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Maria Syed, Pakistan: Economic Policies for the Global Transition (EPOG+)

“Ich verstehe nicht, wer solchen Leuten erlaubt, in unser Land zu kommen”

Translation: I don't understand who would allow such people to enter our country.

The first bigoted remark made by an elderly lady pointing at me at Deutsche Post on the second day of my arrival in Berlin. It sucked me into a daze of ‘impostor syndrome’.

This was not my first ever international stay abroad and I had acquired the opportunity to attend various exchange programmes and summer schools in the past with my best friend. However, this time I was attending an Erasmus Mundus programme in the midst of a pandemic, testing uncharted waters on a solo sojourn.

I had envisioned the Erasmus Mundus scholarship and the EPOG+ program, as a golden ticket to making a sustainable impact as an economist by contributing to socioeconomic development from an interdisciplinary perspective. However, my ambition deepened as I immersed myself in the distinct thought processes of diverse people around me.

It is true when they mention Erasmus as a ‘life-style’ because it is more than experiential learning, and nurtures you to become the best of you.

Coming from a distinctly Pakistani culture, I have found common ground with people belonging to Latin American, American, and European cultures. I found people who equally respected and were intrigued by my cultural roots, religion, and ingrained challenges. They had given me a sense of belonging in a disparate country.

Under COVID-19 restrictions, we still managed to exchange our love and excitement for different cuisines be it Pakistani Biryani, El Salvadorian Pupusedas, Colombian Arepas, Argentinian Empanadas or the classic Moqueca from Brazil. Besides, the process of assimilation into the German culture has not been easy ranging from the German language to cultural differences. But their discipline, compliance, and enriched history is worth the effort.

The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the emergence of the ability to find positivity and be resilient. Despite being bashed with a discriminatory comment at the beginning of this journey, I had a network of people I could confide in. Six months down the line, I already have a collection of memories spent with compassionate, inclusive, and unprejudiced people. These are the people looking for sustainable solutions to uplift communities whether they are in the Global South or Global North. I look forward to making new memories, sharing cultures, learning languages, representing my country, and building long-lasting bonds.

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