“Since 2013, the NF-POGO Centre of Excellence (CofE) has been hosted by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany’s foremost polar and marine research institution. The AWI conducts three different types of training on behalf of POGO. One is the NF-POGO CofE where ten scholars stay for ten months on Helgoland and Sylt in Germany to receive training in oceanography, emphasising core skills (e.g. writing, scientific presentations, statistics and experimental design) and specialised scientific topics such as modelling, remote sensing or ocean-atmosphere interactions. Another is organising and conducting regular Regional Training Programmes of 2-4 week in other countries focusing on specific local and regional issues and questions. The third one is a big shipboard training on board the RV Polarstern on an Atlantic Transect. I am involved in all three of them.
“When I first encountered the name of the capacity development programme the “Nippon Foundation-POGO – Centre of Excellence”, I had no idea what an integral part of my life this programme would become. As the scientific coordinator, each beginning of the new teaching year and the end of the previous year are both a consistent aspect and an exciting challenge: friends to say good-bye to, new people to meet.
“Being part of the “Pogonian – family” means this does not stop at five o’clock in the evening, on weekends or when the scholars leave after the 10 months on the island (Helgoland). This is the best thing about this programme. Looking back at the last five years, I am still in contact with most of the scholars – discussing career plans and whereabouts, helping with projects or ideas; I see their careers evolving, their kids being born and growing up. I have learned so much about more than 30 countries or regions. I tasted homemade Sushi for the first time, I learned about parents and siblings, that coastal issues are quite similar no matter if you are living at a German coast or a west African coastline, that music is very connecting and how important a safe place for creative science can be.
“Having three kids myself, my family was adopted as well: Selma learned how to use a smart phone with Shahin from India, Erika is now nearly perfect in preparing Kenyan Chapatis “a la Akoko”, Emma tries to improve her French in conversation with Charaf from Tunisia or Manfred from Cameroon and a lot of philosophical question were discussed at the dinner tables. Knowing the scholars, my family understands quite well, why it is important that I spend one month or more away from them on ships to train these bright talented likeable people.
“I should warn you, if you consider joining such activities, the Centre of Excellence will change your life whether you are a scholar or part of the faculty, if you participate in the Centre of Excellence on Helgoland or in a shipboard training on board the RV Polarstern. Once you see young people from all over the world dancing in the moonlight, or expecting a deep cast at sea on station in a magical night, pulling themselves together because there is so much to do and so little time left, living, working and celebrating together you will realize: this is their ocean and they are the only key to the ocean we want and a peaceful world.”