I had been actively working on the departmental student committee for Sociology and Political Science since the beginning of my studies. Later, I was chairing the student representative council representing the interests of the ten departmental student committees at the university. Then the university contacted me and asked if I would like to contribute to the application for a European university initiative. So, in 2020, I attended a major conference in Vienna together with other actors from the University of Mannheim. At that conference, we worked out the structure of the application together with experts from the alliance partners. Together with students from the partner universities, I also established the student representative body within the alliance: We decided on a so-called Board of Learners representing and organizing the interests of students and learners in general. The term ‘learners’ comprises everyone who can learn at a university – including doctoral students, alumni, and other interested parties. This creates a bridge between the university, society, and companies. In addition, our alumni are people with different backgrounds and experiences and from different generations. The constitution of the 14-member Board of Learners was one of my core projects within the alliance.
Actually, almost everything, otherwise I wouldn't have been involved for so long (laughs). What I like about the Board of Learners, for example, is the fact that the team is extremely diverse. Thanks to the international cooperation, you can also observe interesting differences between the partner universities while still sharing the European community idea, which is something that really excites me. I also appreciate that we exchange ideas so frequently – last October, for example, the ENGAGE.EU Annual Conference took place on campus in Mannheim, and of course we have countless online meetings. This commitment has also resulted in a number of friendships, for example. I am also a member of the Executive Committee, the decision-making body that discusses and plans the form of collaboration between the universities. Overall, I'm involved in many teams that, for example, develop a joint master's program or draw up interdisciplinary study modules.
Working in student representative bodies – whether at the University of Mannheim, at ENGAGE.EU or at the international U7+ alliance – has always been something very important to me, because I like to take on responsibility. In Mannheim, I've always strived for making studying more flexible and as pleasant as possible for everyone. Now, I have taken this aim to a larger, more international level.
At the moment, I am doing an internship at the International Office of Tilburg University, one of the partner universities of ENGAGE.EU. I work on Erasmus+ and ENGAGE.EU projects and have a traditional “nine-to-five” working day. In addition, I take part in many online meetings for the alliance projects, which makes my days very busy: Actually, due to my commitments, I have a full-time job, with the only difference that I don't get paid for it (laughs). Nevertheless, these tasks are enormously beneficial for my future. That's why I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to be involved in so many ways – not least because people have elected me to these positions. Even though it took me longer to complete my degree, it was worth it.
It's mainly things like organizational competencies, analytical skills and techniques, and a sound discussion competence. In general, I would say that I was also able to develop a lot personally. I've always worked with incredibly dedicated students, whether in my studies or my additional commitments. That's how you grow together.
The fact that there aren't that many students at the University of Mannheim gives it a family-like character. That's why studying at the University of Mannheim means something like intimacy, home, personality, campus – something like that. You find open doors everywhere, high-quality teaching, and incredible dedication. I've rarely experienced a university with such an active and dynamic student body – and I've seen a lot of universities due to my various responsibilities!
Yes, 150%. If you want to study Political Science at the top level, there are few better options in Germany than the University of Mannheim. I also love the city. At first glance, Mannheim seems very industrial and apart from the Schloss, the Wasserturm, and maybe the Nationaltheater, the city does not offer too many beautiful spots. But Mannheim has a unique flair, boasts great culture, and is a very special mix of a working-class and a student city, which makes it incredibly easy and pleasant to live here.
I probably won't stay in Mannheim for my master's degree because I would like to specialize in something like Public Administration. But between my bachelor's degree and the master's program, I would definitely like to remain involved with ENGAGE. My dream is to work in the Higher Education Unit of the European Commission one day. That certainly won't work out as a career start. However, no matter how things develop: I know that I will always have deep ties to the University of Mannheim. The university has shaped me in so many ways.
Text: Sarah Kempe / January 2022