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Deutschlandstipendium: From a civil war country to LMU student ambassador

7 Dec 2020

The Germany Scholarship promotes exceptionally talented students as well as people that are socially engaged or face personal hurdles. One such person is Thomas Breslauer.

Deutschlandstipendiaten der LMU in einem Hörsaal, im Vordergrund Thomas Breslauer

Thomas Breslauer | © Jan Greune / LMU

Thomas’ story sounds like a Netflix series. While Thomas Breslauer was growing up in Columbia, the country hit rock bottom. Not just on account of the drug lords in his home city of Medellín, who bribed politicians and murdered so many people, but also because of the civil war that racked the country. “The military closed off our city; nobody was allowed to leave,” Thomas recalls. The rate of inflation soared to 3000%. But the final straw came for the family when his father’s work colleague was kidnapped for ransom money. In 1998, the family fled to Germany, and Thomas found himself in Altötting, a fiercely Catholic town in Bavaria. “It was a total culture shock,” the 24-year-old laughs. But the family was welcomed with open arms and quickly found new friends. “We built a house, we built ourselves a new life, and we integrated well into society.” It wasn’t until he started school that new challenges presented themselves to Thomas.

If the class sat a dictation test and most students made ten or so mistakes, Thomas would make 40 mistakes. He was finally diagnosed with dyslexia. “It felt like a handicap,” he recalls. Dyslexia is a genetic condition and doesn’t have a cure. But Thomas was determined not to be beaten. Thanks to support from his family, lots of extra help at school and a teacher who fueled his passion for history, Thomas was soon top of the class in history. “Even as a child, I was absolutely fascinated by the subject,” he says with a grin. Accordingly, he chose it as a special focus in his advanced school-leaving exams — and came top of the year, despite his dyslexia. Although he’s officially entitled to extra time during exams and for homework, Thomas has refused to make use of this privilege in his history degree at the LMU. “I want to prove that I can manage without,” he says.

Thomas is grateful for the opportunity to study at LMU. “It’s a real blessing that they’re willing to accept and support students like myself — and that I have this opportunity,” he affirms. In Columbia, only people from the upper classes are able to study. Thomas does not aspire to be a role model. But he wants to help people who weren’t born in Germany or who struggle with other disadvantages, and show them that they too can achieve their goals. That’s why he’s now a diversity management volunteer for the LMU’s Central Student Advisory Office. This work involves accompanying older schoolchildren, who face various difficulties and hurdles in their lives, to lectures, explaining to them how degree programs work and introducing them to campus life. In April 2020, Thomas was also officially appointed an LMU student ambassador. Students ambassadors visit schools and give talks on LMU, and Thomas hoped to help students overcome possible misgivings or reservations about studying by sharing his own biography with them. Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis has brought this work to a temporary halt.

Thomas has been able to make time for the work thanks to the Deutschlandstipendium scholarship. He certainly has no lack of side jobs. Not only has he been working for the last four years in a hotel, as a placement student, but he also works as a research assistant in the Institute for Contemporary History. “Thanks to the financial support from the scholarship, I’ve been able to reduce the number of hours I work,” he says. The Deutschlandstipendium scholarship also turned out to be a lifeline during the coronavirus lockdown in the spring, when the hotel closed and he was unable to earn any extra money. Nonetheless, Thomas is running out of time. So he’s trying to complete his bachelor’s degree in fewer than six semesters. Once he graduates, he hopes to progress to postgraduate studies. And then? Perhaps he’ll pursue a diplomatic career, he says. Or an academic career. “That would be the hardest option, of course,” he muses. And quickly adds, “But who cares — challenge accepted!”

Become a sponsor now! The Deutschlandstipendium at LMU survives on the support it is offered by companies, foundations and private individuals. Your tax-deductable donation of 150 euros per month is then doubled by the federal government and given, in full, to one of our scholarship students. With this financial support, young people can focus on addressing the future of our society without needing to worry about money — a big relief especially in these times of crisis.

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