Hallo, Deutschland!

Hi! My name is Heather Durham and I am a rising senior interning at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin, Germany this summer. Though I have only been here for one week, I am already so thrilled with my internship and excited for the 9 weeks ahead!

 GPPi is an independent, non-profit think tank with a mission “to develop innovative strategies for effective and accountable governance and to achieve lasting impact at the interface of the public sector, business and civil society through research, consulting and debate.” GPPi is composed of five thematic programs: Rising Powers and Global Governance, Innovation in Development, Peace and Security, Human Rights, and Global Internet Politics. This summer, I will be interning for the human rights program and contributing to the project on political prisoners and human rights compliance. More specifically, the project aims to understand the circumstances under which 1) external actors (such as the U.S. State Department or Amnesty International) choose the cases of political imprisonment in which they advocate for release; 2) external actors can facilitate the early release of political prisoners; and, 3) the release of political prisoners leads to an increase of pressure on the government responsible for imprisonment. While the project also consists of qualitative case study analysis, I will be assisting with the quantitative component by compiling a database of U.S. State Department public mentions of political prisoners. I’ve only had prior experience with qualitative analysis, so I am excited to gain experience collecting and working with data—an important aspect of policy research and a chance (for better or worse) to apply some of what I learned in Stat 101.

For now, I just want to share a few initial thoughts about this past week and how I ended up at GPPi in the first place. One of the first questions I was asked during each new introduction in the GPPi office was: ‘How did you find this internship?’ So how did I end up at an unpaid internship (thank you Sanford donors and Career Center grants!) at a relatively small think tank in Germany? It is easy to get stuck in the mindset that you must work in D.C. or New York City for your policy internship—after all, these are where the jobs, connections, and, as Diego pointed out in the post below, a ton of Duke students are. While these are fantastic places, I’ve learned that it’s important not to limit one’s options and, thus, limit opportunities. Really love a city that you visited, studied abroad in, or did Duke Engage in?  Research it, Google it. I was abroad in Berlin during the fall semester of my junior year and loved everything about it. While the Career Link has many great options, I was hoping to find an opportunity that would allow me to return to Berlin in the summer. So I hopped on Google, typed ‘public policy’ and ‘Berlin,’ and GPPi was the second or third link to pop up. As silly as it sounds, that is how I found my internship.

What I was most afraid of when I committed to this internship was the loneliness (and inevitable fear of missing out) when all of my friends are together in D.C. this summer and I am here attempting to make friends with my sub-par German skills. However, the Duke network is EVERYWHERE. I have been lucky enough to meet up with students on the Duke in Berlin summer program, students still finishing the Duke in Berlin spring program, and random Duke friends passing through on Euro trips.  Regardless, Berlin is such a lively city with so many events to entertain myself with—in the past week alone, the ‘Carnival of Cultures’ filled an entire section of the city with food and dancing from around the world, and the Whit Monday holiday gave me a day off to enjoy the sunshine, take tourist pictures, and read in Tiergarten.

Carnival of Cultures celebrating cultural diversity in Berlin
Carnival of Cultures celebrating cultural diversity in Berlin
Brandenburger Tor
Brandenburger Tor

Additionally, my co-workers have been more than welcoming in my adjustment to GPPi. GPPi really is a vibrant think tank environment— everyone is extremely friendly, we frequently go out to lunch together, and everyone dresses in a cool, Berlin style that I’ll never be hip enough to pull off. However, beyond that, this is a group of professionals doing the type of work that I hope to pursue after I finish my Duke career. I’m amazed and inspired by the accomplishments and experiences of every single person that I’ve met – from UN agencies to think tanks, NGOs, teaching positions, research around the world, publications, and current Ph.D. projects. I look forward to learning more from them in the coming weeks!


Please note for this and future posts: these comments are my personal thoughts and do not represent the views of GPPi: for full information on GPPi, visit: http://www.gppi.net/


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