In view of the project management module within my master's program 'Geographical Development Research', it is obligatory to receive several months of work experience in a development policy organisation. As a study scholarship holder of the Heinrich Böll Foundation hbs study unit, I have already dealt with hbs' foundation work abroad since joining the foundation in October 2013.
I particularly noticed the hbs in Cambodia, as they regularly supervises employees and interns in various fields of work such as gender or land issues. With regard to my master's thesis on land and green grabbing, in October 2016 I decided to apply at hbs in Cambodia. As I have never been to Southeast Asia before, it was the aim of my work experience to get to know this region and gain a profound expertise on the topics of culture, history, politics and economics. During the first half of my work stay, I attended several conferences and workshops on green economic growth and land grabbing in order to gain initial insights into these issues. I was supported by my colleagues in the hbs office in Phnom Penh, because they were not only available to answer questions at any time, but also informed me when the respective conferences and workshops were taking place. The work situation was therefore marked by many constructive conversations and discussions, whereby I not only learned a lot about the culture, history, politics and economy of the region, but also about the religion of Buddhism. Within this critical discussion, I have seen many issues related to Cambodia's past and present colonial history.
In addition to these admittedly unexpected challenges, I have again dealt with the topic of 'Green Grabbing'. For this I also wrote a publication together with my colleague Ratana Pen. I will integrate this topic into my research work for the Master thesis. In addition, as expected, I focused on the issue of women's cooperatives in Cambodia. Here, too, I have written a publication in which I discuss the future of development cooperation using the example of women co-operatives. I came across the issue of 'Rethinking Development' especially because of two Green Growth Conferences in Cambodia, as my work experience in Central America, Central Asia and Afghanistan has meanwhile critically assessed the development cooperation provided by the countries of the Global North. In addition, I was able to expand my knowledge and my regional expertise based on many other research on the subject of 'Bicycle production in Cambodia' and 'Nuclear power in Cambodia'.
At the beginning of my work stay I was able to quickly establish contact with people living here thanks to the good working atmosphere at hbs in Phnom Penh as well as the opportunities in the city itself, especially for the many cultural offerings. In addition, there is little crime in the city or country compared to Central America in form of raids, gangs or murder. Especially this I found very pleasant in the months of my stay in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Given these circumstances, it was a lot of fun for me to get to know a new region and its people and culture. In addition, I was able to gain many new geoscientific and development policy expertise.
Through the many constructive conversations on topics such as development cooperation, politics, culture, religion and society, both my personal horizon and those of my colleagues and friends in Cambodia was expanding. I'm also sure that over the coming days, weeks, months, and especially years, reflecting on the time here in Cambodia, I'll learn many more lessons from this work experience. These findings will be very valuable for my future professional life as a scientist. In addition, in view of this very positive experience at hbs, I can imagine working for a longer period in a political foundation abroad.