bring together Alumni of Freie Universität Berlin, business and political leaders, academics and grant making foundations with an interest in furthering academic and research cooperation between Germany and the United States. Current projects include the Kofi Annan Fellowship in Global Governance or the International Summer Program for Undergraduate Students as well as the annual Transatlantic Bridge Award Gala which is FFUB's annual fundraiser and takes place in New York City. Ms. Sostarich-Barsamian told us that in a city like New York, where there are so many offices for fundraising, you had to do things that were new and unusual in order to attract donors. She explained that Freie Universität Berlin was the only university with a strictly fundraising office in the USA, and she encouraged us to stay in touch and contact her in case we knew interesting programs in need to be sponsored.
Our next speaker was Ms. Stefanie Grupp-Clasby, Program Officer, who had studied at Freie Universität Berlin as well. She is responsible for the placement of German grantees in the United States and Canada. She started with a very detailed presentation on the possibilities to work at the United Nations. The scholarships offered by the DAAD support students in many ways including study and research scholarships, paid internships at the UN or other international organizations (for example the Carlo Schmid Program). Furthermore she told us about the cooperation between the DAAD and the UN and the different ways to apply for professional jobs at the UN, such as the National Competitive Recruitment Examination (NCRE). She mentioned that for this examination, Germans can only apply again in 2009. Furthermore, she explained the different types of posts in the UN and how to apply for professional UN jobs and the UN Volunteers.
Afterwards, she showed us a presentation by the German Foreign Office which dealt with programs to help German citizens and especially young and talented graduates to start a career in international organizations. The presentation introduced the programs of the German Robert Bosch Foundation and the Junior Professional Officer program. The German Foreign Office also regularly holds preparatory courses for people wishing to participate in the EU concourse, which increases the chances of succeeding.
After this highly informative meeting we had lunch together with the staff members in the cafeteria of the German House, which not only included very nice food but also a great view over the roofs of New York and the East River. In general, the visit to the DAAD certainly was a highlight of our study tour.