Deutschlandstipendium: From a war zone to LMU in Munich

9 Feb 2021

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

Aufnahme des Deutschlandstipendiaten Ihssan Louleh

Ihssan Louleh | © Jan Greune / LMU

In order to study medicine in Syria, you need top grades (at least 1.1) in your final high school exams or equivalent. Which is why doctors are held in such high regard in the country. Ihssan Louleh achieved 1.0 (very good) in his school-leaving exams, meaning he was easily able to enroll to study medicine. The only problem: the country has been in a state of civil war since 2011. “Once, on my way to the university, a missile landed just fifty meters away from me,” Ihssan recalls. Shortly afterwards, he and a fellow student once again narrowly escaped being hit. “Everything was orange,” he remembers. That was when Ihssan decided he couldn’t take any more. And that it was time to turn his back on his home country.

Three months later, Ihssan had a visa. “That was the moment my life changed forever,” says Ihssan, who is now 22 years old. He could have gone to France; his family has French roots, so he speaks the language well. But that would have been too easy for Ihssan. “I wanted to learn a new language and experience a new culture,” he says. Unimpressed by the slow pace of the language courses in Munich, he used his free time for self-study and was able to skip several levels. Nobody has ever learned to speak German so fast, claims Dr. Melanie Moll, director of the society that runs German language courses at Munich University. After just eight months, Ihssan achieved fluency — strongly motivated by his desire to start studying again as quickly as possible.

Following an internship with an aunt in Nantes, France, and an advanced training course in dental prosthetics and fillings, Ihssan decided to focus on dentistry. And the fact that LMU offers a dentistry degree program felt like a sign, he says. Linguistically, the course was challenging. “But I thought to myself, come on Ihssan, give it a go!” And it worked. He was even able to help some of his (German!) fellow students prepare for their “Vorphysikum”, the preclinical medical examination, by explaining the basics of chemistry and physics, which many of them had not studied to an advanced level at school. His revision notes still circulate amongst students in the respective semesters.

Ihssan’s grades were perfectly acceptable, right from the start. But he wanted to improve them further. His only problem was that he didn’t have enough time for studying, because he had to work on the side to earn his bread and butter. Ihssan began working in a hostel shortly after he arrived in Germany. So he was thrilled when he discovered the Deutschlandstipendium scholarship. “Most scholarships focus on master degrees and doctorates,” says Ihssan.

Ihssan still works at the hostel when it’s not closed on account of corona. He’s also advertised his services as a tutor for senior high school students. But thanks to the financial support from the Deutschlandstipendium scholarship, he doesn’t have to work as many hours as before. As a result, his grades have improved significantly. He passed his Vorphysikum and his biology exam with flying colors — both with grade 1.0 (very good). And he achieved a 1.7 in physics, a 1-1-1-2 in anatomy and a 1.8 in biochemistry. “I’m so grateful to the scholarship board and the patrons,” emphasizes Ihssan. “I’ve made use of my extra time to study and give something back to society.”

How? The 22-year-old has teamed up with students of medicine and dentistry back in his former university in Aleppo to make video tutorials. “There are no official textbooks in Syria, and most academic literature is out of date,” he explains. Which is why Ihssan now helps his old professors, fellow students and friends by translating new research insights into Arabic.

Once he graduates, Ihssan plans to open a dental surgery in Munich. He loves the city and the people who have given him so much. “Munich has become my new family!” Though he’ll probably never get his tongue round the Bavarian dialect, he laughs. We’re not so sure — because if a Syrian can learn German in just eight months, then even the Bavarian dialect is within reach! So why, when he came to Germany, did he choose Munich? The answer is as simple as it is surprising: “I’ve always been an FC Bayern Munich fan!”

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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