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Deutschlandstipendium: From the countryside to the city — and back again

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 Ina Brechenmacher.

Deutschlandstipendiaten der LMU in einem Hörsaal, im Vordergrund Ina Brechenmacher

Ina Brechenmacher | © Jan Greune / LMU

Ina Brechenmacher is fascinated by life away from the bright city lights. “I’m not a country bumpkin,” the 24-year-old says. But she likes the idea of channeling her academic insights into the town of her birth. One of the first subjects she covered in her master's degree in American Studies was the American dream of small town life. She’s also enrolled on a postgraduate course in environmental sciences at the Rachel Carson Center, where, for her final project, she’s developing a themed guided tour exploring the environmental history of her own home town. “People who live in villages still think I’m a city girl,” Ina says. To change this, she’s started to get involved in the local community.

Last year, for example, a mineral water company wanted to extract more groundwater from the region. “For the first time, I realized how much I’d learned in my environmental history studies,” Ina reports. At long last she was able to exit her academic bubble and engage in real research to address a real problem. Local protests were successful. “It felt amazing to be able to do something for my home region,” she reminisces.

Ina is involved in numerous other causes as well. She’s particularly interested in environmental protection and climate justice. As a child, she accompanied her parents to protest marches against nuclear power. When she moved to Munich to study, she discovered that there was no local branch of the “Bund Naturschutz”, A German nature protection society for young people — so promptly founded one herself. “That’s how I first got involved in environmental protection,” she explains. She now regularly participates in protest marches and is currently fighting to end opencast coal mining. “It’s distressing to think that villages are still being uprooted and destroyed for opencast coal mining,” she says.

The 24-year-old is also interested in the subject of migration and how political education can be more firmly anchored in rural regions so that these become more politically active. This interest has led her to participate in various integration projects. For example, she attended the “Ambassador of Diversity” summer camp and has also been involved in a bicycle taxi project in her home town. “Our aim was to create an environmentally friendly mobility option and involve refugees in the organizational process,” she explains. Ina also helps out at the writing workshop for volunteers who work in integration projects. Together with author Jörg Dauscher, the workshop pairs refugees with native speakers so that they can express themselves in written texts without hitting the German language barrier. Much of this work has come to a halt on account of corona.

Ina doesn’t come from an academic family, but this has rarely been an issue. She spent most of her teenage years working various side jobs. “The lessons I learned there were just as important as my graduate studies,” she assures us. But right now, she would be at a loss without the Deutschlandstipendium scholarship, because her side job came to an end as a result of corona. Even before this event, the financial support she received from the scholarship gave her the freedom to dedicate more time to her region and to climate protection. “And it was encouraging to see that importance was attached to a more unusual degree program from the field of humanities.”

Although she’s active in the community, Ina has no intention of becoming a politician. It’s true that in the semester breaks, she helped the Green party candidate in a neighboring town in the run up to the local election. “But basically all I did was help a cheerful group of older people to use social media and deliver electoral campaign speeches,” the 24-year-old laughs. She prefers not to be in the spotlight herself. “I’d rather support other people!” She could imagine acting as a political consultant in the future, though. So if you’re interested in engaging her services, get in there fast — Ina is set to graduate after the winter semester, and then she’ll be looking for a job!

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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