Asankha Pallegedara comes from Sri Lanka. His host is Professor Michael Grimm (Chair of Development Economics). Mr Pallegedara earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in Japan. Supported by the Georg Forster Research Fellowship, he will be investigating his home country’s health policy and its problems during his two years at the University of Passau.
Why did you choose to work at the University of Passau?
My host, Professor Grimm, is a leading development economist in Germany. He already supported me during my application and registration process. That showed me that we can work together well and so I decided to come to Passau.
Which challenges have you faced so far?
In Sri Lanka, you don't often get in contact with Germans, and I was worried that communication might be a problem. But from my experience so far, many Germans, especially the younger generation, speak English really well. I am glad of this experience, which allowed me to see beyond the stereotypes. And even though Passau is a small town, there are African, Asian and Turkish grocery stores, which are a great help for me and my family.
Your fellowship bears the name of Alexander von Humboldt, a natural scientist, explorer, polymath, cosmopolitan, scholar and patron of the arts. Would you regard Humboldt as your role model?
Especially these days, it is crucial to think outside one’s own academic discipline. I graduated in engineering before entering the field of economics. This allows me to introduce interdisciplinary aspects into my current research. Humboldt did the same: he was an interdisciplinary researcher who travelled to many countries and published a vast amount of academic literature. So, to me he is a role model.
What does the Humboldt scholarship mean to you?
Networking is the most important aspect to me, too. I have already participated in several of the foundation’s events and met many people from the ‘Humboldt family’. And the scholarship is very flexible: it allows us to work on our projects without constraints. For researchers, it is very good to have this kind of freedom.
What are your plans for the future after the end of the fellowship?
I wish to return to Wayamba University in Sri Lanka to continue teaching there. I hope that the papers I will publish as part of this project will help me on my path to becoming a professor.
(Interview by: Susann Eberlein, Campus Magazin 01/2017; Translation: Andrew Rink)