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Deutschlandstipendium: From a hospital inpatient to a warrior against disease

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 Lukas Röll.

Aufnahme des Deutschlandstipendiaten Lukas Röll

Lukas Röll | © Jan Greune / LMU

As a child, Lukas Röll had a dream: to become a professional athlete. “I was passionate about basketball,” he said. “Really passionate.” The only problem was that Lukas wasn’t actually supposed to engage in any sports at all at the time. Born with a heart defect, his risk of suffering a heart attack increased dramatically whenever he physically exerted himself. Stuck between a rock and hard place, his parents were continually at a loss to reconcile his natural energy with the doctors’ warnings. It wasn’t until he underwent heart surgery at the age of 13 that Lukas was finally able to get out onto the basketball court. But two years later, more bad tidings arrived. Doctors diagnosed Lukas with a brain tumor — thankfully, a benign one. Lukas didn’t become a professional athlete. “But I realized how important it is for children and teenagers to have a trustworthy environment and supportive contacts,” he says. An insight which has shaped the whole course of his life. Lukas now uses his experiences to help other young people.

Because his difficulties have only made him stronger. “I’ve learned to relax and be optimistic about life, and I’m good at handling stress,” he says. He’d like to share this experience with others in similar situations. As a teenager, Lukas volunteered as a youth coach, and after completing his advanced school-leaving exams, he worked in a school as a teaching assistant. Lukas, who grew up in the city of Gießen, then moved to Munich where he helped to coach the U12, U13, and U14 basketball teams for FC Bayern Munich. Like Lukas, one of the teenagers on the team also suffered from a genetic heart defect, which worsened considerably during adolescence. Lukas could relate him to him very well. “He also had to abandon his dream of becoming a professional basketball player,” he recalls. For two years, Lukas mentored and encouraged the players, sharing his own experiences with them. Once he graduates, he plans to increase his social involvement. Professional sport, and the immense pressure that is part and parcel of this world, is no longer Lukas’ focus.

Instead, he want to help the less fortunate, and that’s what motivates him. He’s particularly interested in the psychological aspect, where suitable courses of therapy are not yet available for numerous diagnoses. “I had to grow up extra fast on account of my heart defect,” Lukas explains, “And grapple with the idea of death even when I was just a child.” That’s why he decided to study psychology, and is currently completing his master’s degree in neurocognitive psychology. His master’s dissertation explores the impact of sports on illnesses. More specifically, it’s about how sports can be used in psychotherapy to speed up the healing process for various psychological illnesses. He is currently conducting a study on schizophrenia patients. The aim of this study is to find out how exercise impacts their illness, whether it can help to alleviate symptoms, and whether it triggers any neurophysiological changes in the brain. And he plans to continue researching this theme for his doctorate.

Lukas was awarded the LMU Deutschlandstipendium scholarship in the spring of 2018, and it has supported him on his academic journey ever since. The scholarship focuses on supporting young people who have had to overcome significant hurdles in their lives. Or are still in the process of overcoming them. Because Lukas has now undergone surgery no fewer than three times — most recently in January 2020, in the Munich Heart Centre. “Before that, I was wheezing the whole time,” he remembers. Now he should be alright again for the next few years. “I feel like a new person — despite coronavirus!” he beams. Lukas has invested virtually all the funding he receives from the Deutschlandstipendium scholarship into further study. At the same time as completing his degree, he’s qualified as a sports psychologist. And he also enrolled on a course to become a systemic therapist, a line of psychotherapy that evolved from family therapy. He hopes this will enable him to be of even greater support to young or ill people. And unlike his dream of becoming a professional athlete, Lukas is confident that this dream will come true.

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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