How does a German university student end up doing an internship in Switzerland that ultimately takes him to North Korea?
Dennis, a 22-year-old young engineer at the technical college in Bielefield (Germany) majoring in alternative energy technologies, needed to do an internship as part of his graduation requirements and found Agape international during his search. „I wanted to do something meaningful as well as spend as much of the 3-month internship abroad. Just earning some money was not enough motivation for me.“
What did your parents say when you traveled to North Korea shortly after beginning your internship?
„My mother was initially skeptical because she didn‘t want to support the North Korean regime. But when she heard more about what we would be doing there, she supported my plan. It‘s good to know that your parents support your decisions!“
What were the highlights of your trip to North Korea and in the overall project?
„I found the internship to be very educational. The highlight was certainly the trip to Asia. The warm, friendly way of the Korean people is wonderful and an example we could also follow. Our local partners met us at the airport dressed in their best suits and took us out to eat immediately. They were clearly happy to see us.“
What was difficult for you?
„A lot of things were different than I imagined. I had wanted to go to North Korea with as few expectations as possible. However, when the first customs guard screamed at me, I did feel a bit
afraid (I had filled out the form incorrectly, and he thought that I was hard of hearing – when, in fact I simply did not understand Korean!). But even just coming to Switzerland was often challenging because many things were new and different. I underestimated all the paperwork and the formalities. I just thought I would go there and do my internship, but I ended up filling out an endless pile of papers. Even figuring out how to buy a railway ticket from the machine was a challenge…“
What aspects of the project in North Korea do you find particularly exciting?
„On a development aid project in Africa the main focus is typically giving food so that people stay alive. In the North Korea project we are not in a life-or-death situation, but a foundation of basics services is still being built. I used to think that having an adequate power supply was a problem that only affluent countries had to deal with. Now I have realized what it really means to be without a reliable electricity supply, namely not having light or warm water in the evenings, not being able to listen to the evening news on the radio or make a phone call … Wind energy is a way to really help a large number of people. It‘s exciting to know that my area of study can also make a difference in people‘s lives!“
What will you do after the internship?
„First I have to write my thesis, Opportunities and Risks of Re-Powering German Wind Energy Parks for Developing Countries. Afterward, I will accompany the two key experts of the project on their trip through Europe. Down the road I can imagine working in a development aid project somewhere in the world.“