Leopold Riffeser Experience at FNF Beirut
Who are you? (Where do you come from and why did you look for an internship with FNF Beirut?)
My name is Leo Riffeser. I’m originally from Munich and completed my Bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Passau just before starting the internship at FNF. The decision to apply for an internship at a political foundation was rather spontaneous, as I had seen the job opening on Facebook. So I decided to apply right away without doing much research on the region or the foundation’s work in Lebanon in advance. Therefore one could say that I came to Lebanon by coincidence.
Nevertheless after having spent three months in Lebanon, I can whole-heartedly recommend an internship at FNF Beirut for anyone who’s interested in an extraordinary experience in an amazing country with lovely people!
What were the two most important/exciting/interesting things you worked on while being with FNF Beirut?
My working day continuously changed during my time at FNF Beirut. While being in Beirut it could feel like I was doing something new every day. Consequently it is very difficult to pick just two of the many things I worked on. However there are two things that are really stuck in my mind.
The first is the Syrian Academy, a program designed for young Syrian activists, who will hopefully rebuild their country after the horrors of the war. The foundation invited a group of young activists to a hostel in the Lebanese mountains and provided them with training in transparency and accountability in NGOs. Staying in the hostel over the course of one week, I especially remember the bonfire discussions I had with some of the applicants, where we discovered how different from each other we were, while still sharing my similarities.
The second thing I’ll never forget is the 60thAnniversary of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (aka “Three 60 Day”). FNF turned sixty years old and we decided to go big. With little time to prepare two discussions and a huge party on a single day, our working days were never boring. Often we felt that time was running out and nothing seemed ready yet. Nonetheless, in the end, everything worked out in an amazing way and we succeeded in celebrating 60 years of fighting for freedom!
What was different in Lebanon and Beirut and the office from what you expected before you came?
Before coming to Beirut I really didn’t know much more about Lebanon than what one will be able to find on Wikipedia. I believe that experiencing the country and the people foryourself, is the only way to get a glimpse of the often complicated relationship that Lebanese have with their county. Everyone should come to Beirut and see the struggles that Lebanon is going through, as most people are simultaneously always happy going about their lives and ready to smoke a shisha and have a party.
The FNF office in Beirut is just like the people of Lebanon. It’s always a little bit chaotic, it approaches things differently and in the end it finds a way to manage even the most complicated tasks. Don’t expect anyone to be reserved! From day one, every intern will be a valued team member working on exciting tasks.
Would you do this internship again? If so, what would you do different?
I would definitely do the internship again! I guess wouldn’t do much different than learning a little Arabic upfront. However even without speaking the basics, it’s easy to communicate as a vast majority of Lebanese speak English fluently.
What could my future career look like?
Currently I’m on a Gap Year to figure out how my future career could look like. I have already gained some experience in different sectors and enjoyed different things in all of my previous jobs. At the moment I still need some more time to figure out how my future will look like. However there is one thing I know. Politics will continue to be an important part of my life.
Freedom means for me…
To me, Freedom is to be entitled to do even the most stupid things, as long nobody else is negatively affected by these actions.