A little support for a big goal

"I would like to become a volcanologist." Hannah Völkel's goal is ambitious, but thanks to her Deutschlandstipendium (Germany Scholarship) she can work towards it with a certain calm confidence.

Two women and a man. One woman holds a certificate.
© Thomas Eisenkrätzer, UKiel University

The couple Renate and Torsten Wieck with scholarship holder Hannah Völkel.

Schleswig-Holstein is not known for being a volcano hotspot, but rather as home to one of the best geosciences institutes in Germany. That is why in autumn 2020, straight after completing her Abitur (equivalent to A-levels), Hannah Völkel decided to move from the district of Siegen-Wittgenstein in North Rhine-Westphalia to Kiel.

Without the reassuring support of the Deutschlandstipendium, however, she would not have chosen this step so easily. With a strained housing market and much fewer part-time jobs available during the coronavirus pandemic, finances can quickly become tight for a new student with not overly wealthy parents.

"It really helps," said the 20 year old, delighted at the extra €300 she receives per month. The cost of her room in shared accommodation, which she was very lucky to find, is covered by the scholarship and so there is financial space for other important things. There are at least two geosciences excursions to the Rhine valley and France coming up in the near future and, looking ahead to after the pandemic, Hannah Völkel is saving up for a semester abroad. The scholarship recipient said that another real advantage is the fact that she does not have to take on larger part-time jobs, but that she can concentrate fully on her studies.

She first found out about the Deutschlandstipendium from a school friend back home and she was able to score double points in the application process because of her volunteer work alongside her good grades. As a member of her grammar school council, she helped her school become a "School Without Racism" and organised major events. Since arriving at Kiel University and despite opportunities being restricted by COVID, the student has found her new field of activity in involvement in the Departmental Student Organisation for Geosciences.

Hannah Völkel was pleasantly surprised when she found out during her year-long scholarship that it is possible to apply for a second time. So she threw her hat into the ring again and was fortunate that she was an exact match for the desired profile of her scholarship providers. Torsten Wieck and his wife Renate found out about the programme in the local newspaper Kieler Nachrichten and were, in his words, "really taken with the idea". The couple wanted to support an individual studying natural sciences. The Wiecks also discovered how beneficial such a scholarship can be when their daughter, who now works at the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA), was supported by other scholarships.

Hannah Völkel, who will receive her Deutschlandstipendium up to and including the summer semester, is very happy with all aspects of her life in northern Germany – and with the couple supporting her. She thought the Wiecks were "very nice" at the official scholarship award ceremony and she and the couple are still in contact today.

And who knows, perhaps they will still be in touch when Hannah Völkel has actually become a volcanologist and is playing her part in providing us with a better understanding of the fascinating but also terrifying fire-spewing mountains, thereby making them a little less frightening.

Author: Martin Geist

Around 100 scholarships each year

Kiel University has participated in the Deutschlandstipendium (Germany Scholarship) programme since 2011 and, in this time, has granted nearly 1,000 of these scholarships. In recent years, consistently between 95 and 110 pledges have been made each year. In this programme, the university raises scholarship funds from companies, foundations and private individuals. The sum of €1,800 per year is doubled by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and so beneficiaries receive a monthly scholarship of €300 for a whole year.

The chances of gaining a scholarship largely depend on the applicant's Abitur grades, but they are not all that counts at Kiel University. Points are awarded for involvement in the volunteer fire service, sports clubs, mentoring for foreign students and other social commitments. Caring for a child or having a migrant background also has a positive impact on the applicant's chances of obtaining a scholarship. Sponsors also have a say in who actually receives the scholarships, for example, they can state which specialist field they would like the recipient to come from. (mag)