“I always wanted to study Politics so that I could make a difference in Egypt”

Hana Attia is 23 years old and is going to finish her master’s program in Political Science at the University of Mannheim this year. She left Cairo and moved to Mannheim five years ago to pursue her bachelor's degree. As she went to a German school in Egypt, she already knew a lot about the German culture. In her myUniMA story, Hana tells us how she would like to use her degree to influence the political situation in Egypt.

Why did you decide to study in Mannheim?

The university’s rankings definitely played an important role in my decision. I decided in the ninth grade that I wanted to study Politics, and the revolution in Egypt reinforced that decision. After the revolution, everyone was suddenly interested in politics. But only a few people understand what is really going on, and very few people have the chance to make a difference. At first, I wasn’t sure whether to study in Mannheim, Constance, or Berlin. I chose Mannheim as I could take Business Administration as a minor, it’s one of the warmest cities in Germany and it’s a proper student city.

I really enjoyed my bachelor's program here. Although I wasn’t sure about the math and statistics to start with, I really liked the program’s quantitative focus. I wanted my master’s degree to have a quantitative focus as well and so Mannheim was my first choice.  The master’s program also gave me the opportunity to study abroad. I spent the first year of the program at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the second year in Mannheim. For this program, I received a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). You really can do a lot with your program here.

Did you find it easy to settle in here, or was it difficult to start with?

After leaving school, everyone starts a new chapter in life and there are a lot of changes. I think I would have found it more difficult if I hadn’t attended a German school. I didn’t really experience culture shock and was able to settle in quickly. Seeing snow here for the first time in my life was a special moment.

But I did find filling in all the forms when I arrived here quite difficult. You have to be really organized in Germany. I think the most important thing is to be open and to speak with people when you have the chance, as everyone is very helpful. There are a lot of student organizations and clubs at the university, which enable you to meet other students quickly. I was part of the AIESEC incoming exchange team for two years and supported international students when they arrived in Mannheim.

What did your parents say when they found out you were going to study in Germany?

It took my dad a little while to get used to the idea – he didn’t want his little girl to move to Germany. My mom was really happy for me straight away. They both support me and are very proud of the fact that I study here. It’s nice for them to see that the time I spent learning German was worthwhile. I really like it when my friends and family visit me and I can show them Mannheim. The palace really impressed my mom.

What do you do in your free time?

I do a lot of sport here that I couldn’t really do in Cairo. There, people tend to do sports in private places; you don’t really see many people jogging along the street. That’s why I like jogging through the city to the Wasserturm or through the Luisenpark. I often do things with my friends as well. There’s so much to do in Mannheim. I really like the Jungbusch district. But it’s also nice to just sit by the Wasserturm, or have barbecues by the Neckar in summer. Being able to ride my bike across the city is also great. You don’t really ride a bike in Egypt unless you live in a gated community.

What would you like to do after you graduate?

My dream is to work in a think tank that evaluates Egyptian policies and publishes reports. That would really allow me to make a difference. Think tanks don’t just do research; they also make policy suggestions to help people. But you can also do other things in Egypt with a degree in Political Science. I think there is a lack of political education in the country and that’s why it’s a good idea that foundations offer seminars and workshops.

Do you think studying in Mannheim was the right decision?

Yes, definitely. I stayed here after my bachelor’s degree and don’t want to leave. There’s a song which says you only cry twice in Mannheim, once when you arrive and once when you leave, and I think that really is true. The city itself isn’t very pretty, but the university is. Mannheim has lots of cool corners and there’s so much to do. If you come from a city like Cairo, you appreciate how nice it is to be able to walk or ride your bike everywhere. I think the students have it good here, especially because the tuition fees are so low. As an international student, you also don’t really have much trouble finding a part-time job in Mannheim.

Can you imagine permanently staying in Germany?

Yes, and I don’t think I’ll be leaving any time soon. But I want to help my country to change, so I might return to Egypt and start a project there. If I had the opportunity to do something for Egypt while living in Germany, then I would stay here.

Text: Lena Trumpfheller / July 2017