My name is Mma Visser-Koomson. I think my everyday life is a little different from most students because I have an eleven-month-old daughter. She is now going to daycare, so I will be able to attend my classes again quite regularly this semester. I am currently doing my master’s in Sociology and have been here in Mannheim since 2020. I did my bachelor’s degree in Ghana, where I was born and raised. I love Mannheim. I think the city is the perfect size and the university is well known for its good ranking results in the social sciences. Part of my bachelor’s degree was a year abroad at a French university. So I studied for a year in Nantes and during that time I visited Berlin and Germany for the first time. Back then, I had no idea that I would eventually live here! At the moment I am learning German and attending Studium Generale courses. What I really like here is the directness with which people address things. Admittedly, this was a bit of a culture shock for me at first, since in Ghanaian culture people go to great lengths to present problems or criticism in the friendliest way possible. The understanding of friendship is also quite different here. In Ghana, when two people meet and exchange numbers, they automatically become friends and regularly WhatsApp each other to find out how they’re doing and arrange to meet for coffee. That’s not the case here at all; it takes much longer to bond.
I want my daughter to be strong and brave, to walk through the world with her head held high. The future is female—I don’t want her to let anything stand in the way of her dreams. Women’s empowerment is close to my heart. In Ghana, I got involved with a small NGO that does education work with girls in small villages. The girls there often cannot even afford period products or do not know enough about contraceptives. Although everyone in Ghana goes to school and there were as many girls as boys in my class, education is not equal. Girls are prepared for marriage and have to help out in the household at an early age, while the boys are simply allowed to play. I grew up with three brothers and always thought it was unfair that they were allowed to watch TV or chill while it was clear that I had to wash the dishes. Even as a child, I thought there was no reason for this unequal treatment. My plan for the future is to do my Ph.D. and I hope to do that here in Mannheim. I’ve received so much support here, such as from the lecturers and from Student Services, who told me about the funding I am currently receiving: the Opportunity Mannheim Scholarship.
My name is Jannik Abbou and I grew up in Weinheim. My father is a keen mountain biker and through him I found my sport, downhill mountain biking. My parents always say I could ride a bike before I could walk. After I heard about the Elite Sports Scholarship at the University of Mannheim, I knew that I wanted to go to university here. I started studying Economic and Business Education in 2017 and since then I’ve also had my greatest sporting achievements. In 2018, for example, I won silver in the World University Cycling Championship. The scholarship helps enormously, especially for organizing things. I train for up to four hours every day. My father is also my coach, he is a sports instructor and runs a gym. We formed a team with other riders a few years ago and have been training together ever since: in the gym, on the roller, on the spinning bike, in the woods, or during technique training. The international semester times in Mannheim fit my sport very well, because the university is really free in the summer and that’s exactly when all the competitions are. Most of my competitions are in Europe, but some world cups are overseas, like in Australia and the USA. What fascinates me about the sport is the perfection you have to achieve. This can be compared to downhill skiing or Formula 1: You have your course with obstacles, it is clearly marked, and the goal is to be the fastest from the start to the finish. When you’re on the track, you’re really in a kind of flow state, you don’t even really notice the audience anymore.
Training is in the evenings during the week, so that works out well with my university courses. On weekends we also train during the day, but I don’t have any classes then. If I don’t have my first lecture until noon, I use the time and go work out beforehand—at the gym my father runs. Once a week I give sports classes for children at our club: mountain biking and parkour. I enjoy getting the kids excited about something and giving them the opportunity to exercise and be athletic. After my studies, I’ll do an internship in business for my traineeship, so my first step will be to go into business and then I’ll see. My plan is to continue combining it with sports. I would love to start my own business later on, that would be my absolute dream. Until that works out, I want to gain as much experience as possible.
My name is Hannah Müller and I study MaKuWi here at the university, that’s the master’s in Culture and Economy majoring in Philosophy. I grew up in Offenburg and did my bachelor’s in International Management in Karlsruhe. I didn’t have the best time there for personal reasons. So Mannheim was a real new start for me. During my bachelor’s semester abroad in Mexico, I came into contact with business ethics for the first time and quickly realized that I was very interested in this area. And so it was clear to me: I don’t want to do a master’s in business administration alone, but another combination. By chance I came across the MaKuWi, read the description and looked at the modules, and was immediately convinced. I was instantly a bit enchanted by Mannheim, I liked the city right away. My first shared apartment was in the U-Quadrat, there was a lot going on, always a bit chaotic, but I liked it, being so in the middle of the action.
Philosophy and business studies? It sounds contradictory at first, but that’s exactly what I find so exciting. One reason I really wanted to study here was the focus on sustainability. For half a year now, I have also been working as a student assistant at the Chair of Sustainable Business and have taken most of my business administration courses in sustainability. There are many interactive formats, for example, we students were able to film a documentary—the real thing, with a camera and interviews—and at the end there was a film festival, where all the films were then shown. I enjoyed that very much. In Philosophy we had a podcast module, where we were allowed to produce a real podcast over two semesters and record it at the end. It was interesting to see how much work goes into a single episode.
I have been volunteering with Das andere SchulZimmer (the other schoolroom) for a year now: Young people who have dropped out of the school system for various reasons come and get volunteers to help them catch up on their school-leaving qualifications. My student is now about to do his secondary school diploma (Abitur) and I help him for two hours a week with French. I really enjoy this and it is probably one of the reasons why I was selected for a Mannheim Scholarship.
Now is my last real semester and in the fall I will start my master’s thesis. After that, the plan is to travel to Asia for a month or two before I make a serious start in my professional life. In general, it is important for me to live according to my own values. For this reason, I am specifically looking for companies that suit me. I can imagine starting my career either in the sustainable sector or in North-South cooperation. I have thought about self-employment in the longer term, because it would allow me to implement ideas as I see fit. Because my parents had their own pharmacy, I was able to see how much freedom, but also responsibility, is involved in having your own business.
My name is Jonas Wenzel and I have lived here in Mannheim for five years, but I grew up in southern Hesse. In 2018, I started with a bachelor’s in Business Administration and am now doing my master’s. I really like Mannheim, and I now live in Lindenhof, which means I can be by the Rhine in five minutes and totally surrounded by nature. In Mannheim, I can get everywhere by bike, which I like. And by now I’ve found a lot of cool people through my studies and in the volunteer fire department. Even my start here was exciting: I had a room in the Bumiller-Raab student residence hall in the Schwetzinger Vorstadt. There were 16 people living together in a shared apartment on each of nine floors. In the three years I lived with people from a dozen different countries, it was great. Unfortunately, the Bumiller-Raab building was demolished, but I organized things so the volunteer fire department could do one more exercise there beforehand. Because when a building is going to be demolished, it’s the most fantastic situation—we did not have to take care at all and could practice with water from the hose and smoke and everything—it’d be very hard to find a more realistic practice scenario.
One key reason for studying in Mannheim was the integrated semester abroad during the bachelor’s degree. I spent that in Vancouver at UBC. UBC is located on a spit of land pointing right out into the Pacific Ocean. The whole university campus, like its own town, is on that headland, a bit away from Vancouver. Super beautiful! The bachelor’s degree gives you the opportunity to choose courses outside your discipline, and I took full advantage of this in Canada. One course I took was in anatomy. While this was the most time-consuming subject I’ve ever taken, I’ve also never found it so easy to study for anything because I just enjoyed it so much.
This semester I’m working on my seminar paper and doing a few more courses, on Monday evenings we have practice with the volunteer fire department (and of course the fire pager can go off at any time!), I’m working as a student assistant at the Chair of Strategic and International Management with Professor Brauer, and I do a lot of sports—both to keep fit for my volunteer work and to get my mind off studying. But I still really enjoy studying, and because of my good grades I’ve even been awarded a Deutschland Scholarship.
Next semester, I’m going to Lisbon for a semester abroad at Nova SBE, which has a beautiful new campus right by the sea. I’ll finish my studies at the end of 2024. At this point, I do not know exactly what I’ll do next. In the long run, I definitely need a job that is compatible with all the other things in my life that I’m excited about. There are so many options and at first, that sounds so positive, but our generation is also under tremendous pressure to take advantage of all these opportunities that we have and try everything and achieve everything. I don’t have a problem giving my all to something or working a lot and putting myself out there if that thing excites me. And I just have to find what really motivates me, what I find fun. That’s why I’m glad that I still have time in my master’s degree, that I’m going to spend another semester abroad, and that I’ll be able to have completely new experiences.
Interview transcripts: Jule Leger/