Ellen Wagner

© Ellen Wagner

I applied for the SDAC programme in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic. At that time, we all had little information about what the upcoming semesters would look like. For this reason, I started into my first semester with some hesitation which, however, had vanished completely after our orientation week. Having gotten to know my fellow students and most staff members online, I was now part of a diverse and ambitious community. Within the first weeks of studying, I learned to appreciate the close contact between teachers and students, the transparent and swift communication, as well as the programme’s openness to feedback. Throughout my studies, I always felt heard with my concerns. The SDAC staff did their absolute best to address the special challenges and needs some of us faced during the two online semesters, which I am grateful for.

In terms of its content, the SDAC programme leaves much freedom for students to choose according to their individual interests. This has given me the chance to follow my own interest profile, particularly in the field of anthropology and qualitative research. Due to the limited number of students in class, teachers can respond individually to the varying levels of knowledge in the classroom. For me, this has meant that I was able to learn about advanced approaches in areas I was already familiar with whilst being welcome to dip a toe into disciplines which I had no previous experience in. The mandatory classes have provided a suitable framework for compiling and reflecting upon our insights from the very diverse elective courses. Having heard from my fellow students who took different classes than me, I cannot help but regret not being able to take all of them at once.

After one year of studying SDAC, I have not only gained new research skills and knowledge, but also a growing network of friends and professional contacts. For instance, I have taken part in a soft skill seminar offered by the Elite Network of Bavaria where I have connected with students from other Elite programmes throughout the region. Within my cohort, I have experienced much support and fruitful exchange due to our diverse academic backgrounds. In our free time, we have already taken many opportunities for cultural exchange, sharing food and music from our respective home countries. As the beginning of my third SDAC term is approaching, I am looking forward to another semester of interesting classes, new peers and meaningful exchange – hopefully in person.