Nicholas Mahr 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 Nicholas Mahr, currently studying social sciences at the University of Marburg and at the time I had to look for a mandatory internship as part of my program. I had a keen interest in the work of international organizations and especially in the Middle-Eastern region, so, luckily, I found the FNF office in Beirut through some research on the Internet. At first I didn‘t know much about the work of the FNF in Lebanon and Syria, but as the application process went along, so did my picture of experiencing the promotion and understanding of liberal values in an unbeknownst-to-me environment.
What were the two most important/exciting/interesting things you worked on while being with FNF Beirut?
What comes to mind first, is my involvement in the Humans of Freedom Campaign we hosted – at times – in cooperation with different offices around the world, particularly offices in South East Asia and Africa. For this campaign, we interviewed one liberal person each week, took professional pictures and made a short story out of it – similar to the well-known Humans of New York. I had the pleasure of interviewing people I respected, which continued to grow the longer I interviewed them. Not only was it a great experience to meet and interview great personalities that I otherwise wouldn't have met, but I also learned a lot about the country I lived in and heard different perspectives that I may not have discovered on my own, otherwise. While there would most certainly be other projects (like the project we organized with Mishwar) worth a mention here, I would rather point out the excitement and joy I experienced while working in the office on a daily basis. I felt like a part of the team and like my work had an impact on a daily basis, which was honestly more important than the occasional outstanding project I was lucky enought to be part of.
What was different in Lebanon and Beirut and the office from what you expected before you came?
I find it very hard to point out specifics about Lebanon or Beirut, as both were vastly different than what I was expecting them to be. Not in a negative way though, quite the opposite. Beirut surprised me with its atmosphere and people, Lebanon with its beauty and diversity. Hitchhikes through the mountains, chilly sunsets after a way too humid day, national-parks amidst the most beautiful scenery one could imagine; there is a lot to be told, but so much more to be experienced.
The office, on the other hand, surprised me with its welcoming and relaxing atmosphere at arrival. Later on, it surprised me with what can be learned in a professional work environment.
Would you do this internship again? If so, what would you do different?
In retrospect, I would surely do it again. It helped me to grow as a person and gave me new perspectives on life, and life in different circumstances. If I were to do it again though, I would try to come in more prepared. I would learn more about the Levant beforehand and try to be more familiar with the local (political) scene, perhaps maybe come to Beirut at a different time of the year. This, however would only give my own perspective and experience a shift, but I would not change the decision to do the internship at the FNF office in Beirut.
What could my future career look like?
Hard to tell at this point. There are different paths I have in mind, that I could or would like to follow. For now I am focusing on finishing my bachelors degree and will then see where things will lead. I may look into a career at an international organization at some point, but I may as well drift into a new direction, yet to be discovered.
Freedom means for me…
… to be able to live the life, one chooses to live. To live in a world that acts on the presupposition of equality, where one is not confronted with the resistances and social order most people in todays world have to face and live according to on a daily basis. To scratch the word „privilege“ from the dictionaries of the world and let freedom and equality take it‘s place; a freedom that is more than a privilege a selected few are allowed to experience, but a global realization for each and every being on the planet.