Germany Scholar Jakob Xaver Sturm: Top performance despite restrictions

28 Dec 2022

Jakob Sturm suffers from a condition that affects both vision and hearing. He wanted to prove that people can deliver excellent performance despite limitations. The recipient of the Germany Scholarship is now helping to raise awareness of the condition.

Germany Scholarship holder Jakob Xaver Sturm

is committed to helping others, for example tutoring children with an immigrant background. | © Jan Greune / LMU

From fifth through thirteenth grade, Jakob Sturm was the best in his year. He completed his Abitur (German higher education entrance qualification) with a grade of 1.0 and won an award from his technical college (FOS) for the best achievement of all Bavarian FOS students of commerce and administration in 2021. Not many people reach such heights – and certainly not people from a non-academic home background. Moreover, the 20-year-old – now studying business education at LMU in his third semester – also struggles with a condition known as Usher syndrome.

The condition affects both vision and hearing and cannot be treated. Hearing impaired from birth, Sturm has always had to depend on hearing aids. The problems with his vision started when he was a teenager. If the photoreceptors in his eyes continue to die off, his current symptoms – tunnel vision, weak contrast sensitivity and night blindness – will degenerate into complete blindness. There is no way of knowing whether and when that will happen, as the condition progresses differently in each individual. “Sometimes it would be nice at least to have certainty,” Sturm says.

In the lecture theater, the native of Munich wears glasses. Even before the energy crisis, he also constantly hoped for good lighting conditions that would help him see as much as possible. Sturm is happy to be able to study again on site: During the coronavirus pandemic, it was hard for him to stay motivated and disciplined. “There was one advantage, though,” he admits. Digital tuition enabled him to enlarge font sizes, choose higher-contrast colors and rewind or zoom in on online lectures. He therefore hopes that hybrid tuition is here to stay.

Germany Scholarship Holders Like Jakob Sturm Committed to Helping Others

Jakob Sturm is glad to be able to prove that even people with physical limitations can deliver excellent performance. Encouraged by his parents, ambition took root and grew inside him. The school environment also helped: At the age of twelve, he moved to a special school for hearing-impaired people. “Apart from that, I always had a rivalry with my sister, who also wanted to study despite having Usher syndrome,” Sturm laughs. That said, the permanent pressure of proving himself to everyone has taken its toll on him in difficult life situations.

Notwithstanding, the 20-year-old has also taken on social commitments. Right now, for example, he serves at a local community center, where he helps elementary schoolchildren who have a migration background with their homework. “I know what it is to be dependent on assistance,” he says, explaining this activity. But the work also gives him a chance to practice: Since he is minoring in English, Sturm will have the chance to teach at a higher vocational school after completing his master’s degree.

As if that were not enough, he and his sister also provide teachers with online courses in digitalization and inclusion at schools and universities. “In this setting, we can explain our condition and the everyday difficulties we experience at school and when studying,” Sturm notes. People like him would, for example, need soundproof walls to improve the acoustics, hearing loops in every room and, generally, more inclusion tutorials. If he does decide to become a teacher, he wants to offer more seminars on these topics in schools.

The Germany Scholarship at LMU helps students find their way in life. “It is a financial contribution that helps me and other people with disabilities to live an independent life,” Sturm says, stressing how grateful he is that such scholarships exist. Now, the budding business educator hopes the support will continue through next year. Why? “Because I want to move out of my parents’ home in 2023 and attain another level of autonomy.”

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