You studied in Germany – why did you choose the TU Darmstadt?
Alexandria Novokowsky: I studied at TU Darmstadt from September 2014 to July 2015, starting with a German class and followed by the first year of the two year Masters program „Mundus Urbano“. This program is an MSc in International Cooperation in Urban Development, which brings together architects, engineers, urban planners and development professionals from around the world to discuss urban development issues from a non-Euro centric perspective. This is an incredibly unique program and this, along with the multiculturally diverse studentship attracted me to study at TU Darmstadt.
Did you experience a good time at the TU? What was special to you?
The first year at TU Darmstadt was one of the best of my life. The line between fellow pupils and friends was blurred, making for an incredibly holistic academic and life experience. That year I got to know my peers through very difficult conversations about our beliefs, through late nights spent working on challenging projects, and through hard work. On top of this, as a group of primarily foreign students, we spent weekends exploring the best that Germany and Europe had to offer. My time at TU Darmstadt shaped my worldview and my heart forever.
How do you profit from your studies in Darmstadt?
Yes, as a result of my master’s I was able to obtain an internship with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Rome. After four months, I was offered a job there and spent the next three years working for their office of evaluation in Rome, the Innovation Accelerator in Munich, and for a smallholder farming project in three African countries: Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya.
Please tell us about the World Food Programme and your job there?
At TU Darmstadt my main area of interest and research was sustainable food systems, so it made sense to work with World Food Programme, since they work with food security issues in both emergency and development settings. They are an excellent organization and I learned so much working with them as a consultant. With the office of evaluation I was able to travel to Cambodia, Tanzania and the Central African Republic on missions to evaluate the country portfolios of these countries over the past five years. With the Innovation Accelerator, I was exposed to bold new ideas and cutting edge, newly tested projects to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. My favourite experience however, was the year I spent in Africa working directly with smallholder farmers and working with a team to assist them in fostering better connections with commercial markets.
What was the biggest challenge?
On a personal level, the biggest challange working with the United Nations was the need to move around so much. Within three years I moved to five different countries. That being said, it was also an incredible learning experience. Now, back in my home town of Ottawa, I hope to analyze all of these lessons through my PhD research over the next four years.
Are you still in contact with colleges from Darmstadt?
Yes, the friends that I made at TU Darmstadt hold a very special place in my heart, and even if they now live in different countries scattered around the globe, I am sure we will be friends for life.