Tuesday, August 23, 2016

From Austria to America

This blog post is an interview of Florian Huelbig given by Esther Moerdler, the Communications intern.

Every Austrian man, when he completes high school, must serve his nation either through military service or through volunteer work. Florian Huelbig, Flo, chose to spend his year volunteering abroad. He spent part of his time in the Vienna office of Austrian Service Abroad, an NGO that focuses on memorial and service opportunities abroad for these post-high school young men, 6 months in Barcelona and 6 months right here, at MJH.

Do they teach a lot about WWII and the Holocaust at your high school?
They taught a lot about the Second World War and about the humiliation of Jews and the concentration camps. They focused mostly on Jews, but we hardly learned about the genocide of the Roma. I really wanted to learn new things and be an advocate, and make the world better.

What made you choose coming here versus going to the army?
I wanted to do something sustainable after graduating high school. I was always interested in studying the Holocaust and Roma culture. So I went to Barcelona for the first half of the year, where I worked for a Roma organization and the second half is here, working with my second focus.

What have you gotten to do here so far?
My main duties are translating and summarizing audio testimonies for the Collections & Exhibitions department. I also do research and help with the database. I try to help where I can.

What is one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while being here at the museum?
Now I’ve been measuring artifacts. They’re so interesting and mostly in German, so I can read them easily. It’s interesting and sometimes it’s a little…I’ll hold a bullet and know that this bullet killed people. It’s a little uncomfortable. It’s interesting to see all the things that people have donated to the museum.

Did you come here with other people?
No. I came here with no one.

How has that been?
It’s been really exciting. I’ve enjoyed living alone for the first time and making new friends. It has been super awesome. I’m glad I came here alone. It’s just a proof that I can survive on my own.

How do you like NYC?
It’s great. I really like it so far. Sometimes it’s a little too big and stressed out. I’m more the type to chill a little bit, not the type to stress. It’s NYC; you can’t compare any other city to NYC.

What’s your favorite part of the city?
I think it’s the Meatpacking District because it’s so cool with its many restaurants. It’s not really hipster, it’s just modern and has a lot of young people there. I like the shopping there too. I like Williamsburg as well. It’s cool, you meet interesting people there.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you in the city?
So I visited a friend in Brooklyn and after my visit I went to a barber nearby on Bedford Street. It was at like 9 o’clock PM. The barber turned to me after and said, “Don’t cross the street, if you do you’ll get robbed.” I was like, “what?!” and she said, “Trust me trust me, don’t cross the street.” It was crazy. Every city is at some point dangerous, but it was just unexpected. I went to the barber and after I couldn’t cross the street. That had never happened to me before.  

What do you have planned after this?
I’m going after this to South America trip for a few weeks after this. I’m going to Mexico, Lima, Costa Rica, Cuba, and after that Buenos Aires. I have a friend who is doing the same program but in Costa Rica doing service there. This is my first time in South America and first time in America as well. It’s been a whole new experience. Next year I will go to university in Vienna, well in a suburb of Vienna. I’m going to study audio and film. I want to make documentary films. I like the idea of learning from the movie you’re seeing. I’m open for anything though. I’m just excited for the experience.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is coming to New York from, let’s say Austria, what would it be?
If it was someone coming from Austria, which is a pretty small country, they wouldn’t necessarily know about big cities like New York. I think they have to take their time and not be stressed out by the City, just enjoy it.

Any final thoughts?
I’ve really enjoyed my time abroad, especially at the museum. Everyone has been so kind to me. If I had the opportunity to come here again, I’d definitely do it.

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