Meet Anne-Marie Kortas, 2016 Alumni Achievement Award recipient

Helping refugees find their feet in Germany.

"Just politics would have been too theoretical", says Anne-Marie Kortas about her decision to study at the Hertie School. So after having studied politics, administration and Spanish, she continued with a Master of Public Policy: "This is where I have learned how to address concrete problems we are dealing with in our society."

Anne-Marie recently quit her full-time job as a research assistant at the Berlin Social Science Center, WZB, to join Angehört – an initiative she founded, which is a first point of contact for asylum seekers in Germany. She travels weekly to Frankfurt/O. or Eisenhüttenstadt. Both towns in Brandenburg have centres to help refugees to prepare for their interview with the authorities and to connect them with lawyers. The 40-hour week at WZB now seems like it was a breeze: "there is no fixed time when I am dealing with these topics and when I am not," she says of her work at Angehört, be it evening or weekends.

"Working times are somehow irrelevant" says Anne-Marie, "the focus is on what we achieve, our energy is overwhelming." Her recipe for speeding up time: found an NGO and work for a cause you believe in. We have evidence that she does manage to trick time – she joined the fellows & friends team for a historical tour of Beelitz; joined the Women's Leadership Initiative in Berlin and participated in its Network Meeting; and gave a talk at the Bridging Gaps Conference on migration and integration in November.

Anne-Marie is in the phase of transforming the refugee initiative into an association and she works around the clock "like someone who is on their way to becoming a freelancer": reading, doing conceptual work and fieldwork. At the end of the day, she says, "it is important to put something concrete on paper." She finds structure in keeping a telegraphic work diary and in her weekly rugby training and tournaments: "We came third at the national finals of the German rugby league."

And her ambition on the field is as great as in her work. "I realise what we have done so far is not enough," she says about her endless motivation. Anne-Marie has gone out into the world and crossed continents for internships and fieldwork. And when the world comes to Berlin – she welcomes it.

Text by Natalia Irina Roman for fellows & friends. Photo: Lion Hirth