Meet 2015 Bundestag Scholar Austin Eighan
Enlarge image Austin Eighan, 2015 Bundestag scholar (© Germany.info) Minnesota native Austin Eighan studied German and Political Science at The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University before applying for the 2015 International Parliamentary Scholarship of the German Bundestag. He heard about the IPS program through both Facebook and a good friend. “My interest was first triggered after seeing a few pictures from the previous year’s American IPS group, and I had noticed one of them was also from Minnesota. I figured if someone else from Minnesota could do it, so could I!”.
What expectations did you have about IPS?
When I first started IPS at the beginning of March, I expected three things: to be intellectually challenged, to expand my understanding of German and global politics, and to make real connections with fellow IPS recipients from all around the world. I can easily say that those expectations have been surpassed. From not only pushing my critical thinking, debating, and German language skills to playing soccer with new friends from all around the world on the weekends, I’m continuing to grow in more ways than I could have ever imagined.
What has surprised you most so far?
One of the most surprising aspects of my IPS experience thus far has been the atmosphere within my office. Working for Herr Zech alone has been a fascinating and lesson-filled experience, but working together with my co-workers and getting to know them personally has been absolutely wonderful. The relationships I’ve been able to build in my office have made me excited to go to work every day and also really enjoy learning from such talented, professional individuals.
Have you come to see Germany, Europe, or international politics in a new light?
I have most certainly come to see all three branches of politics in a new light. From hearing Chancellor Angela Merkel in a private committee meeting and seeing how calm, strong, and intelligent she is behind closed committee doors to speaking with my Representative, Herr Zech, about the latest events being discussed in the Council of Europe, I’ve begun to learn more about the role of interpersonal politics and how important it is to truly listen to every side of a story before making decisions that will affect so many people’s lives. I’ve greatly appreciated seeing German politics from the inside out and also coming to the understanding that these major politicians that I’ve only seen on TV or in the internet thus far in my life are really people who wait in line at the cafeteria like everyone else, too.
Favorite moment so far?
One of my favorite moments so far has been going on my trip to visit my constituency, or my Wahlkreisreise, to Oberbayern and going go-karting with my office! It was a blast to do something for which none of us were particularly gifted and laugh with/at each other. In any office setting it’s very easy to only see a particular work-oriented side of a person, but being able to see the more relaxed and funny sides of my coworkers was a blast!
Do you have plans for after the program? Long-term aspirations?
I’m very interested in international trade. Luckily, my representative is a member of the Committee of Labor and Social Affairs as well as the Committee of Economic Cooperation and Development. Both of these committees not only fit my personal interests greatly, but have forced me to broaden my spectrum of topics with which I am comfortable. I’ve now become the office “expert” for TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and have begun to dive in even deeper into Germany’s international trade policies. I hope to one day make a career out of easing trade relations internationally and aiding firms of all sorts bring the goods to customers around the world.