Here you can read personal accounts from DAAD South Africa partners, DAAD alumni members, DAAD scholarship holders and friends of the DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg. If you have an experience with or story about the DAAD, Germany and your time abroad, we would be happy to post it! Please send an email to email@example.com.
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With the experience I have gained, I would like to further develop my skills as a development consultant with a focus on youth development, as this is where my interests and expertise are greatest and through the fellowship opportunity granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung I look forward to making my contribution differently to the youth sector.
Dambisa Dube, AvH German Chancellor Fellowship
DAAD article: ‘Dambisa continues to put going people at the forefront of her work’
Dambisa Dube, German Chancellor Fellow 2022 -2023
I am a 30 year old mother of one and a isiXhosa lady from Mount Fletcher, a modest town in the Eastern Cape, South Africa who has always been intrigued by the influences of civil society, specifically young people and this motivation has been the common thread throughout my studies and my professional experience thus far and my political science and communication bachelor and honours degree really gave me the necessary foundation and skills to start to actively ‘do the work’.
I have often observed with fascination the diversity of the different dimensions and processes that a civil society carries with it and shapes. Often it is young people and youth who can change and steer development policy processes – provided they have a platform to do so. I want to continue to advocate for young people and encourage them to find their place in politics. With the experience I have gained, I would like to further develop my skills as a development consultant with a focus on youth development, as this is where my interests and expertise are greatest and through the fellowship opportunity granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung I look forward to making my contribution differently to the youth sector.
This opportunity came to my attention in such a coincidental way – I had been selected as one of 5 individuals from Southern Africa who participated in the International Parliamentary Scholarship (IPS) awarded and facilitated by the Bundestag (German Parliament) and through this opportunity was also elected to lead our alumni work post the scholarship. Colleagues from the German Embassy shared this fellowship opportunity with me shortly after I had completed the IPS programme and the opportunity resonated with me greatly. Not only because of the obvious advantages on a personal level but also because it presented an opportunity to contribute differently to the sector – a change I had been itching to have for years.
There’s something incredibly important about timing and recognising when you’re called to do work elsewhere and differently and aligning our work with what we’re called to do will always result in impactful work. It seemed like hard work, resilience and divine timing had all culminated into this one opportunity and I just had to take a chance and was luckily selected. Similarly to the IPS opportunity the application process was very thorough (with reason) and needed the right amount of intention, support/recommendations from colleagues and peers and a clear plan.
This project will aim to explore whether the political climate is accommodating of younger voices by placing young people at the centre of the discussion. Additionally, this project will explore the role that digitalisation plays in disseminating political information against the backdrop of two democratic countries as well gain a deepened understanding of the circumstances in which young people participate digitally.
A strong focus will also be placed on exploring the placement of youth organisations/parties online, presence of political matters and the way in which parties/organisations present themselves online in order to appeal to younger people. It is envisioned that the outcomes of this project influence policy and find solutions to identified gaps. It is also envisioned that the comparative analysis can be used as a basis of how organisations and institutions that prioritize German-Africa relations engage meaningfully with young people on political topics.
Furthermore, such findings can be useful for structures and organisations such as the African Union Youth Division, BMZ Jugendbeirat, Deutscher Bundestag, Youth Ministries, Youth institutions etc. This can in the long term ensure that the recommendations are translated into policy and relevant participatory processes.
I look forward to embarking on this journey whilst leaning on the expertise and support of the Deutsche Afrika Stiftung as my hosts. I also look forward to being challenged, LEARNING and stretched further and differently through this opportunity.
This three-month research stays, during which I am conducting a study of academic conceptions of teaching economics in Germany, was made possible by the DAAD experience described previously. For me, the experience has been incredible.
Dr Emmanuel Ojo, Research Stay, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen
A Research Stay of Three Months at a German University: My DAAD Experience
Universities are critical players in the global knowledge economy. As a result, academics must continue to expand knowledge by asking transformative research questions, cooperating across national boundaries to share knowledge, and seeking out new partnerships. The possibility for scholars from the global north and south to engage, share knowledge, and collaborate is at the heart of this. This is what the DAAD: German Academic Exchange Service has been doing by providing various funding options for African researchers to do research through research mobility prospects, which I am currently taking advantage of.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused a harsh lockdown in South Africa and other countries around the world in March 2020, I was convinced that the world would never be the same again. Over the last 31 months, the world has witnessed accelerating technological transformation as it impacts education, work, and the global economy. I was fortunate to connect with an incredible colleague, Professor Taiga Brahm, through the initial opportunity in November 2021 at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany. Professor Taiga Brahm is the University of Tübingen’s Chair for Economic Education. This opportunity was made possible by the DAAD through the Lecturer Exchange of the Global Awareness for Future Teachers Programme at the Tübingen School of Education. Prof. Dr. Thorsten Bohl, Director of the Tübingen School of Education (TüSE), and his team, notably Ms. Deborah Diekmann and Ms. Elisabeth Hofmann, have made significant contributions.
This three-month research stays, during which I am conducting a study of academic conceptions of teaching economics in Germany, was made possible by the DAAD experience described previously. For me, the experience has been incredible. Professor Taiga Brahm’s Research Lab, where I work, has excellent researchers. They have been supportive of my research efforts here. Settling in was super easy for me, thanks in large part to the generosity of my host. Each of the various divisions I’ve interacted with have been wonderful, including the Rectorate of the University of Tübingen through the Vice Rector for International Affairs and Diversity, Prof. Dr. Monique Scheer, and the Vice Rector for Students, Studies, and Teaching, Prof. Dr. Karen Amos. Prof. Dr. Russell West-Pavlov, Chair of Anglophone Literatures, and Dr Christian Möllmann, CIVIS Coordinator, African & Mediterranean Partnerships, have been extremely helpful and supportive throughout my stay.
The DAAD has enabled me to write this piece, openly sharing my lived experience of this research stay. Thank you to the DAAD Information Centre Southern Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand, particularly to Dr. Anja Hallacker and her team.
Above all, I learned a number of things in digitalization that will help a lot in my studies and also in my business. I had networked with fellow students and with professors that has already started benefiting me.
Grace Ngulube, DAAD Scholarship Holders Conference, Port Elizabeth
My career started with diploma in nursing and midwifery in 2011, I then upgraded to BSc in Public Health in 2015. Currently I am doing MSc in Environmental Health at MUBAS under DAAD In-Country/In-Region scholarship. I am in my second year.
Being the first time to board a plane and to be in a foreign country, it was a great honor for me to be among the few selected individuals to attend the DAAD scholarship holder’s conference meeting in South Africa. The meeting was held in Port Elizabeth at the most beautiful beach at Garden Court Hotel. I really had great fun and experienced what is like to be among internationals. I had a chance to learn from field trip on how communities can be developed. I enjoyed the performance done by kids there. I was inspired by their skills and artwork (drawing, painting and production from locally available materials). I promised to copy that to my community here in Malawi. Above all, I learned a number of things in digitalization that will help a lot in my studies and also in my business. I had networked with fellow students and with professors that has already started benefiting me.
My journey has not been easy. I had gone through ups and downs. I thank the almighty that he sustained me through them all and brought me this far. I had gone through rejection and lack. I am glad that now I can pursue my studies without any obstacle as the DAAD is supplying with all that is required for my studies. I gladly recommend my fellow Africans who are set to pursue their carrier to apply for DAAD.
I am set to contribute positively to poverty reduction in my country and Africa as a whole through entrepreneurship. I also would like to contribute positively to the wellbeing of the people and their communities through research and epidemiology
It is my desire to go for PHD studies after completing my masters.
There is no doubt that the wide range of personal and professional benefits warrants consideration of an application for any of the opportunities offered by the DAAD. I encourage early career scholars and researchers to undertake research visits under a supportive German professor using cutting-edge facilities to gain global platforms and networking opportunities.
Orevaoghene Eterigho-Ikelegbe, Short-Term Research Grant, Technische Universität Darmstadt (TUD)
I am Orevaoghene Eterigho-Ikelegbe, a final year Ph.D. chemical engineering student under the DSI/NRF SARChI Chair in clean coal technology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. I discovered the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Short-Term Research Grants through a former DAAD recipient and colleague in the person of Oluwaseun Ajayi (now Dr and Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom). After a series of engagements and interactions with him, I decided to put in my application. A few months after my application, I was informed that my application was being accepted for a short-term research grant at the Technische Universität Darmstadt (TUD), Lichtwiese campus. I received the notification of my successful application during the COVID period, and after interactions with the DAAD official responsible for my file and the German Embassy in Pretoria, I was scheduled to travel to Darmstadt, a city in the state of Hesse in April 2022. My stay in Germany spanned six (6) months. I selected Darmstadt as my preferred destination of study because the city is home to many prestigious research institutions which extols the values of research and innovation. My host supervisor (Professor Ralf Riedel) at TUD is an established and globally reputed professor in the field of polymer-derived ceramics. Thankfully, despite his busy schedule, I had the opportunity of pitching my short-term research stay goals and the importance of the research work to the South African coal industry. Indeed, my stay at TUD helped me to understand the unique role of preceramic polymers and their various application through the weekly presentations by the researchers in the Dispersive Solid Group, Department of Materials and Earth Sciences. At TUD, I had the opportunity to share parts of my doctoral research and to interact and learn from other Ph.D. students.
Apart from research exploits, a few friends I was introduced to helped me with the inner workings of the city during my entire stay. Thanks to their generous help in showing me around, I discovered beautiful parks, museums, architecture, and attractions in the Darmstadt and Frankfurt area. The city of Darmstadt is a reserved, yet vibrant and balanced city. In Germany, I had the memorable opportunity of watching the football match live between Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig played in Frankfurt’s stadium. Toward the end of my stay in Germany, I travelled to Vienna in Austria for a personal assignment. In Vienna, I visited the historic St. Stephen’s Cathedral at Stephansplatz and the Donauturm (the landmark tallest structure in Austria). My story in Germany would not be complete without acknowledging the pivotal role of my accommodation host – Elisabeth Gärtner. She truly embodies the spirit of internationalism. Staying in her home provided a platform to learn about the sociocultural dynamics of different nationals. At selected weekends, the diverse nationals residing at her apartment showcased their cultural meals and shared unique stories of their home country. These key highlights and moments enriched my personal experience and made me appreciate different cultures from across the world.
There is no doubt that the wide range of personal and professional benefits warrants consideration of an application for any of the opportunities offered by the DAAD. I encourage early career scholars and researchers to undertake research visits under a supportive German professor using cutting-edge facilities to gain global platforms and networking opportunities. The University of Witwatersrand has a variety of student exchange arrangements (incoming and outgoing) with Germany that students can explore. In addition, Germany has a number of funding opportunities that researchers can take advantage of. As I like to close, there is an advantage to diversity and never allow fear to impede your ability to seize global opportunities.
The future of Africa lies in young people, and as such they should strive to explore the world building their own personal careers but coming back to invest that intellectual exposure into practical solutions for development for their respective countries.
Jabulani Shaba, University Exchange, University of Kassel
My name is Jabulani Shaba, a 2nd year History PhD student at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. I was awarded an Erasmus Exchange Fellowship in collaboration with the University of Kassel in Germany. This was one of my highlights and milestone in my journey as a young scholar, the time I spent in Germany not only shaped my intellectual and work ethic but also provided a platform for exposure. This was an opportunity to understand the academic environment of the global North and appreciate the dynamic learning models of other countries. Before delving into the intricacies of my intellectual development while in Germany. I would like to start off with a short story of how I eventually got to the city of Kassel.
The journey started with a call for applications for an exchange programme sent via email by my supervisor Professor Sandra Swart. I saw the email, but I did not take interest at that moment because I was under the assumption it was going to be difficult to become an Erasmus Fellow as I have heard stories of how ‘the fellowship is extremely competitive’. After two weeks of pondering and reflecting about the email that could potentially change my academic trajectory, I finally applied for the fellowship. Several weeks later I received an email notification stating that I had been awarded the Erasmus+ exchange fellowship! I could not believe it; I was beside myself especially reflecting how this was going to be my first time to go to Europe. I started the visa application process with the German Consulate in Cape Town and in a few weeks the visa application was granted. Now I was Europe bound and reality struck, and I started doing some research about the German geopolitics, tourist destination and learning a few Germany words to get me by.
After an approximately 13-hour flight, I arrived at the Frankfurt International airport and enroute to the beautiful city of Kassel on the Fulda River in northern Hesse, central Germany. The city of Kassel has some of the aesthetic landscapes in Germany such as the Bergpark Wilhemshohe and the famous Documenta art exhibition which I was fortunate to experience. At the university of Kassel, I was hosted by Professor Mieka Roscher and Dr. Andre Krebber who made my stay a memorable experience not only through robust academic engagement but allowed me to experience the sociocultural dynamics of the City of Kassel. While in Kassel I engaged in several PhD colloquiums where I shared parts of my current doctoral research. I was also honored to participate in interdisciplinary conversations with the International Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD) sharing my work with intellectuals with political economy, law and economics backgrounds. This interdisciplinary exposure allowed me to have an appreciation of examining developmental discourses in Africa from different theoretical and empirical vantage points.
My stay in the city of Kassel also allowed me to experience other nearby cities such as Paderborn, Hamburg, Gottingen and other places such as Berlin where I had the opportunity to marvel and learn about the Berlin wall and the Jewish Memorial Museum. While in Germany I had the opportunity to apply for conferences and workshops in Europe and was fortunate to get separate funding. I was able to attend a conference organized by the Africa Studies Center at Leiden University in the Netherlands, Roma Tre University in Rome, Italy as well as in Paris, France. All these global opportunities materialized and eased mobility challenges because of my stay in Germany. I strongly encourage young academics to apply for such great opportunities that will expose them to global platforms and networking opportunities. Lastly, I urge young people to be daring, fierce in pursuing their dreams. The future of Africa lies in young people, and as such they should strive to explore the world building their own personal careers but coming back to invest that intellectual exposure into practical solutions for development for their respective countries.
While it is not my first experience in Africa and not even my first time in South Africa, I very much enjoy being a student in Stellenbosch and learning more in-depth about South African culture, history, and contemporary issues.
Erik Schulte, University of Goettingen - Stellenbosch University Exchange Semester
My name is Erik, and I am pursuing a master’s degree in International Economics at the University of Goettingen in central Germany. Currently, I am studying at Stellenbosch University as part of an exchange semester.
There is an established co-operation between the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences from Stellenbosch and its counterpart in Goettingen that ensures an overall sound organization of the exchange semester. It feels good that the professors virtually know that we are from Goettingen when we say that we are exchange students from Germany. This well-functioning co-operation between both universities, the academic excellence of Stellenbosch University and the dreamlike location of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape with its range of outdoor activities and vibrant Cape Town in proximity were among the main reasons for me to come to this exchange opportunity to South Africa.
While it is not my first experience in Africa and not even my first time in South Africa, I very much enjoy being a student in Stellenbosch and learning more in-depth about South African culture, history, and contemporary issues. In 2019, I spent seven months in Nairobi, Kenya for two internships during my undergraduate studies in International Economics and Development at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. For Christmas 2019, I travelled to South Africa for the first time and had an amazing week in Cape Town. Back then I would not have imagined coming back to South Africa as a student that quickly again. Especially not since the outbreak of COVID-19 a few weeks later and the Omicron variant arising in November 2021 shortly before the actual start of my exchange semester at Stellenbosch University in February 2022. I am even more glad to be here!
While the master’s in Economics at Stellenbosch University is quite time-consuming, I am also glad for the extracurricular activities that the university has to offer. Once a week I join the voluntary Community Engagement Program where mostly international students provide after-school assistance for homework and reading for high school children at Kayamandi Township in Stellenbosch. The educational program called “Songo” is also integrated with a bicycle cycling initiative to promote and teach the culture of cycling. I very much appreciate this for both sides enriching program as it helps to better understand South African contemporary issues and the engagement with population strata that international students would otherwise not be exposed to. The wide range of sports clubs and societies at Stellenbosch University is also fantastic. I very much enjoy attending events by UNASA Stellenbosch and surfing at Strand with Maties Surfing.
Throughout my exchange semester, I am a “correspondent” for DAAD’s campaign “studieren weltweit – ERLEBE ES” where I regularly provide updates and information (in German!) about my experiences in South Africa. The campaign aims to encourage more students at German universities to do an exchange semester abroad. The link to my blog: Erik Schulte ERLEBE ES
Hi, I’m Anna Pia, the new DAAD Language Assistant working for the German Department at the University of the Witwatersrand. I’m looking forward to meeting many new faces, new opportunities and of course to showing all my students all the funny and strange sides of the German language and culture.
Anna Pia Jordan-Bertinelli, DAAD German Language Assistant, University of the Witwatersrand
Hi, I’m Anna Pia, the new DAAD Language Assistant working for the German Department at the University of the Witwatersrand.
I grew up in Aachen, Germany’s westernmost city, and spent an exchange year in Norway when I was 17. I hold a bachelor’s degree in German and Scandinavian studies from the University of Tübingen. After spending a few months in Torino, Italy, as an intern at the local Goethe Institute, I went on to study German Language and Literature at the University of Cologne, where I graduated with an M.A. (with distinction) in 2019. Besides teaching German as a foreign and second language to adults and preschool children, I translate poetry and prose from Norwegian and English into German. I also curated different literary events in the Cologne area, like the European Literary Festival.
When I discovered the DAAD Language Assistant program, I instantly knew that this was something I wanted to apply for. I love exploring new countries through living and working there, rather than being ‘just’ a tourist. What brought me to South Africa was the desire to live in a country I’ve never been to before, as well as an interest in contemporary South(ern) African literature, cultures, and history, as well as the wish to explore a vibrant, many-faced city like Johannesburg – and, of course, the opportunity to teach German at a university as renowned as Wits. I’m looking forward to meeting many new faces, new opportunities and of course to showing all students all the funny and strange sides of the German language and culture.
Being in Germany was a great opportunity for me, from an academic perspective: when I got there, the first two weeks I attended German classes. That really added to my multilingualism (laughs), though I am not fluent in German, I know the basics of the language. I also got the opportunity to interact with other PhD students and I got an opportunity to present my PhD proposal in different PhD colloquiums.
Karabo Mohapanele, University Exchange, Justus Liebig University Giessen
My name is Karabo Mohapanele, I am doing my final year PhD in Sociology. I have experience working as a lecturer in different institutions of higher learning: colleges and universities such as North-West University, Boston City Campus, Vuselela TVET College and Taletso (TVET) College. I currently work as a PhD research trainee at Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).
In 2018 I was recruited by my department to apply for the Erasmus plus scholarship to fund me and be part of the exchange programme in JLU Giessen. I did not hesitate to accept the offer, I then I applied for the scholarship. The application process to be a PhD exchange student in Germany and for the scholarship was a smooth one. Credit is given to NWU sociology department and JLU staff for great support and assistance throughout the whole application processes. When I found out that I was accepted in the scholarship and to be part of an exchange programme. I was so delighted, it felt like a dream.
I then went to apply for VISA which didn’t take long and it was approved after few days. Everything was sorted, including flight itinerary and accommodation. When I got to Germany I also had a medical insurance and a monthly stipend allowance.
Being in Germany was a great opportunity for me, from an academic perspective: when I got there, the first two weeks I attended German classes. That really added to my multilingualism (laughs), though I am not fluent in German, I know the basics of the language. I also got the opportunity to interact with other PhD students and I got an opportunity to present my PhD proposal in different PhD colloquiums. Presenting my work in such colloquiums really contributed to strengthening my PhD from its early stages. Attending such colloquiums also contributed to how my thesis has developed what is has evolved into where it is now, with constructive criticisms from my supervisor in Germany and my fellow PhD students in such colloquiums. Such presentations not only contributed positively to my thesis but presenting and attending such colloquiums also contributed to my presentation skills and instilled confidence in me talking about my PhD topic and sharing my research ideas without being afraid of criticisms from other academics. Not forgetting to mention Prof. Jörn Ahrens (who was my supervisor when I was there) for his valuable inputs to my PhD. Prof.Jörn Ahrens decided to continue supervising me even after I left Germany as a co-supervisor, due to his interest to my study. Initially I was supposed to be part of the cotutelle programme for a dual degree so that my PhD could be a joint degree between NWU and JLU. However, due to different policies/rules and cultures of the two universities, it was impossible to continue with the cotutelle agreement. Despite that, Prof. Jörn Ahrens remained my second advisor to this day, due to his affiliation as an extraordinary professor at NWU.
Furthermore, being in Germany was a life time experience, from a social perspective too: It was my first time being out of Africa and going overseas visiting Europe. The first few days upon arrival we went on tour, we went to German museum and explored other cities of Germany such as Frankfurt and Bonn and different castles such as Marburg castle. I was able to make friends in different spaces. I enjoyed doing shopping a lot and eating in different restaurants exploring the food. What I enjoyed more is when me and my friends took a trip to France in Paris, we did different activities and took lots of pictures such as taking pictures at the Eiffel tower. It was the best experience of my life.
It is through this In-Region DAAD Scholarship that I am also able to appreciate the capacity and opportunities within Africa. I look forward to contributing not only to the realisation of the 2030 SDGs but also the Agenda 2063 objectives of the African Union within my area of expertise.
Mukundi Mukundamago,DAAD In-Region Scholarship, Summer School
I hail from South Africa, Limpopo Province, currently Kenya has been home far away from home for the past 3 years. I am an African Regional Postgraduate Program in Insect Science (ARPPIS) – German exchange services (DAAD) Scholarship holder hosted by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Kenya. I got the opportunity to participate in a Summer School in Germany, this involved both fun and learning, as we were taught but also got to explore parts of Germany as much as we could. From lessons in lecture rooms of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main Geospatial technologies, teaching didactics and pedagogies, to appreciating the artistic and historic sides of Germany in Frankfurt am Main.
Modules covered had both theory and practical’s
- Academic communication – academic writing; academic vocabulary; self-editing strategies; structuring academic texts; referencing and quoting; publishing and copyright issues.
- Support and Guidance – peer-teaching, tutoring, mentoring, and supervising in higher education; conversation techniques; communication rules; structuring guidance discussions; feedback culture.
- Higher Education Didactics – Action- oriented teaching; course planning; activating forms of learning in large-group and small group events; service learning and citizen science in higher education.
- Development of a course concept for higher education on the topic of “Geospatial Technologies” in the context of case-based project work performed in small groups.
The modules offered in the summer school in 2019 helped to catapult my PhD, because I acquired novel skills in R studio for land cover/ land use classification, story maps and teaching didactics. With this I am guaranteed preparedness for my next career steps in research and academia. A lot of skills gained in communication, networking, organisational and leadership to mention but a few will come a long way.
We had a visit to the World of Biodiversity – Visit of the Senckenberg Naturmuseum Frankfurt, it was such a delight to be out of the lecture halls. It was even better to even see one of the rarest sights, such as that of the real-life sized models of the rarest and some extinct species of vertebrates and invertebrates. My highlight for the museum visit was the diversity of bee collection from all over the world, I took much interest on them as this is my area of study.
A get-together FB Geographie, Ochsenbraterei, „Deutschhaus “- Philipps-Universität Marburg: University of Marburg was a most welcome trip far way from forever busy Frankfurt. In the western side of Frankfurt is Marburg village which is a small serene historic area. Unlike the busy, noisy, and vibrant Frankfurt, Marburg is serene and low key during the night. Along the highway heading to Marburg, we passed several towns, then transitioned to green agricultural lands, pine plantations with some fragments of natural vegetations until we arrived Marburg. Upon arrival we were in awe of the beauty, though most buildings there are very old. We visited the old town and the castle on the highest level of the city. The red roof tiles on the top of its houses make it a real piece of beauty.
It would not have been a “Geospatial Training” had we not visited the Coordination Centre of the Geospatial Data Infrastructure Project Germany at the Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy in Frankfurt. The visit had me thinking to myself – “why has Africa reached this level of organisation in terms of our geospatial technologies and products that even a layman can easily interact with daily?” This is because everywhere we went, you are not able to get lost easily for there are information plaques with relevant maps for easy navigation.
We also had an excursion to explore the Rhine valley via boat, then Aerial tramway (cable car) to the top of the mountain with a great view from above. At the top we had lunch, then later continued with the tour around the mountaintop where there is much of the historic sites worth appreciating. The only thing that stood out for me was the Niederwalddenkmal monument located in the Niederwald, near Rüdesheim am Rhein in Hesse, Germany with a rich history in form of sculptures with historical information plaques containing details of the commemoration of the unification of Germany. It is worth noting that the monument is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.
As we continued with lecturers in the following week, we also paid a visit to the DAAD Headquarter Bonn, it was such a delight to finally meet the people behind the strategic and organised scholarships. We got to ask pressing questions that we’ve always had as students and got to meet and greet the DAAD representatives for different regions.
Overall, my impression about the summer school in Germany is that it was well organised and balanced, allowing both learning and exploring the city. I loved the practicality of the didactics that can be applied not only in higher education but across the board. About the country – the infrastructure development has allowed for effective and efficient transport systems, although there would still be traffic in some parts of the city in Frankfurt. The less carbon footprint transportation within the city such as bicycles and kick scooters available for a coin was an innovative move for me towards accomplishing climate change objectives. Germany is a country that embraces art and history -I say this looking at how they were able to preserve historic buildings with a touch of art in everything and space.
I Wish to acknowledge summer school: GeoTraining Environmental and Remote Sensing Data Analysis via Geospatial Technologies in Research and Teaching – Frankfurt organisers, for a well laid out program. The German Academic Exchange Services for the generous funding that afforded me not only the opportunity to participate in this summer school but also for funding my PhD studies. It is through this In-Region DAAD Scholarship that I am also able to appreciate the capacity and opportunities within Africa. I look forward to contributing not only to the realisation of the 2030 SDGs but also the Agenda 2063 objectives of the African Union within my area of expertise.
The funding from the DAAD has contributed immensely to my personal and professional growth, and helped shaping my scientific career. The self-confidence and scientific experience acquired from a long-term international exposure and conducting research under a supportive German professor using the cutting-edge technology has prepared me for the next phase of my career.
Baxolele Mhlekude, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Doctoral Research Grant
I was born and bred in a small rural town called Centane, which is located on the outskirts of the Eastern Cape province in South Africa. I did my undergraduate degree (BSc) in Medical Biochemistry at Walter Sisulu University (NMD campus) between 2009 and 2011, after which I joined the graduate school of the University of Cape Town, where I did BSc (Med) Honours, MSc (Med) and PhD.
The funding from the DAAD has contributed immensely to my personal and professional growth, and helped shaping my scientific career. The self-confidence and scientific experience acquired from a long-term international exposure and conducting research under a supportive German professor using the cutting-edge technology has prepared me for the next phase of my career. Being the largest economy in Europe, Germany has many funding opportunities that keep attracting several international researchers from across the globe, thereby enriching and diversifying its scientific community and population at large. The exposure to this diverse community makes one to appreciate different cultures from across the world and enrich one’s personal experiences.
I first came to Germany in late 2014, as a second year Masters student from the University of Cape Town, through DAAD’s Short-Term Research Grant under the DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship. During this visit, I was hosted by the TWINCORE, which is a joint venture between the Hannover Medical School and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research located in Hannover, Germany.
This three-month (01.12 2014-28.02.2015) research stay helped me to complete the data collection for my Masters degree in Medical Biochemistry. Upon my return to the University of Cape Town in March 2015, the faculty committee approved the upgrade of my Masters degree to PhD, after which I directly joined the PhD program while still funded by the DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship.
As a PhD student in 2017, I was awarded a more competitive “DAAD: Research Grants for Doctoral Candidates and Young Academics and Scientists (more than 6 months), 2017/18”, where I was one of the 42 selected awardees out of 311 applicants. This funding afforded me the opportunity to complete my PhD, after spending 10 months (01.10.2017-31.07.2018) in the above-mentioned German institution under supervision of the same professor.
In August 2018, I went back to the University of Cape Town to write-up my PhD thesis, which I submitted for examinations in November 2018. The PhD degree was officially awarded on the 14th of April 2019 during the autumn graduation ceremony.
In 2019, my German professor took up an associate professorship position in the institute of virology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and moved her laboratory from Hannover to the German capital, Berlin. After getting my PhD from the University of Cape Town, she recruited me to work as a postdoctoral research fellow in her laboratory, in which I have been working since April 2019.
Therefore, the DAAD has funded the establishment of a fruitful scientific relationship between me and my German professor, which remained unshaken even after the end of the DAAD’s funding period. My long-term research stay in Germany has advanced my scientific career and brought me valuable collaborations, which I plan to take along with me to the next phase of my academic career. I will always be grateful to the DAAD for this life changing opportunity.
After months of evaluating and discarding many scholarship programmes around the world that weren’t the right fit for various reasons, I finally discovered the German government’s DAAD scholarships. The DAAD’s course catalogue offered exactly the multidisciplinary sustainability degree I was looking for.
Fadzai Munyaradzi, Development-Related Postgraduate Courses (EPOS)
Reflections on my time in Germany as a DAAD scholarship holder
Sowing the seeds for the future
Growing up in Zimbabwe, I attended a high school where it was mandatory to learn at least two foreign languages. In addition to French, I had a choice between German and Latin. I chose German, believing with the arrogance of youth that a modern language that was still ‘alive’ would be more relevant and relatable. Studying the German language and culture for three years piqued my interest about the country and its people, and I entertained the idea of one day visiting and possibly living there.
Applying for the DAAD scholarship
Fast forward to 2011: I had graduated from Rhodes University in 2004 with a Bachelor of Business Science degree, and then lived and worked in Cape Town, before moving to Johannesburg. In 2011, I decided to pursue a full-time master’s degree abroad. I saw it as an opportunity to take a productive sabbatical while having fun and immersing myself in a foreign culture. I wasn’t in the financial position to fund a two-year degree out of my own pocket, especially taking foreign exchange rates into account. I therefore took it upon myself to research various scholarship options and continued to work while fleshing out the study abroad plan.
After months of evaluating and discarding many scholarship programmes around the world that weren’t the right fit for various reasons, I finally discovered the German government’s DAAD scholarships. The DAAD’s course catalogue offered exactly the multidisciplinary sustainability degree I was looking for. The scholarship was generous, and best of all, I would get to live in Germany! I dedicated considerable time and effort to preparing my DAAD scholarship application. When I heard the life-changing news that I’d been selected to attend the University of Freiburg, my excitement knew no bounds. In August 2012, I arrived in Freiburg, Germany and attended two months of German language classes before starting the official school semester in October.
Living and studying in Germany
Those first two months were a shock to the system as I made the mental shift from tourist to resident. The early days involved administrative processes like opening a bank account and registering with the municipality; looking for long-term accommodation and involuntarily participating in the notorious wohngemeinschaft (flatshare) interviews; and figuring out where to go for what in Freiburg. Fortunately, I formed friendships with fellow DAAD scholarship holders and together we navigated life in Germany. Having that support network was an invaluable source of practical information, and more than that, experiencing the same things at the same time as others helped me feel less lonely and validated my perceptions and occasional struggles.
Meeting the rest of my non-DAAD classmates and starting the first semester kicked off a two-year whirlwind of lectures, exams, assignments, class trips/excursions and non-academic social activities. I was in the 8th cohort of the MSc Environmental Governance programme, referred to as MEG8. I appreciated and enjoyed the diversity of MEG8 in terms of nationalities, ages and professional and academic backgrounds. It was humbling for me to accept that we were all equal in the eyes of the academic system, and in what student life looked like in everyday life as well.
I found that going back to school as an older student with real-world savvy was different compared to transitioning straight from high school to undergraduate studies. This time around, I was more conscious of what a precious gift the opportunity was, and that the clock was ticking for me to achieve my personal and professional goals. I was also more cognisant of the importance of intentionality. For example, I chose electives I was genuinely interested in, stretched my horizons by completing two internships in fields/sectors I would not ordinarily have considered, and I undertook personal travel inside and outside Germany to satisfy my wander lust.
Highlights and lowlights of my time in Germany
I have some fond memories of my time in Germany. Like when I resorted to incorporating ski pants into my daily wardrobe in order to survive my first winter in Germany! My classmates poked fun at me because of the noise the ski pants made as I walked around the faculty – I was too cold to care about being fashionable😊. Countless times, I chased after buses, trains and trams as my flexible African interpretation of time clashed with rigid German scheduling. I went from being puzzled by the German obsession with bicycles (even by high status people) to conceding it was a quick and handy way of getting around. I never did get into beer though, and the Oktoberfest was never on my to-do list.
In the spirit of keeping it 100, a notable and unexpected downside was my encounter with racism and xenophobia in Germany. Microaggressions included being ignored in stores (even when trying to buy or ask questions), and being the only visible minority on a tram and then being the only person on the whole tram whose ticket is inspected. More seriously, on two separate occasions I was shouted and sworn at in public spaces by people who also exhibited physically intimidating behaviour. No country or society is perfect, and these kinds of situations can and do happen the world over. That being said, I had the impression that racism and xenophobia are issues the people of Germany are reluctant to acknowledge and tackle.
The adventure continues
Looking back, on balance, I’m glad I followed my heart to Germany. There’s something edifying and empowering about following through on pledges you’ve made to yourself. I did not remain in Germany after my DAAD scholarship ended, choosing instead to continue my adventures elsewhere. I have no regrets: I attended a world-class educational institution, completed my degree successfully, and lived the highs and the lows that characterise the journey of being human. I now reside in the Netherlands. My master’s degree positioned me to pivot from being a consultant (my occupation in South Africa), to leading corporate social responsibility strategy and implementation in the corporate space (my occupation now).
I would encourage anyone considering further education to apply for a DAAD scholarship. In my experience, the scholarships are well-funded, address all key aspects of student life, and payments are disbursed reliably and timeously. The rest is up to you – bet on yourself and see what happens.
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In June 2021, I was awarded the DAAD Prize for best international student with outstanding academic achievements and social/intercultural commitment.
Mpho Letsoalo, Masters in Germany
Where do I even begin to speak about such a unique and interesting journey in Germany over the past two years. My interest in studying in Germany developed when I was at the German International School in Johannesburg, where I was infused in the German culture, language, education, and ways of doing things. I came across fictional and non-fictional stories about what it is like to live in Germany and have always wanted to taste a Bretzel from an authentic German café and of course experience the real Oktoberfest with classic and traditional German cuisine and beer. Fast-forward, my first opportunity in studying in Germany came through a DAAD scholarship offer in 2016, however, at this time, I started my journey as a Unilever management trainee. While at Unilever, I developed my interest to still pursue my Master’s degree in Germany and therefore left for the city of Münster in Nordrhein Westfalia in March 2018. I was so fortunate to have been supported by the Phambile Trust.
I still remember my first train ride, I went inside and greeted the person next to me, only to find that they kept quiet and looked away. But I continued to greet and smile, but quickly learnt about the German culture and ways of living. In the Summer of 2018, I was starting the Master Programme majoring in International Marketing and Sales at the FH Münster, Münster School of Business (MSB), in the Faculty of Economics. Being as talkative as I am, I quickly made friends who showed me around and taught me a few things which were essential for getting adjusted to the environment and school facilities. I mean, starting from understanding the transport system, how fast you need to pack your groceries at the teller at the store, to how to address different members of society and what is considered appropriate and inappropriate, was all I learnt in the first couple of months.
With the intention of making extra income, I worked as a Research Associate at the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre and there I worked on STEM projects funded by the EU, did research for a PhD candidate on Innovation Districts, I worked on various workshops and conducted various trips around Germany and Portugal, as a speaker for digital innovation and as a guest project participant building the city of Porto’s social ecosystem. And in the summer, I attended the Summer School based on ‘Digital Innovation’. I also travelled to the Netherlands, Portugal and different parts of Germany with friends to experience Europe and the Summer festivities! In Autumn, I then went on a sailing trip in the Netherlands with friends and colleagues, it was such a unique and amazing experience, with the seasickness and all. Yes, seasickness is real!
The following Winter semester was full of course and this is the time I also used to develop a Summer School for South African high school pupils at Olivienhoutbosch, Gauteng. I was inspired to do something that would impact my home country, using what I had learnt in Germany. I therefore worked with German academics at the Münster School of Business to have pupils deliver business projects on the subject of Social Entrepreneurship and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The project outcome and impact were published as an inspirational story and can be of the project can be read on the FH Münster website and on the Forum Nachhaltig Wirtschaften. In the Summer Semester 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I completed a 6 months internship with Google, and I was simultaneously working on a 6 months business report for the MSB for academic requirements. I worked on key projects, products, and campaigns across Sub-Saharan Africa during my time there. And in the Winter Semester 2020/21, I was at the final stage of my Master’s Programme. I wrote my Master’s thesis on the topic ‘The role of trust amongst Uber drivers in South Africa within the context of economic xenophobia’. This was finalised by May 2021, and I was awarded full marks for this paper. I am thus working on publishing it in a Journal with my supervisor.
In June 2021, I was awarded the DAAD Prize for best international student with outstanding academic achievements and social/intercultural commitment. This was presented by the President of the FH Münster, and has been published on page 58 of the Yearbook 2020, on LinkedIn and the FH Münster website. This was such an honour and a privilege, and I am inspired to do more projects and continue to advance my academic career! I couldn’t have accomplished this without such immense support from the staff at the MSB and the Science-to-Business Research Centre. I am also happy to announce that I was invited to write a book chapter the subject of the Sharing Economy & Disruptive Innovation, alongside colleagues at the Science-to-Business Research Centre. This is scheduled to be published in Springer later this year, alongside the journal article mentioned earlier. I am very proud of this achievement; I have always dreamed of being a book author.
Lastly, for anyone looking to study and live in Germany, I would strongly encourage it as it can only enrich your cultural perspective, enhance your education prospects and really open your mind to different ways of seeing the world and doing things. I am back in South Africa now, and am pursuing my career in Sales & Marketing. I am so grateful for the time I have had in Germany and do intend to go again in the future. I hope my journey inspires yours, as I wouldn’t change mine for anything. All the best!
Crucially, the experience expanded my personal and professional connections, which continues to make the world feel a little smaller and a little warmer.
Christopher Currin, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Short-Term Research Visit
Being able to do research with top academics in Berlin, Germany elevated my PhD with new avenues and deeper insights. Crucially, the experience expanded my personal and professional connections, which continues to make the world feel a little smaller and a little warmer.
I frequently and fondly recall my time in Germany, centred in a city that has gone through so much in the past, yet provides tremendous promise for the future. Berlin has so much neuroscience research going on, I felt spoilt for choice, a bit overwhelmed, but ultimately grateful that I could maximise my brief time there.
Now, having the wisdom of time, it is clear that the opportunity has moulded my current environment: I am now in Vienna, Austria as a postdoctoral researcher with an incredible NOMIS Fellowship thanks, in part, to my time with Prof Henning Sprekeler in Berlin.
Visiting Aachen, Germany was an experience I won’t forget!
Aaron Luke Folkard, Scientific Conference in Germany
Visiting Aachen, Germany was an experience I won’t forget! In 2019, Aachen hosted the 14th European Congress on Catalysis (EuropaCat) and I was fortunate to present my MSc work as a short lecture. During my week-long stay, I got to experience the unique culture of this town as well as its rich and diverse history.
The University of the Western Cape, where I currently serve as a DVC: Student Development and Support, has a number of partnerships with Germany that are supported by the DAAD, and my relationship with Germany continues to grow and has even afforded some exchange opportunities to students and staff in my area of focus.
Professor Pamela Dube, Master and PhD at the University of Siegen
My studies in Germany through the DAAD support afforded me valuable international study experience. Being the largest economy in the heart of Europe, Germany provides a rich holistic international study experience. I benefitted immensely from the broad scope of intellectual and cultural activities Germany always has on offer as well as from the intercultural and academic networks within the country and beyond as I made utmost use of the opportunities to travel to other European cities. In addition, my acquired proficiency in the German language has not only enriched my academic network base, or my access to the wealth of German language heritage as expressed in the cultural, social and economic ethos of the country, but has also won me valuable everlasting friendships.
The value of the international education exposure and experience I have had is reflected in the kind of the responsibilities and positions I have held in my career which all have aspects of advancement through international collaborations. I have been instrumental across all my roles in government, research councils and higher education institutions in fostering and promoting international cooperation and partnerships in research, capacity building and exchange of shared expertise. My Alma Mater, the University of Siegen has also become an important part of the university partnerships I have facilitated throughout the years and has played a major role in enriching the continued contact and support I have with the DAAD. The University of the Western Cape, where I currently serve as DVC: Student Development and Support, has a number of partnerships with Germany that are supported by the DAAD, and my relationship with Germany continues to grow and has even afforded some exchange opportunities to students and staff in my area of focus.
My main highlight is the humility of my host supervisor, Prof Edzard. He was absolutely the best, I received great mentorship from him that I did not receive here in South Africa. To this day, we are still maintaining a strong relationship and looking forward to working together again on a postdoc project.
Cleo Mokhaneli, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Short-Term Research Visit to Germany
After I received the DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship for my PhD, I applied for a short-term research visit to Germany (Hamburg) to visit, receive training, and obtain assistance with the analysis. This was to be done with Prof Edzard Schwedelhm at the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, University Medical Centre.
When I arrived in Hamburg, I lived in a very beautiful suburb called Niendorf, which is about 5km from the university where I did my research. I was fascinated by the transport and how easy and quick it was to get to the university, and town. I was overwhelmed by the big university, many research centers and facilities that one institution can offer. Most of all I was fascinated by the collaboration between different departments, to make their research a great success.
This experience changed my life and how I perceived research, especially my project. It broadened my understanding of my project and made me realize the great impact that my research has; and how implementing this in our country may help mitigate the burden of cardiovascular diseases. It was at this very moment when my passion for research greatly increased.
Apart from research, I learned a lot about the German culture and lifestyle. I had an opportunity to visit many sites and make friends. On weekends I enjoyed spending time at the harbor, beach and at church. I enjoyed food and the summer sunset at around 11pm. This gave me time to visit Sternschanze where most students hung around in the evenings to watch soccer and have dinner. Being in Hamburg gave me an opportunity to grow as an individual and as a researcher. Spending time alone abroad for the first time made me strong, built my character and helped boost my self-esteem and self-confidence. It gave me hope that doing research is not a dead end and that there is more groundbreaking research that one can still do and develop.
My main highlight is the humility of my host supervisor, Prof Edzard. He was absolutely the best, I received great mentorship from him that I did not receive here in South Africa. To this day, we are still maintaining a strong relationship and looking forward to working together again on a postdoc project. I have published three articles with him as part of my PhD thesis. If you ask me, whether I will go back to Germany to do research, my answer is a resounding yes!
One highlight that stood out for me was the different ways in which the guest speakers/lecturers/professional practitioners presented their work. There was never a dull moment. Everyone that presented over the duration of the Summer School had a knack for engaging with us.
Madimabe Tebele, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Summer School
A little over a year ago, in the monthly newsletter distributed by the DAAD Information Centre in Johannesburg, I came across the call for the Summer School on ‘Contested Governance’ opportunity. Without a single doubt in my mind, I knew that this Summer School would be valuable for my personal and professional development. It proved to be that and more.
The Summer School on ‘Contested Governance’ was organised and hosted by the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute (ABI) in conjunction with the University of Freiburg in a city that has been dubbed Germany’s sunniest city. This city that I am referring to is known as Freiburg – which is famous for the Black Forest, its beautiful cobblestone streets and miniature streams, for being a ‘green’ city and having residents that pride themselves in living a ‘greener’ and healthier lifestyle. This can be witnessed in the amount of biking, used by the residents as their preferred mode of transport to get around.
The Summer School on ‘Contested Governance’ took place during the month of September 2019. It was rich in knowledge, ample opportunity and room for growth, among other highlights.
One such highlight that stood out for me was the different ways in which the guest speakers/lecturers/professional practitioners presented their work. There was never a dull moment. Everyone that presented over the duration of the Summer School had a knack for engaging with us – the participants.
My professional highlights included the opportunity to travel to Strasbourg, Frankfurt, and Berlin. We were exposed to how the structures, processes and people in the European Parliament, European Court of Human Rights, German Bundestag, and European Central Bank operate on a day to day basis. Our excursion to the European Parliament gave us the opportunity to watch the Members of Parliament in action. Here, we were very fortunate to be hosted by Hildegard Benetele, Member of European Parliament (MEP) for the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats, EPP). At the German Bundestag, we were also hosted by Dr Karamba Diaby, who has been a Member of the German Bundestag since 2013 for the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Further professional highlights included being invited to be a guest lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule fur Offentliche Verwaltung Kehl) in Kehl, as well as being invited to my friends’ School in Berlin. Both experiences were eye-opening, educational, affirming and fun.
My personal highlights include the people I met in Freiburg, the life-long friendships that started blossoming and are still going strong to this day. A historic moment was participating in the ‘Fridays for Future’ global climate strike movement. Some other special personal highlights included adventures such as exploring Germany, travelling to the neighbouring countries’ cities (Zurich and Colmar) and reconnecting with ‘old’ acquaintances that I met in 2018 during my short research stay.
Last but not least, thank you to the organisers of the Summer School on ‘Contested Governance’, Dr Martin Adelmann, Dr Jan Claudius Völkel, Tabea Heppner and David Weirauch for having organised and conducted the Summer School with such ease, finesse and professionalism.
I will forever be grateful for the experience that ABI, DAAD and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) offered me. I had the best time of my life and this experience has left a huge footprint in my life.
To future Alumni of the Summer School on ‘Contested Governance’: I hope you too have the time of your life and you also take away with you as many fruitful moments as humanly possible.
Not only did my time in Germany build my strength of character, it also boosted my CV and helped me land a job as an Economist in South Africa. Although returning home was always at the back of my mind, the experiences I had in Germany will stay with me forever.
Callee Anne Davis, Helmut Schmidt Programme (Master in Germany)
I spent just under three years in Germany over the 2016 to 2019 period on the Helmut-Schmidt scholarship programme. My journey started off in Berlin where I completed a six-month German language course. I was placed in the B1 class, as I had studied German in high school in South Africa. During the course I reached level C1 and I was able to pass ‘TestDaf’ – a requirement for my master’s programme. The language skills I obtained helped me on many different levels – administrative, social and academic.
When the six-months were up, I moved to a small and sleepy town to start my master’s studies. The name of the town is Lüneburg in Northern Germany. It was around this time that culture shock and the reality of the length of my stay in Germany really kicked in. Unlike in Berlin, English speakers were few and far between, and the locals in this town really did appreciate it if you made the effort to speak German. This did wonders for my language skills.
Over the next two years I completed a master’s degree in Political Science, Law and Public Economics at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg. The programme was wide-ranging and allowed for plenty of freedom in terms of specialisation – a point which I struggled with after coming from a somewhat rigid South African academic system. At first, I felt quite uncertain about what I would write my master’s thesis on. But this is where my decision to spend six-months gaining some practical work experience really did wonders.
I completed an internship at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (both based in Hamburg). Afterwards, I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda on the GLEN ASA-Programme where I spent three months living in a small village and working with self-help groups for women. It was around this time that I fine-tuned my thesis topic and ended up completing a case study analysis of ‘Self-Help Groups (SHGs) as Sites of Social Citizenship for Marginalised Women in Rural Uganda’. I was also able to collaborate with my thesis supervisor on a paper which ended up getting published in his book.
The list of opportunities which popped up during my studies goes on and on – from working as a translator at the university, to co-founding a student organisation for African students and travelling to Tanzania, my time in Germany was filled with experiences I never dreamed of.
Not only did my time in Germany build my strength of character, it also boosted my CV and helped me land a job as an Economist in South Africa. Although returning home was always at the back of my mind, the experiences I had in Germany will stay with me forever.
I can boldly say I am a better researcher and a better writer: since I have attended this summer school, my passion for research and my writing productivity have increased.
Tshegofatso Rampudu, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Summer School
My name is Tshegofatso Rampudu. I am currently studying at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University. I am a recipient of the 2019 DAAD-NRF Joint In-Country Doctoral Scholarship. In March 2019 I got accepted to attend a summer school at the Institute of Public Health at Heidelberg University, titled ‘Enhancing Academic Qualifications in Teaching and Research in Public Health’, which took place from 4 – 30 August 2019. This was a life changing experience and a highly educational trip for me since I have always wanted to be in the public health domain. I did not just experience the educational side of it, though, but got to experience the lifestyle and culture of Germany as well.
We had about five modules in this short course which included a field excursion. I never thought that intercultural training would be beneficial in preparing someone for a job interview, as it was for me. Upon my arrival back in South Africa, I got invited for a job interview and during this interview I displayed some of the skills I learned during intercultural training. With new skills and knowledge obtained during this summer school, I also managed to compile a detailed research guide tailored for the Honours students in Human Physiology at my university in South Africa using the educational material I received from the summer school.
One of the highlights of the summer school was the module on grant proposal writing. This was the most challenging, overwhelming training we received but definitely worth it. We were trained to write a winning proposal for an open call of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This was my first experience in grant proposal writing. In 2020, I managed to write three grant applications, one of which was successful. In addition, we also completed a research module which helped me to make amendments to my PhD research proposal. I can boldly say I am a better researcher and a better writer: since I have attended this summer school, my passion for research and my writing productivity have increased. I have learned to overcome procrastination when it comes to writing. Furthermore, my presentation skills have improved greatly. My network is broader and I have met potential people within my field of research and other disciplines with whom I can collaborate in future research. This is a network across Africa that I can now benefit from. The work ethic and importance of time management in Germany have left a great impression on me.
We also got to have a lot fun by traveling around Germany and learning more about its culture and student life. A highlight of my stay in Germany was attending a live opera concert at Heidelberg Castle. A full-day excursion to Strasbourg, France, which included a visit to the European Parliament, also stands out in my memory. We also paid a visit to Bonn, the former capital city of Germany, where we enjoyed supper with colleagues in the DAAD head office and discussed lessons learned during the summer school.
My wife and I were both scholarship holders of the DAAD and speak to one another in German, which is not our home language (Afrikaans is mine; Spanish is hers). All of this goes to show that it is possible to adapt, live and even love in your third language.
Kabelo Gildenhuys, Helmut Schmidt Programme (Master in Germany)
From 2016 – 2018 I was fortunate to be a DAAD Helmut Schmidt Programme Scholar. As part of the scholarship I first completed a 6-month intensive German language course in the beautiful and opulent Bavarian city of Munich. Munich is regarded as one of the top 3 cities to live in around the world. Apart from its vast array of specialised museums, it is also the ideal location for weekend mountain hikes. There I not only perfected my German, but also met the love of my life.
Directly following upon my time at the language institute I moved to the small city of Erfurt, tucked away in the forests in the heart of central Germany. It was there that I completed my master’s degree in public policy and conflict management at the Willy Brandt School at the University of Erfurt. As a quiet, yet industrial city in the state of Thüringen, Erfurt proved to be the ideal space to learn and focus on my studies with access to some of the best educators and libraries.
Not being a major metropole and neither known as a tourist destination, Erfurt proved to be much more affordable for me as a foreign student. One of the benefits of being based in Erfurt is the fact that it is extremely well connected with the Deutsch Bahn (DB), the German High-Speed Railway system. Essentially all the major hubs, such as Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, are more or less just two hours away. I was able to o