Niels Boehm and Oliver Loeffler traveled from Berlin, Germany to spend Fall quarter here at the Luskin School as part of a reciprocal international exchange program with the Hertie School of Governance. The Hertie School is a private governance and political science school in Berlin. Two Luskin students, Naoki Yamazaki and Hirofumi Kyunai, returned from Hertie in January.
Boehm’s focus is on climate change policy, including energy and transportation policies. Loeffler studies international labor governance, looking at how governments can induce transnational corporations to uphold human rights standards. Before the two students returned to Germany last quarter, we asked them to share their experiences and unique perspectives with us about living and studying at UCLA and the Department of Public Policy at the Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Luskin: Why did you choose to come to Los Angeles?
Loeffler: I thought living in a mega-city such as LA would be interesting from a policy perspective.
Luskin: Did you feel you could venture out into the city and get to learn about public policy that’s actually happening in LA?
Boehm: I had a great course about transportation policy planning. Urban Planning professor Brian Taylor was very engaged in giving us the opportunity to get to know what we were learning about in class in real life. So we did a one day field trip and visited the major transportation policy and planning institutions around the city. That was a good experience because it linked the theoretical class debates to the real world.
Loeffler: I think what’s good also about the Luskin school is that it offers programs which are directly related to the challenges here in LA and offers connections to other public policy courses.
Boehm: This is also a great opportunity for us because we can take courses from different departments. I think that was also one of my major motivations to come to UCLA, that you offered students the opportunity to pick courses out of this really impressive curriculum.
Loeffler: That’s a great point. My policy focus is on the frontier between the public and private sector. The exchange program offered me opportunity of studying at the management school (Anderson) which I would have never had studying in Berlin only. That’s a big asset of the exchange program — that you can pick courses you’re really interested in and help you advance your focus area.
What’s also great about my stay here is that my girlfriend was able to visit me for a month. The scheduling of the university was flexible which allowed us to travel a little bit. We got a tent from the outdoor recreation center here at UCLA, rented a car and drove up the PCH.
Boehm: Yeah I would also underline you have this great combination of studying and opportunities to do all kinds of things, whatever you want.
Luskin: Was there any cultural shocks or things you thought were strange or funny about studying in America?
Boehm: We’ve both traveled around the world to a lot of countries… but we got to see how things differ in terms of daily life. You have these dining halls here on campus, all this school pride for example. I mean we knew it existed, but to live it and to go to a college football game and tailgates was different. It was a cultural shock I would say, how huge the identification with the school is.
Loeffler: In Germany we would watch American TV shows…and are aware of what’s going on in politics and society in the US. But living here and experiencing some of the major political and social discussions was a great experience. I got a much better feel about the inner functioning of this country.
Luskin: Can you elaborate on the difference between studying in LA as opposed to Berlin?
Loeffler: The structures of the courses are sometimes a little different and also in terms of class discussions, there’s a different style to it. But it’s not a difference of quality, just maybe the difference between the European and the American system.
Luskin: Would you recommend your other classmates to come here in the future?
Both: Yes. Definitely.
Boehm: We had a presentation on the Hertie School because there’s discrepancy between the students who go to Berlin and the students who come to UCLA and want to come to UCLA. We have like 20 to 30 applicants for the few spaces here, but there are very few people who would come to Germany, so we try to promote it and engage people more
Luskin: So, can you give your pitch for why your German friends should come to UCLA and why your American friends should go to the Hertie School?
Loeffler: UCLA is the policy capital of the US and in the US there are a lot of policy challenges, especially topics related to urbanization and social inequality, which really crystalize here. We are in California, where a lot of innovative solutions are explored. UCLA offers a lot of resources to students and is a great campus and it’s a fun place to be. It’s California.
Boehm: I think for Germany, my pitch is if you want to get to know Europe, Berlin is the best place to do it. Berlin is currently the most exciting city in Germany. Politically, its the most relevant city for both German and European politics. Also, it would be a great opportunity because it’s an English-speaking environment and Berlin has an international character, so you wont have any issues to get along with your language skills which can be a major barrier for people.
If you are interested in learning more about the Hertie Exchange Program, there will be an information session on Thursday, March 12 from 12:30 – 1:00p.m. in room 4371. Naoki Yamazaki and Hirofumi Kyunai will discuss their experience at the Hertie School and answer any questions at the info session.
Although the Hertie School program is a Master of Public Policy, many of the elective courses are relevant to all three Luskin School Departments. Applications will be due on Monday, March 23.