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MADM: The “MADM Experience”

Eliab Figueroa Hernandez, a recent graduate of the last MADM intake, shares his impressions of being part of the 18 month programme.

When I offered to write an article about the "MADM experience", I thought it would be easy. When I actually started writing it, I noticed that summarizing all the feelings, memories, details, teachings, and experiences of an international group who studied together for two years was an enormous task full of responsibilities. That is why I decided only to depict my personal experience from a general point of view and let my readers build their own perspectives.

"Defeat" - The first step to something better

If someone asked me to define this master's degree, the word would be "defeat". According to Wendell Phillips defeat is "nothing but education; the first step to something better."
The beginning for me was in my office at the Public Administration Ministry in Mexico in 2013, when I first seriously thought about completing a master's programme abroad. That day, I started to search for programmes related to public administration, economics, political science, public policy, and of course, development. After a long and careful search evaluating all aspects, I saw the MADM Programme covering all my topics of interest. I felt excited when I read that the Master's included a German language course, lectures in South Africa, an internship at an international organisation for development, and a field research period. All of it in 21 months and financed by the DAAD (if you were one of the lucky ones with a full scholarship). I remember thinking to myself, "I will not lose anything by applying". And then, almost a year later, I was landing for the very first time in Frankfurt, ready to head to Bochum to start my studies.

The start in Bochum: Language Course and Summer School

The start was marked by the German language course. The course was just exactly what I needed. Germany is a great country with a (maybe too) complex language. As an international student, you definitely need to know the basics. The language course also gave me the opportunity to meet my classmates. What a great experience: People from four different continents united in one classroom, trying to learn German. I remembered myself hearing for the first time, Seychelles Islands, because it is the home country of one of my classmates. Now I know quite a bit more about this beautiful country with over 90,000 inhabitants. Then, the real thing started: an intense basic course of statistics followed by the most intensive course of economics I have ever taken. Stress, a lot of studying, more stress, more German lessons. And with every Wurst, Bier, Brötchen, Prüfung and Hausaufgabe, we were slowly becoming a family. I found my lost Moldovan "the role model brah" here, my little Costa Rican sister, and my brother from another South African mother, among many other friends that I'll never forget and that I hope to see again soon.
The Master's was also developing a life of its own, with receiving the fellow students from the MADM at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa during the summer school, a common trip to Berlin, and an intercultural team building in Petershagen. Thinking of all of these activities brings back some good memories.
Students during summer school (picture: private).

Summer School in Cape Town

Of course, perceptions may differ, but for me, everything was an amazing experience. Just thinking about the summer school in Cape Town, I must say that if there were still doubts about how close we were, such doubts vanished during these weeks. We lived, studied, travelled, suffered, and enjoyed together daily for more than a month.
MADM students during Summer School in Cape Town (picture: private).

After that, we separated for our internships. Then, I realized how much I already missed my new friends and my new home in Bochum. We did manage to stay connected via Skype though.
The last two semesters were defined by three concepts: research, stress, and moral support (from friends in the same position). It was definitely tough, but we managed - we did it! Every student had his or her own pace, and some were struggling more than others; unfortunately, a few of us did not make it. Yet, in the end, the vast majority could claim that we did it. The victory is ours.
Now reality is hitting again. All that was just the easy part. Life is knocking at my door again, and she wants to punch me as punishment for having been so happy during the last years. But again, the word defeat rings in my brain. I'll defeat the next challenge! Defeat is just education. Yet, everything is different now. We are better educated, we have more friends, we are stronger, we are tougher, and life is going to have a hard time "defeating" us. Bring it on.
Thank you MADM, thank you DAAD, and thank you Germany! You have given me not only a valuable education, but also a great treasure that is real friends.

Picture on the right: Full group of MADM students in Berlin (photo: private).

by Eliab Figueroa Hernandez


Institute of Development Research and Development
Ruhr University Bochum
Room 2.04
Universitaetsstr. 105
D-44789 Bochum
E-Mail: ieeoffice@rub.de
Phone: +49 (0)234 / 32-22418