Moving from India to Rheinbach in Germany was not a fast decision to be made. Pandiyan took many measures and precautions while planning the next step in her career: “While I was doing my Master’s in Electronic Media in India, we had to learn technical German language for the first year. That’s how my German connection started. Then, I continued to learn German in the Goethe Institute, Chennai, just because of my interest. Actually, I started looking for PhD positions, initially. When I started applying, I got advice from one of the Professors in Germany that I should do a Master’s first in Germany, then it is easy to make network to avail myself PhD admission. I just took his advice.” Pandiyan started applying for several different master programmes and for one programme she even received a scholarship. The German language requirements were too high and due to her personal situation as a new mother, she had to turn down the offer. Soon enough though, a new door opened: ”Then I got to know this MBA NGO Management course in the same university. I was really thrilled and excited about the multi-disciplinary curriculum, and applied. I got the admission. This is my story of arriving at H-BRS in Bonn.”
A dream come true
Her studies at Goethe Institute in Chennai prepared her well enough to be quite familiar with the German language and culture. Pandiyan was excited and ready to open up a new chapter in life with H-BRS: ”I am an explorer in all senses, I think that’s the in-built motivation. (...) I always used to dream of going to a new place where nobody knows me, I don’t know anybody, I know nothing of that place and culture practically and get my life experience with a real open mind and heart. So, that’s the excitement.” When Pandiyan arrived here, she quickly made friends and involved herself in many activities: “My class, with all my batch mates, its a life time experience!”
She also had a student job within the area of Intercultural Communication at H-BRS: “Working with Ms. Küpper was one of my greatest experiences and memories (...), the whole experience helped me to enhance my personality and outlook towards the world.” Her teacher and boss, Ms. Eileen Küpper, likewise, thinks of her very highly: “I have recently read an article entitled The Ten Most Important Qualities of an Ideal Graduate Student in which the author cited: intelligence, independence, commitment, literacy, time management, organisational skills, curiosity, enthusiasm, ability to think, diligence and motivation. I can certainly confirm that Ms. Pandiyan has shown all of these qualities throughout the time that I have had the pleasure to work with her.”
Life between Indian and German culture
While in Bonn, Pandiyan stayed in touch with family and friends through Skype and through emails. Every six months, she traveled back to India and visited her family and her little baby. Despite having a family abroad and being very involved at H-BRS, Pandiyan still filled her leisure time with exciting activities. She was engaged in language tandems, cultural get togethers with the couch surfing community and she actively took part in the InterNations organisation for expatriates in Bonn. Pandiyan could easily network with likeminded people and organise activities such as Sunday brunches, nature walks, cycling, learning how to play the guitar, culinary classes and more. She aIso used to travel a lot, more to country sides rather than typical tourist places, to explore the surrounding area and nature.
Besides being really active and dedicated, she also recalls an especially funny story: “Once I had to introduce my friends to another German friend. I told him that Er ist mein Freund, Er ist mein Freund, and pointed at everybody. He laughed like crazy and asked How many boyfriends do you have? Then, obviously, he corrected me that I have to say Freund von mir.”
Future outlook with H-BRS in mind
When thinking of her time in Germany, Pandiyan gets a little nostalgic: “(...) sitting on one of those benches near the lake, near Mensa, looking at the birds, trees and sky endlessly, with my coffee and book is one of my greatest, maybe a little spiritual experiences in H-BRS.” She is still in touch with classmates via Facebook and for specific matters emails are exchanged between colleagues and former professors.
Right now, Pandiyan is back in India, working on a sustainability project in Chennai as director of research and publication. The project Pure Water Foundation includes four main pillars: waste management, urban green, urban forest and wastewater. Pandiyan believes that sustainability only works if all parties are actively being involved. The government, the modern Indian society, urban households and local farmers must work together to become catalysts of change, carrying out the philosophy of thinking globally and acting locally – To her, resource renewal is about turning waste into resources. To date, her foundation managed to have more than a hundred farms use their organic farmer’s network. They are in the process or getting the internationally recognized Biosolids Management Programme Certification, and they are negotiating with one of the largest fertilizer companies in India to distribute Biosolids as organic manure to improve the soil quality and reduce the adverse effect of chemical fertilizers.
Pandiyan says that her education at H-BRS contributed enormously to her current profession: “it’s a crucial time for me personally and at an organizational level. From designing a website to finalizing contracts with governments and corporates for our projects, setting up new offices and recruiting personnel all is happening now.”
H-BRS is always close and in her mind, even when working seemingly far away: “In my current job, I am planning to carry out some research, cooperating with H-BRS.” For her it is still just an idea but she is looking forward for the right opportunity to emerge.
By Marion Ender