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'We are starting a new chapter' – the winners of the Alumniportal competition on their trip to Germany

From South Korea via Magdeburg and on to Cologne and Bonn – this is a brief way of summing up the journey taken by the two winners of the Alumniportal competition. Soni Fahruri, an energy consultant from Indonesia, and Quang Khai Nguyen, an engineer from Vietnam, met at a training event in South Korea and are spending a week travelling around Germany.

While in South Korea in 2013, the two winners and a colleague from Cambodia were invited by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to participate in a training course on climate change and green jobs in Magdeburg. They spent just over six months completing this course. 'People in Indonesia are very much aware of climate change issues, which is why our government is stepping up efforts to use renewable energy. We employ a whole range of renewable technologies, including solar power, tidal power and, in particular, geothermal energy,' said Soni Fahruri, who advises the Indonesian House of Representatives on energy issues.

According to one analysis, Indonesia could meet all its electricity needs solely using geothermal energy. The country is receiving support from Germany on this front, with the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Helmholtz-Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences planning to set up a geothermal research centre in Indonesia. 'By 2020, 26 per cent of the country's energy should come from renewable sources,' said Fahruri, referring to the Indonesian Government's ambitious goal.

Quang Khai Nguyen specialises in a different area, namely waste-water disposal. Since his visit to Magdeburg, he has been working for a company in Ho Chi Minh City that designs sewerage systems for Vietnamese cities. 'We are developing waste-water treatment plans. Waste-water disposal is a major issue in our cities, and it is in this area that we are counting on German expertise,' said the 31-year-old engineer. 'The training I completed in Magdeburg has also helped me greatly in this work.'

An action-packed programme

Both winners intend to use their trip to Germany as an opportunity to establish new contacts. 'Our first visit to Germany was like opening a book and now we want to start a new chapter,' said Soni Fahruri. Quang Khai Nguyen will meet with water management experts and there is also a meeting scheduled with independent private consulting company GOPA. The company specialises in a number of areas including international cooperation with emerging economies and developing countries. The two experts have also been invited to spend a day at UNESCO-UNEVOC, a technical and vocational education and training centre promoting international cooperation, the sharing of knowledge and experience and the forging of partnerships.

'Networks are extremely important to us,' stressed Soni Fahruri. He also pointed to the significant role played by the Alumniportal in this context as a network offering the opportunity for experts to interact and for individuals to keep in touch with experts and students. 'I also use the specialist groups to gain fresh impetus on specific topics, such as renewable energies. We both believe that the challenges of climate change can only be tackled at global level. When we were still in Magdeburg, we asked ourselves: How can we support each other in future? How can we work together to further develop projects and strategies? Our response was to join an organisation whose aim was to promote renewable energies, energy efficiency and an environmentally friendly way of treating waste-water.' Fahruri referred to this as the first step.

'I found smokers annoying'

While the Germany trip is primarily designed to facilitate networking, cultural aspects should not be neglected. The two experts will spend one day visiting Rhineland tourist attractions such as Cologne Cathedral. When asked about their impressions from their first time in Germany, they have two very different answers. 'I spent my first week in Germany in Saarbrücken. Everything was so clean and well organised; even the trams ran on time,' said Nguyen Quang Khai. 'One thing I noticed during my stay was that Germans spend much more time with their friends and families. In Vietnam, work is the only thing that matters. I think the German mentality is better in this regard.'

Soni Fahruri laughed as he responded quite differently: 'I was annoyed at the many smokers in Germany and the fact that people smoked everywhere.' He is a smoker himself. His image of Germany prior to arriving in the country was shaped largely by a famous Indonesian who had studied in Germany and pursued a career in Indonesia. 'When I came to Germany, I thought that all Germans were smart,' he said with a mischievous smile.

October 2014

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