Dietrich Wolf Fenner is the new program director of the German Academic International Network (GAIN). He helps design and organize events and workshops to aid German researchers in North America with their professional development. Before joining GAIN, Dietrich was head of communications of the Berlin-based Government Foundation EVZ. From 2006 to 2011 he was spokesman for the Federal Foundation for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in the GDR. Dietrich holds a Master’s degree in German literature studies and history from the University of Freiburg. He also studied history, English literature and Italian at the University of Cape Town.
Our DAAD network is a vast and global net of connections between DAAD and its award winners, ambassadors, alumni, grant holders, future applicants – all united by their love for study and research abroad and all things German.
We asked Dietrich a few questions about his work and experience in moving to New York and joining GAIN:
- What sparked your interest in the German Academic International Network?
The things I am most passionate about are networking and providing information by telling compelling stories. I am a journalist by training and managed various communications teams. I am excited to help lead the GAIN program in the United States and am sure it will be a great experience to bring together German scientists and researchers, potential collaborators, and employers in academia and industry as well as politicians.
- What are you currently working on?
I started on December 1st and besides meeting all my new lovely colleagues and sorting out the priorities, I am getting ready for my first conference in D.C. and planning an event in Boston at the European Career Fair.
- What was the most ‘German’ experience you have had since you have moved to New York?
Three favorites: Grocery shopping at Schaller and Weber (the sanctuary for German homesickness), the “Zum Schneider” Oktoberfest at FDR Drive and me being stuck for hours on a US service hotline. My patience had very German limits.
- What advice would you give to students who are thinking of choosing your field of study?
Do the things you love. In my case it was literature and history, not science or attending law or med school. Don’t bother if anyone asks what you will do later in life. You will figure it out. And life is full of surprises!
- What advice would you give to North American researchers and faculty who are thinking of working abroad in Germany?
Living and working abroad always enriches your life. There will be good experiences, but perhaps also disappointments. Take them both with you. The German education system is publicly funded. I believe that is a good thing. It opens higher education to a diverse academic community. Germany offers very good archives, universities in major cities, and excellent researcher opportunities – for instance Max-Planck-Institutes or Leibniz Association. Wherever you are abroad and whatever you do: collect and enjoy the various ways of thinking, life, and culture. Make a note: Berlin bars have no closing time!
- Which pictures, plants or unusual objects are there in your room/at your desk?
A piggy bank in the shape of a Moldovan warrior. It was a present from a Roma scholarship student of my former employee and it reminds me of the importance of academic and cultural exchange every day.
- Can you cook a German meal without a recipe? If so, which one?Spelt carrot walnut bread – a great ZEIT Magazine recipe of the famous Elisabeth Raether who is a food editor but cannot cook. Also, Hessian Kochkaes’ even though I am a proud North German from Hanover! (Kochkaes’ is a self made cheese spread with loads of Butter!)
- Do you have a favorite writer, politician? Or someone who has inspired you on your journey? If so, who and why them?
I only produced two TV shows with the late German journalist Erich Boehme. I will always admire him for his gentle way to criticize. The worst feedback he would give was: “des is net so schee geschribbe!”. (In a strong Frankfurt idiom: “this is not very well written.“)
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