“The Orient-Institute Beirut is like a big family” – an interview with Caroline Kinj
Since 2013, Caroline Kinj is part of the team for public relations and administration for the director’s office at the Orient-Institut Beirut. Before she worked as a Project Coordinator for the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation in Beirut and as a Community Development Coordinator for The Syria Trust for Development in Damascus, Syria. Additionally, Caroline is a freelance translator with a DUFTA 3 diploma (Diplôme Universitaire de Traduction Français-Arabe). She owns a BA in Journalism Studies from Damascus University.
How is it, to work at the Orient-Institute in Beirut, Lebanon?
There is no job in the whole world that does not have its own difficulties, stress and problems. But for me Orient-Institute Beirut is like a big family!
When I started to work with them, they gave me the chance to experience a new level in my career life, and to learn useful skills. They were by all means helpful and welcoming. And now, after almost 3 years of working with the Orient-Institute Beirut, this feeling did not change a bit!
Everyone is taking a part in all the details concerning the institute. And my favorite event is the daily lunch break where a certain group of researchers and colleagues from administration sit at a table, and we all have lunch together. We share our experiences, our funny and sad stories. That daily break is a window of communication for me. It gives us the chance to exchange with each other on all levels. So, it is not just my job after all, but a lot more!
While you were doing your language course in Bonn – what were your impressions of Germany?
First, I would like to state that it was not my first visit to Germany. But it was the first time I stayed so long, and I got the chance to interact with people.
It is a nice and organized but unfortunately slightly cold (weather wise) country. Even though I am learning German now, I find it not easy yet to express what I need in German to the person in front of me. But from what I have seen Germany is that – no matter whom I meet, whether they speak a foreign language or not, or whether I ask in an understandable German or no – they try to explain in their own way what I should do or try in order to get what I want.
In general, Germans are very nice and warm people if you take the chance to get to know them and understand their way of thinking and organizing their life.
What reputation does Germany have in the Middle East (research-wise, but also in general, e.g. the question of refugees)?
Research-wise, Germany has an outstanding reputation. It is the young people’s dream to study in Germany for its well known and excellent universities. Additionally, when they go back to their country of origin, a German certificate or degree would allow them to get very good job opportunities. Besides, German products are amongst the most desirable products in the Middle East because of their quality.
Regarding to the refugees issue, unfortunately, the countries’ reputation is less great. Common public opinion in Lebanon is that Germany is dealing with this matter in a very unorganized way.
While thousands of young people are waiting at the doors of German Embassies in order to apply for a student Visa or to join their families in Germany (legally) and their applications get refused for unknown reasons, millions of illegal refugees get a better chance to enter the country. That matter is quite frustrating on many levels.
But that does not make it less important that Germany is giving a chance to many of refugees fleeing from war and poverty which are devastating the Middle East.
You are half Syrian and half Lebanese, how do you stay in contact with your relatives in Syria?
I left Syria in 2012 and went to Lebanon with the rest of my family. As my mother is Lebanese I got the chance to get a residency in Lebanon, while thousands could not. All I have left in Syria is few friends and a deserted house. But on a daily basis I am still in contact with those who remained there, through phone calls or social media.
Though, most of them come to Lebanon from time to time to visit or just to experience a part of daily life that does not exist in Syria anymore because of the current situation. It sounds deperate, but after five years of war it feels like we have adapted to the situation, and that is the worst thing ever.