My work at the Landscape Institute of University of Freiburg was mainly doing research in relation to Germany and the UK’s renewable energy projects at the community level. My obligation was to contribute my research on renewable energy communities to the research team, and was I expected to turn in a paper that relates to my research topic. To figure out my research proposal was such a difficult process. In the beginning I was just thinking naively about what I was interested in instead of what the Institute I wished to apply for would actually need. After consulting with our professors and some researcher friends, I changed my research focus from coastal management to renewable energy awareness to renewable energy communities. It was a time-consuming process that I would have started earlier if I had recognized this in time.
After I got in the internship and start to work, I realized that most of the senior researchers in the Institute were pursuing their own research topics and applying for funding to pay their salaries and research spending. Hence, my work did not really relate to most of them. I just had to focus on literature reviews of my topic first and on communicating with my instructors constantly to make sure I was on the right track. I didn’t have much pressure to communicate or work with other German-speaking colleagues, which was a relief for me. But I did have opportunities to talk to other researchers during lunchtime.
In my team, students conduct their research in relation to renewable energy in different countries. One of my colleagues was working on issues in Greece, one was working on field study of collective actions in Freiburg communities, and another person focused on renewable energy policy comparison of Germany and Taiwan. The Greek student practically live in Greece and conduct his research there, the Taiwanese student needed to make phone interviews with Taiwan’s officials. I think it is interesting that the program provide such freedom for students to complete their research in different settings. It was unlike what I have seen in Taiwan nor in the US master’s program.
One of the impressive works conducted by a senior researcher was the continuous observation of polar animals. He raises research funding through the donation of stamps by people around the world. He collects these people’s mail and mails it out once a year for them from Polar region, so these people’s family and friends would receive the mail as if those who donated money actually sent it from Greenland. This researcher has been doing this for years by himself because there are fewer and fewer people who would like to work consistently on the topic and stay in the freezing fields for months. I felt discouraged when hearing this sad information, it was away from my imagination. I used to think there are a lot of people wish to work on the topic.
In general, everything was so new to me in the first month of the internship. The academic structure is totally different from either Taiwan or the States. How the researchers figured out how to continue their research was fascinating to me. Although I did not have chances to talk to each of them to know how it feels when they are working for themselves, I do wish I could become one of them one day. I am also glad that I got intensive training at Bard that prepared me for literature reviews on different topics and paper-reading techniques. Though I didn’t have chance to learn everything about renewable energy, I opened a road for myself.