Study for free in Germany, then work in the US

After reading about Merkel’s visit with Obama, I can’t help but think about my relationship with their respective countries- arguably two of the most powerful countries in our world today- and how their (foreign) policies have shaped my present situation.

For close to four years, I lived in Germany and did a combination of studying for my Master’s degree on the environment, interning for Deutsche Welle in Bonn, and moving to Hamburg to intern the World Future Council, and eventually start a PhD.

But my stint in Germany did not happen at my own volition. Germany’s policies on foreign relations and education paved the way for my student exchange scholarship. Its labor and immigration policies, however, were restrictive to foreigners of my stock, giving preference to its citizens and its neighboring EU-member countries. The only exemption being subjected to them is to seek and gain employment in an international organizations. Germany only has a handful of small ones in Bonn compared with its US counterpart which hosts the headquarters of the UN, World Bank, and IMF to name a few.

On the other hand, based on anecdotal evidence, it seems easier to enter both local and international US workforce for foreigners. This may be explained by a number of factors both on local and international hiring. First, let’s discuss the former situation. Foreign applicants (who graduated from a US university) are pitted against US graduates, making the labor market more competitive, with organizations and companies reaping the benefits from more competent employees notwithstanding their nationality. On international hiring, US-based international employers (organizations) attract or have a preference for graduates of top US universities.

The same dynamics might not be observed in Germany for any or a combination of the following reasons: a) German-university graduates are diluted with non-German-but-European graduates in larger organizations, b) US graduates get the jobs, or c) weakening German tradition and influence in foreign relations and international development, which makes it non-delectable to the palate of foreign affairs workforce. On the supply side, as mentioned earlier, Germany-based organizations only absorb a small number of international employees that is proportional to its small size. Lastly, there is a flight of Germany’s graduates to the US, be it in local and international organizations, as in the case of yours truly.

The location of international organizations in a country, and a city, means a lot about that country’s central role in international relations and development. Washington D.C. has a concentration of these organizations that deal with many of the world’s problems including food, peace and security to name a few. For Germany, the international organizations it hosts- mainly tackling environment issues- are not even in Berlin, but in the former West Germany’s capital of Bonn. While the US speaks the language of the international world, Germany hushes and grunts in Deutsch.

This essay contains perceptions and opinion of the author, and is not based on rigorous research.


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