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Change by Exchange: DAAD alumni – dedicated and successful

Their involvement with the DAAD shaped their careers, today they are activists, wielding influence and making a big difference – successful alumni living the motto of the DAAD: change by exchange.

In 1925 the DAAD was founded in Heidelberg. Since then, over two million young people from all over the world have been able to study or conduct research in Germany and abroad with the help of the DAAD. We introduce men and women whose lives would probably have been rather different without a DAAD scholarship, people who will achieve a great deal today and certainly also in the future.

Whether at the operating table, at the university, as a member of parliament or a political scientist, in their own way through their careers and their commitment they all represent the DAAD motto ‘Change by Exchange’.

He operates on the most difficult cases: Prof. Dr. Eka Julianta Wahjoepramono, neurosurgeon

Microsurgical methods were something the PhD student Eka Julianta Wahjoepramono knew only from textbooks when he arrived at Düsseldorf University Clinic in 1991. “I learned and practised as much as I could,” says the Indonesian. A DAAD graduate school scholarship in Germany was followed by stays in the United Kingdom, Hungary, Japan and the United States. Wahjoepramono learned the most so­phisticated surgical techniques, soon performing complex brain stem operations. Today, he is one of the internationally best-known neurosurgeons.

Yet his aim was always to improve medical care in his native country. At Siloam Hospitals‘ Neuroscience Centre, he helped build a team of neurosurgeons that enjoys a first-class reputation. “I’m glad that patients in Indonesia have grown to trust their own doctors.” The specialist has also always operated on patients who couldn’t afford surgery. He is proud to have established the Indonesia Brain Foundation, which enables poor patients to receive treatment. “I feel obliged to put my skills at the disposal of everyone.” As a member of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies’ Education & Training and Neurosurgical Anatomy Committees, he passes on his knowledge to young neurosurgeons from all over the world. “I’ve been taught so much and been given so many opportunities – by other doctors and organisations like the DAAD. Now it’s time to help others.” 

He motivates tomorrow’s researchers: Prof. Dr. Raúl Rojas, computer scientist

Artificial Intelligence is the specialty of Professor Raúl Rojas, who teaches at the Freie Universität Berlin (FU). His work includes research on driverless cars, currently a hot topic of discussion. Rojas’ research teams at the FU have also attracted attention with the football-playing robots they have developed and which have won the Robot World Cup several times. “Such competitions are a good way of motivating students,” says the scientist, who was born in Mexico City. For his inspiring teaching – a creative mix of theory and practice – he has received the Academic Teacher of the Year award.

Rojas arrived in Berlin in 1982 on a DAAD scholarship – and stayed. After studying math­e­matics and economics in Mexico, the highflyer completed his PhD in economic and social sciences and obtained the university teaching qualification for Artificial Neural Networks. Rojas encourages his students to spend extra time on project work and go abroad despite their packed schedules. “The support I received from the DAAD had a seminal influence on me,” he says. “Studying abroad is an enriching experience for everyone. When our students return home, they seem more mature and often come back with a totally different attitude.”

He is champion of equal opportunities: Dr. Karamba Diaby, chemist and member of parliament

Communicating with people in his constituency – Halle (Saale) – is something Karamba Diaby really cares about, “even if I don’t always have a ready-made solution to their problems”. Since 2013, he has been a member of the SPD Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag. “My everyday life has changed completely since then,” says Diaby, who holds a PhD in chemistry. For years, the Senegalese-born Diaby has championed equal opportunities and intercultural dialogue in the immigration country Germany. Social mobility through education is his theme. Diaby grew up as an orphan but was lucky enough to attend a good school. Later, he wanted to become a teacher, studied in Dakar and went to Leipzig and Halle-­Wittenberg Universities in 1986 – equipped with a GDR scholarship.

After German reunification in 1990, the DAAD took over the funding, enabling him to complete his degree. “Otherwise I’d have wasted eight semesters,” says Diaby. After finishing his PhD, Diaby frequently encountered people who supported him. “It’s these positive experiences that shape my political work,” he emphasises. In the Bundestag, he willingly accepted appointments to the Committees on Education, Research and Technology Assessment and Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid. “I view education as a human right,” he says. “What I’m seeking to do is link the two issues.”

She is a bridge builder between Asia and Europe: Prof. Dr. Ummu Salma Bava, political scientist

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Indian political science student Ummu Salma Bava had found the subject of her PhD thesis. In 1994, she spent six months at the Freie Universität Berlin on a DAAD short-term grant, pursuing research on German foreign policy and the new security challenges in the wake of the Eastern bloc’s collapse. “Those six months fundamentally changed my life,” says the Director of the Europe Area Studies Programme at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “I established professional contacts that are still very important to me, even today.”

As an expert on relations between India, Germany and the EU, she is much sought after, frequently teaching as a guest professor at German universities. “I’m happy to be a bridge builder between India, Germany and Europe.” Ummu Salma Bava is the first Indian woman to be awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her work. “That was a big surprise for me.” The fact that she is a successful woman in her native country she doesn’t consider unusual, though. Her mother was a political scientist, too, and education has always been highly valued in her family. “My aim is to achieve a new interaction of political forces in order to be able to meet the urgent global challenges effectively.”

(c)  Gunda Achterhold/Societäts-Medien, LETTER, issue 01/2015

The DAAD alumni magazine LETTER tells interesting stories from science, culture, Germany and the DAAD alumni network.

February 2016


Bettina Onyango
30 April 2018

Dear Saro,
Thanks for your interest to contribute to making an impact. Did you know that the DAAD relies on a network of 15 regional offices and 57 Information centres (ICs) in 60 countries? Probably you could connect with experts in your country of residence. Please check out the DAAD website for the addresses of their regional offices and information centres abroad: https://www.daad.de/der-daad/kontakt/en/29344-addresses-telephone-numbers/.
All the best!

29 April 2018

I want to be one of the DAAD net work to make an impart in Africa and the world

2 April 2017

i haven't yet the chance to be DAAD member , i love to be one of DAAD net work , since i love the way German applied to draw her picture over world, and the real contribution towards developing countries especially Sudan.
and real change can be reached by exchange (change by exchange).

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