Reflections #8: DAAD RISE Scholars meeting in Heidelberg

It’s come and gone! This entire trip to Germany seemed to have reached its climax last week, but nevertheless, I still remain in GER. Most of my co-workers here at the Marine Science Center went on a week-long conference in Bonn, and then it was my own time to go to a meeting in Heidelberg. I was very excited to meet the other interns who are working as physicists, chemists, biologists, and in other fields of the natural sciences across the land in Germany for this summer.

Posing in front of the Universität Heidelberg
Posing in front of the Universität Heidelberg

What I didn’t expect was the huge mass of interns who actually attended the meeting. We consisted of a total of 306 interns who had found their “ideal” placement at various prestigious universities and institutes through the DAAD. I had no idea what the DAAD had accomplished since its beginning in 2005. Back then there were a mere 100 scholars carrying out research in Germany through the program. Today’s interns come from the USA, UK, and Canada and the entire RISE and DAAD measures up to being one of the most successful international exchange programs.

For the three day conference, all interns stayed at the Jugendherberge on the Uni Heidelberg campus. It was the perfect place to house all of us, since the Mensa was large enough for such a huge crowd (of course not everyone ate at the same time), there is a bus stop directly alongside the building to take us to downtown, there’s a pool a couple meters down the street, we’re obviously not far from all the lecture halls in which the opening and closing ceremonies would be held, and for me it was great because I have a friend who lives not too far away from the youth hostel enabling me to stop by for a visit.

Getting to Heidelberg was crazy! Since I’m all the way up north along the Baltic Sea, I had to plan my trip perfectly in order to arrive in Heidelberg on time for the check-in process. Check-in occurred from 11:30-15:00, so for that to become a reality for me, I left our ship at 3am. My sister had stopped by Warnemünde for a day to say bye to the seals (and to say hi to me of course), after her wonderful experience all over Europe this summer playing basketball for the U20 German National Team, and so she accompanied me on the long trip to Heidelberg. At the Hamburg train station we devoured a “Mohnschnecke”, “Rhabarberschnecke”, and a Laugenbrötchen–just enough to last the remainder of the trip. By the time we reached Heidelberg we had definitely built up our appetite for lunch!

Altstadt von Heidelberg
Altstadt von Heidelberg

After most RISE students had arrived and checked-in, we departed in three or four city buses for the opening ceremony at the Zoology lecture hall. My favorite part was listening to a former RISE intern, Emilia Wilk from Canada, and her partner from California; perform a skit about the crazy wonders of the German culture. It was hilarious!

For dinner we went to the Schwetzinger Brauhaus. The food there was outstanding and it was the best way for all of us interns to interact and meet each other. I instantly had new friends from all over the place: Mexico, California, Colorado, Canada, the UK, and Germany. There’s no better way to enjoy a good buffet and network than with a big glass of “Apfelschorle” (yeah, I’m obviously no true German :) ), “Spätzle”, and ice cream.

Friday was our company visits day. Together with Michaela Gottschling and a few others from the RISE team, I went on the Frankfurt KLIMATOURS. It was a very long, but interesting day. Our first stop was at the MHKW Müllheizkraftwerk Frankfurt. We were able to see the step-by-step process of breaking down (sorting & burning) our daily wastes from households, airports, and other facilities to create the energy that would in the end supply entire areas, such as Riesberg, with electricity and heat. I loved looking into the fire chamber!

For such a long day, lunch was key…and it was excellent. We toured the environmentally- and family-friendly neighborhood of Riesberg, got a tour of the famous Senckenberg Museum of Natural Sciences (including an exclusive visit of the archive of preserved specimen), and then ended our day at the headquarters of the Commerzbank Frankfurt.

The Commerzbank’s history stretches back 140 years! It was founded back in 1870 and has flourished ever since. Not only is the headquarter building majestic and a jewel in any banker’s eye, it is also the tallest building in all of Europe (or second tallest if you count the skyscrapers of Moscow to the bunch). It was designed by the famous English architect Lord Norman Foster. The building forms an equilateral triangle with a triangular atrium. Standing in the center of the lobby, I could see all the way up into the blue sky! On nine different levels, there are gardens that stretch across four floors. We were told that these gardens help create a natural flow of air throughout the building, increase the amount of natural lighting, and make every coffee break enjoyable! We even went up to the roof and had a fantastic view of the city. At about 8pm our day was over and everyone was free to do as he/she pleased.

I had some visitors in town, whom I was happy to share dinner with. My uncle came from France to spend the day with my sister and in the evening we all ate dinner in the Altstadt of Heidelberg. Yummy!! I had Kartoffelpuffer with Applesauce…it was incredible.
Saturday was another busy day, including the final ceremony, talks from several interns in the various fields of sciences, lunch at the Uni of Heidelberg, a group picture, and a tour of the Heidelberg Altstadt. There was soo much to see. My group’s tour guide gave a phenomenal tour, elaborating just enough to keep everyone attentive, but never pushing our attention spans to their limits.


Overall, Heidelberg is a great city and anyone who visits Germany should stop by to see it for him- or herself. Thank you DAAD for making it such a mind-blowing visit!


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