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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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 obtain a good cultural education with various outings to the opera and symphonic performances. Germany is definitely the place to be if you are a fan of classical music. Moreover, it is rich in history and once you are able to connect with the locals, you’ll begin to appreciate the multifaceted story of a country that has contributed so much to innovation and technology that we all depend on on a daily basis.
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.
Most importantly Germany allowed me to expand my world in more ways than I could ever imagine. Thanks to this scholarship and my time in gerMANY, I have made MANY dear friends on literally all the continents of the world. To this day “Deutschland” and the German culture continues to serve as a link between my beloved home country, South Africa and my current home, Colombia.
I was able to form superb academic and research affiliations with eminent researchers and scholars in Germany and am glad to say that these international research collaborations are still going strong today.
Nneka Ozioma Umeorah, DAAD In-Country/In-Region Scholarship, Short-Term Research Visit
My experience can be summarised in three folds:
Academics/Research: As part of my PhD programme in Financial Mathematics in South Africa, I embarked on the short-term research visit to Wuppertal (Bergische Universität), a small city located in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany in 2018. Prior to, and upon my arrival in Wuppertal, my host supervisor ensured that I got the maximum assistance necessary for me to get acquainted with the German system, such as access to the university facilities, public transport, etc. Furthermore, I joined the internationally diverse research group AMNA (Applied Mathematics/Numerical Analysis), and I immensely benefited from the weekly round table seminars. The aim was for the postgraduates to share their up-to-date research progress and receive suggestions and recommendations from fellow students and professors in the research group. I made series of weekly presentations, answered certain questions posed by my research colleagues and thus, I was moulded by their significant inputs and criticism, which allowed me to find a headway for my research. As a result of this exposure, I was able to expand the horizon of my PhD proposal and drafted three manuscripts which formed three chapters of my PhD thesis (two published and the other under review in reputable scientific journals). Additionally, my South African supervisor was impressed with the level of scientific progress and thus liaised with my host for him to continue co-supervision my thesis.
Travel: A popular English proverb rings, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Taking my cue from this proverb, I never confined myself within the four walls of the university environment. As a travel adventurer, I had exciting travel experiences, utilising the Schengen privilege to travel and explore other neighbouring countries like Amsterdam, France and Belgium. This was made easy by some euro-travel organisations which frequently arrange student trips across Europe, mostly scheduled during weekends and holidays. I equally used the opportunity to visit some important landmarks in certain towns of Germany. In my host town, Wuppertal, I regularly rode the ‘Schwebebahn’ (or suspended train) to work, as well as visited the museum and the Botanischer Garten. Others include: Sparrenburg Castle and Stadttheater in Bielefeld; Deutsches Rontgen-Museum and Lennep of Remscheid; Cologne Cathedral and the old town of Cologne; Königsallee and the old town of Düsseldorf; Charlottetown Palace and Brandenburg Gate of Berlin; Würzburg residence in Würzburg. During this travel and exploration, I was completely fascinated by the consistency, as well as the structural and the neo-classical architectural designs of some of the buildings, which in turn, taught me a great deal about German history.
Culture: I had wonderful friends and colleagues in Germany who made it possible for me to quickly embrace the German culture, even though it was totally different from what I knew. Some of them assisted me with interpretations, explanations, tour guides etc., and they are always willing to open their doors during my next visit. In the company of my research colleagues, I went to the Brauhaus in Wuppertal to have my first taste of the German beer. I tried out certain dishes like Sauerbraten (roast beef stew), Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle), together with some varieties of brown bread and different potato cuisines. In less than a week, I started picking up German words, and by the end of my stay, I could communicate a little.
In summary, DAAD gave me the amazing opportunity to experience what life looks like in the Western world, especially in Germany. I was able to form superb academic and research affiliations with eminent researchers and scholars in Germany and am glad to say that these international research collaborations are still going strong today.
The South African study system contains more academic assignments and other tasks to complete in the programme compared to the German system. Due to Covid-19 the amount of assignments increased but also in our personal life we faced changes, restrictions and new challenges: on Tuesday, the 17th of March, the CUT administration decided to close the university because of the uncertain spreading of Covid-19.
Simón Juárez and Emil Schumacher, DAAD Exchange Students
We are Simón and Emil and we were exchange students at the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein and as many other students affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, we already left South Africa by mid April, even though we wanted to stay there until the end of June. In Germany Simón is studying at the University of Applied Sciences in Ulm in the programme of Energy Economics and Emil is studying Tourism Management at the Harz University of Applied Sciences in Wernigerode. We had similar reasons why we chose to study in Bloemfontein and South Africa: besides the fact that both of our universities have a partnership with the CUT, we also wanted to leave Europe to experience a new culture and explore a new country which is completely different to Germany. Furthermore, we wanted to improve our English so both of us thought that South Africa is the perfect choice for it.
At CUT we were both accommodated at Graduandi Student Residence on the campus where each of us had our own room. The kitchen, showers and bathrooms are shared facilities, so living there was very familiar. We were the only two exchange students from overseas, hence integration with other residence mates starting end of January was very easy. It’s a mixed and modern residence accommodating mostly postgrad students from all over the Republic of South Africa. Therefore, we had a cultural diverse stay with nice, friendly and open people. We made some good friendships!
The South African study system contains more academic assignments and other tasks to complete in the programme compared to the German system. Due to Covid-19 the amount of assignments increased but also in our personal life we faced changes, restrictions and new challenges: on Tuesday, the 17th of March, the CUT administration decided to close the university because of the uncertain spreading of Covid-19. During this time the situation didn’t seem so serious so we started our already planned holiday on Saturday, the 21st of March. However, we noticed some restrictions in our holiday schedule. For example, some places were already closed, like the Cape of the Good Hope, the cable-car of the Table Mountain or the bars in Cape Town.
On the 23rd the lockdown was announced. Nevertheless, we finished our trip and came back to Bloemfontein on Thursday afternoon. Like every South African citizen, we were also obliged to fulfill the lockdown at our residence, so we didn’t leave the campus until our flight back to Germany. Compared to other South Africans we were still allowed to move freely around CUT campus, because beside our residence no one else was living there. We spent our free time doing some sports, reading, preparing university stuff and deliberating about whether we should leave South Africa or not. With the help of our International Office we came into contact with the DAAD office in South Africa. They assisted us with our decision and helped us communicating with the German embassy. Without the DAAD it wouldn’t have been so easy to manage and plan our trip and flight back to Germany. It was a hard decision for us but nobody knows how the spread of the virus will develop therefore we think we made the right choice.
In my private moments especially during the peak of crisis and the uncertainty surrounding it in Germany, I have realized how much of life is a privilege rather than a right, how fragile things are and how much more vulnerable we are than we actually think. Common things like going to the store, meeting random people and so on begin to have a different meaning.
Moses Nyangu, DAAD In-Region Scholarship, Short-Term Research Visit
I am a PhD student from Kenya currently completing research in Development Finance at the Graduate School of Economics and Management at Stellenbosch University, South Africa with DAAD funding. With this full scholarship in South Africa, I also had the opportunity to apply for short-term research in Germany, which I took full advantage of. My short-term research stay experience in Germany has been exciting despite the Covid-19 pandemic which has brought public life into a standstill. The outbreak has completely disrupted traditional university experience and generally, all the daily normal activities. I believe the experience would have been much different without corona. However, it has also created an opportunity for a critical self and life re-evaluation that has led to learning new skills and strategies to deal with abnormal situations like the current one we are experiencing.
My main objective in visiting Germany is to take advantage of the specific research modules on Deterministic and Stochastic Approaches on Efficiency and Productivity Analysis offered jointly by a conglomerate of universities in Germany. I am being hosted by Professor Latacz-Lohmann Uwe (University of Kiel), who possesses extensive research experience on these models. Just before the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed everything, I was able to participate in one of the courses at University of Göttingen. With no doubt, the learning curve was steep but the training was invaluable. Unfortunately, all the other modules have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. However, human ingenuity has filled the gap created by corona to ensure my mission in Germany is achieved. Despite the new norm of social distancing which has affected the physical interaction, my host supervisor has been very supportive, and we constantly communicate per email and phone. I appreciate him very much for his help.
In my private moments especially during the peak of crisis and the uncertainty surrounding it in Germany, I have realized how much of life is a privilege rather than a right, how fragile things are and how much more vulnerable we are than we actually think. Common things like going to the store, meeting random people and so on begin to have a different meaning. It’s quite amazing how in a globalized interconnected world any small and insignificant incident in one corner of the world can actually bring the entire world to a standstill! That notwithstanding, I have expanded my network by making new friends and I have greatly enjoyed learning the unique cultural differences. Germany is gradually easing the lockdown and for my remaining period, I look forward to having more fun and specially to visit the most iconic places here in Kiel like U-Boot U 995 (German Submarine U-995) and Laboe Naval Memorial (Marine-Ehrenmal).
Lastly, I am grateful to DAAD for the PhD In-Region scholarship and for granting me the opportunity to visit Germany during my study period.
I have now formed academic and research alliances with top notch scholars in the field of real estate. I now have access to global databases for the purposes of research; additionally, I now have a global advantage as I have been receiving grants and other offers internationally.
Oluwaseun Damilola Ajayi, DAAD Short-Term Research Grant
Question: Tell us about yourself.
My name is AJAYI Oluwaseun Damilola. I was born in Ile-Ife, Nigeria; I am currently a doctoral researcher at the School of Construction Economics and Management, University of the Witwatersrand and I was awarded the prestigious DAAD Short-Term Research Doctoral Grant to the University of Regensburg, Germany in 2019/2020.
Q: Tell us about your moments that summarize your experience best.
The Christmas period was fantastic. Regensburg was beautiful with the warm reception of Germans and other nationals from all over the world: among the cohorts of DAAD scholars, there were American, British, Italian, French, Spanish researchers and many more. My Indian friends were the funniest! We always had Jungle Speed at our regular Stammtisch.
The best moment was when I organized a virtual real estate conference that had over 100 registrants from all over the world. It was an insightful one as the opportunity opened me up to other global opportunities.
Q: Are there any places that you cherish and that remind you of your stay?
I will forever cherish the Christmas markets moments; it was colorful and beautiful. The food at the market was the best kind of comfort grub, all consumed blissfully, regardless of their caloric destruction. The Glühwein (hot German wine) with a mix of cherry and raspberry flavours was super tasty when combined with a ridiculously delicious flammkuchen.
Another beautiful moment was in Cologne (Köln). I visited the beautiful Cologne Bridge and Cathedral; the ice breaking point was when I saw pictures of both monuments during the World War II vis-à-vis witnessing them physically. I also visited the Walhalla, a monument hall of fame that honours laudable and distinguished people in German history.
Q: In which ways did your stay abroad change you personally?
The DAAD scholarship exposed me to the values of Timeliness, Honesty, Hard Work and Possibilities.
Q: How has your career path developed since your stay abroad?
I have now formed academic and research alliances with top notch scholars in the field of real estate. I now have access to global databases for the purposes of research; additionally, I now have a global advantage as I have been receiving grants and other offers internationally.
Q: Any other words?
This unparalleled exposure makes me WONDER! If Cologne could be rebuilt from its brutal ruins into modern INFRASTRUCTURAL DUNES, then POSSIBILITIES are POSSIBLE!
Ich bin sehr froh das DAAD Stipendium bekommen zu haben. Danke vielmals.
You too can apply for a grant to conduct doctoral research in Germany! Application deadline 1 April / 31 October. More information here.
I met interesting people, future collaborators and made friends. Above all else, the course has prepared me for my academic journey and equipped me with skills that I need to possibly be one of the best in my field of research.
Mbuyiselwa Shadrack, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Summer School
It’s been a joyride!
DAAD Heidelberg Institute of Public Health Summer School 2019
The Heidelberg summer school is a training course that is focused on training young researchers from developing countries in areas related to public health. It brings together MSc and PhD students from different countries in Africa, Middle East, Latin America, South East Asia and South Asia who hold DAAD In-Country/In-Region Scholarships. The overall objective of this summer school is to improve the capacities of young academicians in teaching and research in health relevant fields: https://www.hiph-summerschool.net/
The 2019 summer school started on the 4th of August 2019. We arrived in Heidelberg from the Frankfurt airport and were warmly welcomed by the institute’s summer school team (Jennifer Jost, Noela and Anne-Kathrin Fabricius) at the Boardingstudio apartments and IWH respectively. All the participants were paired in rooms and I met my roommate later that day all the way from Harare, Zimbabwe. He had just completed his MSc Economics degree from the University of Zimbabwe. The official programme started the following day. I am mentioning this because this was the highlight of my stay in Heidelberg throughout the summer school.
The summer school was attended by the total of 24 participants from 13 countries in Africa and the Middle East. The facilitators of the workshops included Nina Frauenfeld (France, Intercultural workshop), Petra Eggensperger & Dr Rafael Klöber (Germany, Participatory teaching), Drs. Sylvia Sax & Pauline Grys (Canada & Germany, Grant proposal writing) and Varalakshmi Elango & Prof. Shafiu Mohammed (India & Nigeria, Ethics and Quality in Research). The official programme started with the introduction to the summer school and Heidelberg. Dr Pauline Grys, co-ordinator of the Heidelberg Summer School, led this process. We were introduced to what the Heidelberg Institute of Public Health does and the different programs and opportunities that exist for international students by Assoc. Prof. Olaf Horstik, Director of Teaching at the institute. This was followed by the presentation on Global Health for Graduate Teaching by Prof. Solimani from Chile. Although this was an official programme, it was more of the introduction of why global health is important and what Heidelberg University is doing, on a global scale, to help address the public health challenges in developing countries.
The training programme was divided into several workshops which were:
- The Intercultural workshop
- Participatory teaching techniques
- Grant proposal writing
- Research proposal writing (Ethics & Quality in Human Health Research)
Additional training was provided on Article Writing and Publishing (Problems with publishing) and Health Risks in Anthropocene by Emeritus Professor Andreas Ruppel.
At the end of the first three weeks we had a chance to take a trip to Bonn and visit the DAAD headquarters and interact with the DAAD representatives who are in charge of the DAAD In-country/In-region scholarships. This was a very fruitful visit because participants could get answers and understand how the DAAD scholarship works and most importantly, the opportunities that exist for scholarship holders and alumni.
Other social events included the concert at the castle, a visit to Strasbourg and the European parliament in France, city tours in Heidelberg and Bonn, a visit to Cologne city, dinners and a visit to the Deutche Welle.
My experience of the summer school cannot be explained fully in words. I have always thought that my research was too exclusive and my idea of doing applicable research that links aspects of the environment and health was unrealistic. However, this summer school has changed my opinion. Having met people who are doing exactly that and getting ideas on how to address some of the challenges was truly an overwhelming experience. I was allocated the most amazing roommate who taught me what hard work is and encouraged me to follow my dreams no matter what. I met interesting people, future collaborators and made friends. Above all else, the course has prepared me for my academic journey and equipped me with skills that I need to possibly be one of the best in my field of research. We completed a grant proposal from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in four days. That on its own was an eye-opener on how difficult it is in research yet not impossible to make it. I plan to use all the skills that I have gained from this training in my personal life and my professional career. More than anything, as learned at this training, I will definitely pass and transfer the knowledge to my colleagues in order to empower fellow young South African researchers in academia. I am grateful and indebted to the DAAD, Heidelberg Institute of Public Health, Dr Pauline Grys and her team for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The DAAD has not only provided me with an opportunity to experience the beauty of Germany, but has also given me an opportunity to connect and network with different researchers from all over the world. International and diverse are what best describes Cologne, Germany.
Boitumelo Lekgoathi, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Summer School
The DAAD has not only provided me with an opportunity to experience the beauty of Germany, but has also given me an opportunity to connect and network with different researchers from all over the world. International and diverse are what best describes Cologne, Germany. I was amazed to see all kinds of races and different people from different cultural backgrounds in this city.
Being on a plane for the first time in my life, brought up some mixed emotions. I went to Germany to attend a summer school at the TH Köln University of Applied Sciences in August and September 2019. The summer schools are open for In-country/In-Region DAAD Master and PhD scholarship holders in Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia. The summer school was on WEF (Water Energy and Food)-Nexus interconnections. As a student in Crop Science, the programme was significant for my Master project. I was able to acquire both theoretical and practical skills in WEF concepts, which enabled me to apply some of the skills in my Master project. The programme was not only theoretical, but also practical: I was exposed and taken to different places such as manufacturing companies and industries in Germany that deal with water management, energy renewables and food processing units.
As part of the programme we were also introduced to the cultural landmarks of the city and other neighbouring cities. This was done in a form of touring the cities with a tour guide. We were presented with the beauty of the famous Köln Cathedral, which is the highest cathedral built by the Romans in the past. We also visited the Rhine river that provides water to the city and neighbouring countries such as Luxemburg and others within the Schengen region. The river was not situated far from my hostel, so it was one of the places where I could simply chill.
Cultural shock did not have much impact on me, however the food was really shocking. But as days went by I was able to adopt to eating all sorts of different breads and potato fries. The transport systems are just great. Cars we consider private cars in South Africa are actually taxis in Germany. We have Uber, yes, but not Mercedes Benz taxis! The trains and buses are also cool, especially the trains because they get you to your desired destination on time, thereby avoiding traffic. What amazed me is that they told us to always carry our tickets in trains, however my tickets were never checked, either travelling long distances or short distances. This indicated to me just how trust has developed within the community and transport operations. I really enjoyed my stay, and given a chance to go back again, I’d go without a doubt!
As a scientist it is important to note that Germany is at the forefront of innovation and has spent approximately 2,9% of its GDP on research and development – this becomes relevant and allows you to become a transformational leader.
Sasha Boucher, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Short-Term Research Visit
I am currently on a short-term research stay at the European University Viadrina, in Frankfurt Oder (where the cost of living is quite cheap) which is in the Brandenburg region of Germany. Notably, the city is on the Oder River, and this means that it borders between Germany and Poland. So, I could be in two places and two different cultures with only a few steps. Also, Berlin is a one-hour train ride away if you want to be in a highly multicultural city – this helped when I wanted a break from study. As a student you pay for a once-off semester ticket and this allows you to travel easily in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.
There are no words to describe this experience, it is holistic, it grounds you and offers you a broadened perspective. You are exposed to a variety of cultures and perspectives. However, it is up to you to make it work – that is where the claimed entrepreneurial character sets in. There are so many opportunities: language centres, seminars and lectures which is inside and outside the scope of your study, travel – and honestly you must open yourself up to these experiences.
Here I have participated in dialogues surrounding the rate at which the world is moving and touched on topics like the fourth industrial revolution and green economy. I have learnt that it is our duty as scientists to recognise the impact of what is happening in the world. It is widely published that South Africa is facing the so-called brain drain and is losing critical skills. In that same vein, we need to be aware of our environmental footprint to induce sustainable development.
Equally, I attended a seminar and a German language course. Living in a small town, many of the locals did not speak English, so this geared me to really involve myself in the German language. Of course, you must understand the culture too – this takes time. The seminar I had attended offered me an opportunity to discuss subjects that are entrenched in my current study. This allowed me the opportunity to tap into the creative side of my brain. I became a member of a co-working space where I could work on my thesis. The co-working space has a strong intent on networking, and I have met many interesting people there.
Notably, the university has a robust internationalisation agenda, and thus you encounter a variety of scholars from all walks of life, with their unique stories. At the same time, I have been able to get a better idea of how politics and religion has affected many and this is just through dialogues with ordinary people whom I have had the pleasure to meet on this journey.
Indeed, my journey is not over – and I wish I could extend this experience. In September I will attend a Summer School at Leipzig University that is aligned with my present research study. And, as a scientist it is important to note that Germany is at the forefront of innovation and has spent approximately 2,9% of its GDP on research and development – this becomes relevant and allows you to become a transformational leader.
An amusing experience is the fact that to get a shopping trolley from where they are locked up a €1 needs to be inserted into the front of the trolley which is returned once the trolley is placed back. I have found that a R5 coin works just as well…
Alex Delport, DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, Short-Term Research Visit
As a PhD student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and funded by the DAAD-NRF In-Country Scholarship, I have recently had the opportunity to travel to Kaiserslautern, Germany and join the Technische Univerität Kaiserslautern (TUK) for a 3-month research internship. I am working with Prof Stefan Kins and his team to further understand the cause and progression of Alzheimer’s disease as an extension to our current work at UKZN (as part of Dr Raymond Hewer’s team). So far, I have enjoyed getting to know everyone here at TUK and they have all been very friendly and helpful in getting me settled in. I have found everything to be a new experience, from walking everywhere, to catching a bus every day to the university and back, and even grocery shopping. An amusing experience is the fact that to get a shopping trolley from where they are locked up a €1 needs to be inserted into the front of the trolley which is returned once the trolley is placed back. I have found that a R5 coin works just as well…
On the weekends, I have been exploring the town of Kaiserslautern while enjoying the last of the summer weather. I have visited a few parks, seen some interesting and beautiful buildings and have enjoyed the Japanese garden. I hope to in the coming weeks make progress with my research, learn novel methods that I can share with fellow colleagues back home and hopefully establish a continued collaboration between TUK and UKZN for future visits. I also hope to explore more of Germany by visiting other villages such as Heidelberg and Düsseldorf as well as visit other European countries such as France, Belgium and Switzerland, all of which are about 2-3 hours away by train. I would like to extend a special thanks to the DAAD program for funding the internship, Prof Kins for allowing me to join his lab for 3 months and the fellow lab students for all their help and guidance.
The moment we landed at Frankfurt, I felt welcomed and we had German donuts (pretzels) for breakfast at the airport. I was so excited and amazed with most of the things that I saw there on arrival, from infrastructure to the transport system. We even traveled by bus from Frankfurt to Kiel and we were so overwhelmed by the love the German people showed us in the bus, how they made our travel a memorable one.
Godfrey Moshe Mosotho, Workshop Kiel University
Travelling outside your home town always brings out curiosity because you don’t know what to expect out there. But for me travelling out of Africa to Germany was a great experience since it was my first time in Europe. The purpose of the trip to Germany was to visit the University of Kiel as part of a research collaboration between the Centre for Space Research (CSR) North-West University in South Africa and several German institutes. I was a participant (among the five North-West University invitees) in the SOHO/STEREO workshop that took place between 10 and 14 June 2019 at the University of Kiel. This time of the year in Germany is summer, while back home it is winter, and this got me excited as I thought I will be taking a break from winter. But little did I know that what they call summer there it’s what I would call “day-zero winter” back home as it was very cold compared to South Africa. Apart from the cultural differences between the two countries, adjusting to a different way of life in Germany was not a challenge (apart from the language) as I could get most of the things and food I get back home. The only thing I had to always do when I bought things there was to remind myself that the price was not in Rand but Euro, as I accidentally bought fruits at the fruit market thinking the price was in rands and I realised that when I got to the hotel it was not.
Coming from South Africa to Germany was not only a memorable experience, but also a lifetime opportunity. It started from Potchefstroom to O.R. Tambo international, and taking an 11 hours non-stop flight to Frankfurt. The moment we landed in Frankfurt, I felt welcomed and we had German donuts (pretzels) for breakfast at the airport. I was so excited and amazed with most of the things that I saw there on arrival, from infrastructure to the transport system. We even travelled by bus from Frankfurt to Kiel and we were so overwhelmed by the love the German people showed us in the bus. On arrival at Kiel, we all checked in at the Hotel Düvelsbek, we didn’t even rest from the travel and we decided to go out and explore the town.
I spent most of the time at the workshop and I really enjoyed the talks from the students and other world-renowned researchers. Among the researchers I’ve met there was Prof. Stephan I. Böttcher, a friendly and kind person and it was nice to finally connect his face to the picture I’ve always had in my mind. I really enjoyed the time I’ve spent there and I would do it again anytime. My experience in Kiel has taught me so much about cultural differences between the two countries and I cannot wait to explore and experience more German cities in future. I would like to say to the University of Kiel: Vielen Dank! for hosting us.
Living in South Africa and travelling almost 13 000 Km to get to Germany, I realised that I have been living in a bubble my whole life, and that the world is much bigger and more diverse than what I had anticipated.
Andrea Theron, ISAP University Exchange, Justus Liebig University Giessen
I was a participant in the Justus Liebig University’s Spring Course and Summer Semester in Giessen, Germany. Coming from North-West University in South Africa to Germany was by all accounts a once in a lifetime opportunity. Adjusting to the different way of life on the other side of the world was a bit of a challenge: their “spring,” I realised with a shock, was much like South Africa’s winter. But soon I settled in with the help of the amazing people and friendships that I have formed here.
Living in South Africa and travelling almost 13 000 Km to get here, I realised that I have been living in a bubble my whole life, and that the world is much bigger and more diverse than what I had anticipated. Coming here, I experienced a taste not just of Germany, but I met people from all corners of the globe such as Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Greece and more and got to experience their languages and culture and had the chance to show them mine. I formed not only close friendships with other international students, but with the South African girls that I came here with (we are in total six girls from the North-West University), and in this experience I did not only get to know other foreign cultures and languages, but even those from my home country such as Tswana and Zulu as we were such a diverse group.
My experience in Germany has definitely taught me so much about the world in general and about myself as a person, and I cannot wait to experience more of it in the future. I will, with no doubt, look back to this experience gratefully and with fondness, and I have the DAAD to thank for making this dream-like experience a reality. As you would say in German: Dankeschön! I know that when I leave at the end of my stay here, my heart will be full of mixed emotions as I will look forward to going home but at the same time I will grieve to leave this beautiful and diverse country.
My time in Germany was not what I had expected and yet it was everything I could have asked for. It was strange at first with limited language skills, but slowly the surroundings and the people along with my confidence in this environment was increased exponentially.
Pierré Müller, University Winter Course
I was a participant in the Aachen-Berlin programme for German language and culture in January/February of 2019. My time in Germany was not what I had expected and yet it was everything I could have asked for. It was strange at first with limited language skills, but slowly the surroundings and the people along with my confidence in this environment was increased exponentially. Having visited the east and west of Germany, it was amazing to be so consumed by the German Culture. To see iconic structures such as the Berliner Dom, Brandenburg Gate, Kölner Dom and the Berlin Television Tower was truly an experience. Visiting the smaller places such as Monschau, Kornelimümster, Dreilandereck and Potsdam was also a good experience. I also met so many new friends. Some that I would have contact with forever. Doing all the activities such as going to the theatre, field trips and ice scatting (which was a first for me) with them was a lot fun. I was also happy that I got to visit the Netherlands and Belgium. Time well spent and I would do it anytime again.
Because of the funding, I was able to increase my publication, got promoted and changed my title from Dr to Prof.
Professor M. K. Mhlolo, DIES ProGRANT Workshop in Germany
I have attended two DAAD DIES ProGRANT Workshops. One on Proposal Writing at the University of Cape Town in June 2014, the second as a DAAD alumni member at the Coordination Centre of the University of Cologne in December 2017. This second workshop hosted at the Coordination Centre of the University of Cologne aimed at strengthening the alumni’s skills in teaching in higher education. The assumption was that the members of the DIES ProGRANT Alumni Network had successfully completed each of the three ProGRANT phases and are, thus, advanced in proposal writing. This group of individuals represented a high-potential pool of professionals that would be crucial multipliers for proposal writing and subject specific knowledge. The idea is that the participants of this higher-level workshop would take on the role of trainers in their own institutions.
How has my participation in DIES courses informed my work here in South Africa? Let us recall that the two primary functions of higher education institutions will always be excellent teaching and research. Most university organograms today reflect these two primary functions. In the Central University of Technology – Free State, I am an Assistant Dean responsible for Research Innovation & Engagement in the Faculty of Humanities. My role is to promote research among the academic staff members and my motto as a leader is simple: I won’t ask you to do anything I’m not willing to do myself. To be worthy of this motto DIES has supported me to perfect my grants proposal writing skills according to international standards, and more recently DIES empowered me to design and develop a seminar/workshop on Academic Writing. As a result of my participation in the DIES courses, I was successful in getting funding for my research on Mathematical Giftedness. This in turn enabled me to recruit 3 PhD students, 5 Masters students and 2 Honours students all funded from the project. Because of the funding, I was able to increase my publication, got promoted and changed my title from Dr to Prof. More recently I got an National Research Foundation (NRF) rating and in terms of multiplying those skills in the institution I deliver workshops and seminars on grantsmanships and academic writing. I’m proud to be a DAAD Alumni!
On account of the scholarship, I came under tutelage of globally-renowned and highly venerated marine geologists such as Prof. Dr. Gerold Wefer and Prof. Dr. Burghard Flemming.
Professor Effiom Edem Antia, PhD in Germany
My name is Effiom Edem Antia. I am a Professor of Geological and Physical Oceanography at the University of Calabar, Nigeria. It is most befitting that I seized the opportunity to visit the DAAD Stand at the Science Forum South Africa in Pretoria in December 2018 to register my deep appreciation to DAAD for charting my professional career through a doctoral scholarship from 1988 – 1992 at the University of Bremen (FB 5 – Geosciences) and Senckenberg Institute of Marine Geology and Marine Biology in Wilhelmshaven.
On account of the scholarship, I came under tutelage of globally-renowned and highly venerated marine geologists such as Prof. Dr. Gerold Wefer and Prof. Dr. Burghard Flemming. Prof. Dr. Dieter Futterer at Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven served as my PhD examiner. The legacies of these mentors remain a source of inspiration, while the Bremen education is pivotal to the following status I have attained:
- First alumnus of my home University (University of Calabar, Nigeria) to attain a Professorial rank in Africa
- First Professor of Oceanography in the Nigerian University System
- First Professor of Oceanography to be elected as Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science; and
- First Professor of Oceanography to be elected as Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences.
Thank you DAAD, thank you University of Bremen/Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, and thank you Captain Karl Kommer and crew of the vessel FK Senckenberg for the over 5000 hours of routine North Sea cruises.
Effiom Edem Antia, Dr.rer.nat., FAS, FAAS
Professor of Geological and Physical Oceanography
Faculty of Oceanography
University of Calabar, Nigeria
I have not seen much yet and there is loads to explore in Europe. I would recommend this trip to every student who wants to broaden their horizons.
Siviwe Majali, CPUT - Ravensburg University Exchange Programme
My experience in Europe has been one of the best experiences of my life. It is a new life started at the age of 20. What I am currently experiencing here is one of the things I never came across before. CPUT had selected me to be part of the exchange program. The culture is not that shocking because we have been doing studies around Germany as a country before our departure.
When it comes to the German education system it is way different than how we do it at home. I have not seen much yet and there is loads to explore in Europe. I would recommend this trip to every student who wants to broaden their horizons.
Most importantly I get to meet new people from other countries, make friends and tell them about my country and school and also learn more about their cultures.
Mihle Tyala, CPUT - Ravensburg Exchange Programme
I haven’t even been here for a month but the experience is great: learning a bit of German in class, attending the Octoberfest, travelling to Switzerland to the Rhine falls, going to Stuttgart. Most importantly I get to meet new people from other countries, make friends and tell them about my country and school and also learn more about their cultures. I am enjoying Europe so much and still looking forward to more traveling! It is a great experience!
I was the only South African at the Institute so I was slightly nervous, but I was quickly adopted by the 30+ Brazilians that had also received DAAD scholarships. With them I got to visit many places and form some of the most beautiful friendships that are still lasting now, 6 months later.
Anna Du Plessis, University Winter Course
I applied for the DAAD Hochschulwinterkurs scholarship in Düsseldorf in August 2017. I was then informed that I had received the scholarship in November 2017. My journey started on the 1st of January as I left Cape Town to fly to Düsseldorf. I had applied for this scholarship with the hope of meeting new people and learning more about the German language and was completely blown away by what I experienced. In the 7 weeks spent in Germany, I learned a lot about this beautiful language at the IIK-Düsseldorf (Internationale Institut für Kommunikation). My favourite part, however, was meeting all the people from different countries all over the world. I was the only South African at the Institute so I was slightly nervous, but I was quickly adopted by the 30+ Brazilians that had also received DAAD scholarships. With them I got to visit many places and form some of the most beautiful friendships that are still lasting now, 6 months later. It was amazing to form such wonderful friendships and gain this experience in Germany with people from other countries.
Some of my favourite experiences included going to Berlin and Luxembourg with my newly acquired friends/family and experiencing everything it had to offer. I would definitely recommend applying for this scholarship as it taught me so many new things about the language and people in Germany and definitely moulded me into becoming a different and perhaps better person.
This winter course has given me the opportunity to get to know the everyday life of Germans and to better my German. I saw a lot of great places in Germany and also visited the Netherlands during my stay. This has really been a dream come true!
Lee-Ann Amsterdam, University Winter Course
As a person who gets anxious outside my comfort zone, I was initially very scared to travel to Germany for the Hochschulwinterkurs in Essen, Germany. I did not know what to expect, but after 6 weeks I fell in love with Germany and met a lot of great people from all over the world. I enjoyed this course a lot and took away a great deal from the German lessons and excursions. This winter course has given me the opportunity to get to know the everyday life of Germans and to better my German. I saw a lot of great places in Germany and also visited the Netherlands during my stay. This has really been a dream come true! My first visit to Germany has been a remarkable experience that will always stay with me. A big thank you to DAAD and and the Winter Course 2018 in Essen!
While I was waiting for a train on my last night in Germany, I saw my reflection in another train passing by. I realized that the person in the reflection was not quite the same person who arrived six weeks before. I learned so much, grew so much emotionally and a lot of my dreams became a reality.
Nicci Harmse, University Winter Course,
On the eve of my last examination of my three year Language and Literature degree, I received news that I had been waiting to hear for three months, namely that I had been awarded a DAAD scholarship to attend a language course for six weeks in Kassel, Germany. My time in Germany was truly amazing and unforgettable. I learned so much about Germany’s rich history, saw the most beautiful buildings, improved my German language ability so much, and met the kindest people along the way. At the same time I also learned a lot about other countries, cultures and languages.
While I was waiting for a train on my last night in Germany, I saw my reflection in another train passing by. I realized that the person in the reflection was not quite the same person who arrived six weeks before. I learned so much, grew so much emotionally and a lot of my dreams became a reality. I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity. DAAD – no words will ever be enough to describe my thankfulness for this life-changing experience. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for this experience.
Listening to the stories and experiences of other DAAD Alumni members from Africa has encouraged us to look into possibilities to do our Master degrees in Germany in the future. We would love to learn more about the interesting country with its friendly and open people.
Funani Owen Ramalamula, 2nd World University Challenge, Munich
My two friends, Simphiwe Obed Zwane and Charles Ngcobo, and I won an all-expense paid trip to Munich, Germany in the 1st University Challenge Africa, hosted at the IFAT Africa Science Fair in South Africa in 2017. Travelling to Germany was a great experience, since it was our first time travelling out of Africa. We were overwhelmed on arrival by the love the German people showed us, the transport system and the infrastructures. Before competing in the 2nd World University Challenge, we got to tour Munich and learnt a lot about Bavarian culture and history. We also attended a social event, a Bavarian Night, where we got to meet DAAD Alumni who later showed us a ton of support during the competition. We competed against students from Germany, Jordan, India, Turkey and China and won 1st place for Integrated Water Resource Management. Listening to the stories and experiences of other DAAD Alumni members from Africa has encouraged us to look into possibilities to do our Master degrees in Germany in the future. We would love to learn more about the interesting country with its friendly and open people.
Wits University’s size amazed me immediately. There is such a different vibe here that I have never experienced in Germany. Since the campus is not only a place of study but also the place I call home, I feel a strong sense of community among the students, who never let you feel homesick.
Duy Linh Nguyen, Exchange Student from Hamburg University
My name is Duy Linh Nguyen. I am a 22-year-old exchange student at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. As a part of my 4-year degree in International Geography at Hamburg University in Germany, I have chosen Wits University to spend my year abroad. Coming to a new country and a new school system, my first 2 months have been joyful and full of excitement. Joburg welcomed me with heavy showers as I landed in OR Tambo Airport and these showers have gradually became my favorite thing about the city.
Wits University’s size amazed me immediately. There is such a different vibe here that I have never experienced in Germany. Since the campus is not only a place of study but also the place I call home, I feel a strong sense of community among the students, who never let you feel homesick. My classes also bring students and professors closer together through serious, yet sometimes emotional discussions about the problems South Africa faces: poverty, inequality or pollution. The passionate discussion sessions, where students speak from their hearts and defend what they believe in are a real inspiration for me.
Outside campus you find another world: the concrete jungle of Johannesburg. Joburg and its people make my heart beat fast and often spread a smile on my face. I have lived in big cities my whole life, but the unique culture and energy of this city make me curious to learn more every day. Walking down the streets and listening to the inhabitants who do not hesitate to tell me their stories has helped me learn so much more than I ever imagined. Listening to other people’s stories is the best way to make life-long friendships. I always remind myself of that every day. I hope this experience will contribute greatly to my field of interest in the geography of inequality and urbanism. Two months have gone by, eight more to come. I can’t wait to be exposed more to the exciting stories and possibilities here.
Diversity, Honesty, Kindness and Vitality. These words best describe my experience in South Africa over 10 months as the DAAD Language Assistant in the German Department of the University of the Witwatersrand.
Nina Keller, DAAD Language Assistant at Wits University, 2017
As language assistant I taught language, culture and conversation classes in all three years of German Studies. This gave me the opportunity to engage with many different students and cultures. During my year at Wits, I had a lot of freedom to create the schedule for my courses, to conduct various field trips or to start different projects with the students. In cooperation with the former director of DAAD South Africa, Ms Philina Wittke, we did a multimedia project with the Ivory Coast, Madagascar and Mozambique to enhance intercultural exchange and highlight the importance of German language and cultural education in Africa. I also conceptualized and edited a magazine for the German Department, Wits-Herzschlag, which is funded by the German Embassy in South Africa. The magazine publishes literary work of the German students, news about German Studies projects and produces a platform for creativity within the German department.
Thus, the DAAD Language Assistant programme offers a wonderful opportunity to gain insight not only into teaching but into project planning and intercultural communication as well. Many thanks go to the School of Literature, Language and Media at Wits and the German Department with Anette Horn as Head of Department. I must, however, especially thank the DAAD South Africa Team and Ms Philina Wittke who served as my mentor. Without their help and encouragement I would not have come so far. Vielen Dank!
I am very grateful for the opportunity afforded me by the German Academic Exchange Service and would highly recommend this position to any young teacher in Germany who would like to engage with the wonderful people and diverse cultures of South Africa.
The only problem I had while in Germany was that I was overwhelmed daily by the level of development and systems in place. Top of the list was the efficient transport system and double-decker trains.
Tebogo Vincent Makhubela, Short-Term Research Grant at the GFZ Helmholtz-Zentrum in Potsdam
My research visit to Potsdam, Germany: a visit to the whole world.
When I was awarded the DAAD research scholarship to spend two months at the Geoforschungszentrum (GFZ) Potsdam I was very excited! Not only excited for what would be my first travel experience outside Southern Africa, but also excited for the opportunity to visit Germany (very top in my bucket list). I landed at Tegel Airport, in Berlin, on a Thursday afternoon (02 of October 2014) and was lucky enough to have Nonhlanhla (a friend of mine from South Africa studying her Masters at TU Berlin) waiting for me at the airport. Without her there I would have broken down before my two months experience even started. I was extremely exhausted from my two flights (Johannesburg à Frankfurt and Fra à Berlin), bloated with a headache, and needed to complete some forms at the Lufthansa Baggage Office after my luggage was left behind in Frankfurt due to my delayed first flight. Nonhlanhla was my very helpful guardian angel who took me from the airport, treated me to curry wurst lunch at Curry36 in Zoologischer Garten, Berlin, and further accompanied me to Potsdam, around 30 km southwest of Berlin, where I had arranged accommodation.
In Potsdam I stayed in a flat with a young couple: Gerald, a German guy married to Emma a Mexican lady. They were incredible hosts who rented me a bedroom and shared the rest of the flat with me. Staying with them was one of the best things that happened to me in Germany because they took very good care of me. I remember that on my first Saturday they took me to the Sanssouci Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of 18th century palaces and baroque-style gardens. On the following Sunday they took me along to a flea market in Berlin where they sold old stuff that Gerald inherited from his grandmother. We bonded very well during my first four days (Thursday to Sunday) of arrival until I started going to the GFZ from my first Monday, and they started complaining that I was always busy and not spending time with them. They even started suspecting that I had found a German girlfriend haha.
The GFZ Helmholtz-Zentrum in Potsdam was my day home during the entire two months stay. I loved being there because of all the lovely people who work there, as well as all the laboratories I could visit to view and learn about the state-of-the-art instruments and equipment they have. That place is the ideal Disneyland to any geoscientist and I feel very lucky to have worked there with highly skilled people from different parts of the world. While there I even got myself a co-supervisor for my PhD study. I had visited the GFZ to do a short-course on the secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and to do measurements using the Cameca 1280-HR SIMS instrument after the short-course. The SIMS short-course was my best experience in Germany. I was very happy to be in a class with students from different parts of the world: China, Japan, United States and Europe (Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Hungary, Spain, Italy and Bulgaria). This was a great learning opportunity for me at an international level (another bucket list). When the short-course was over I started working at the laboratory, preparing my samples for measurements of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes. My samples were part fossil-bearing sediments collected from caves in the Cradle of Humankind (CoH) UNESCO site, 40 km to the northwest of Johannesburg, where human evolution fossil bones have been discovered. As part of my MSc in geology, I had dated Fe and Mn oxi-hydroxide minerals found in these sediments using 40Ar/39Ar and U-Th-He dating methods. This was part of exploring radiometric dating methods that can be used to date the fossil-bearing cave deposits of the CoH, and thus constrain the ages of the fossils found encased within these deposits. Following the success of dating these sediments, we needed extra information on their formation and evolution, and measurements of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes using the 1280-HR instrument could help us obtain such information.
Unfortunately, the 1280-HR instrument experienced some challenges while I was busy with my measurements and fixing these challenges took over two weeks, due to waiting for the specialist engineer and required parts from Cameca in Paris. Inconvenient as it was, it was also a blessing in disguise. During this time I travelled to Hungary to attend a two day methods in geosciences conference in Sopron, hosted by USRA Houston. After the conference I proceeded to Vienna, Austria, where I spent two days. Upon return to Potsdam and finding out that the 1280-HR was still down I joined two colleagues on a four days trip to Krakow, Poland. Luckily I ended up being able to finish my measurements but at the cost of my planned trip to explore Germany by train. I guess I will visit Munchen, Cologne and Bremen during my next visit to Germany. At least Gerald took me to Nurnberg when we visited his family in Pegnitz for a weekend.
Overall, my research stay in Germany was unarguably the best experience of my life. I enjoyed the German culture, especially that of eating and drinking. The canteen at the GFZ and the Heisser Wolf restaurant, at the Potsdam Haupbahnhof, were heavenly! Contrary to popular stereotypes, Germans are very friendly people, except the cashiers at all supermarkets: Rewe, Kaufland and DM. They refused to help me in English because my German language was non-existent. All I knew was greeting them and saying goodbye. Constructing sentences was a challenge but it will be fixed once I start taking German language classes at the Goethe Institut in Johannesburg. The only problem I had while in Germany was that I was overwhelmed daily by the level of development and systems in place. Top of the list was the efficient transport system and double-decker trains. In fact I remember that the transport system was so efficient such that I got left behind by a train (after being two minutes late) even when there was a strike. Such you never see in South Africa! And so it was a great experience for me. I then realised and concluded that it was the people that were developed in Germany. That is why everything was efficient.