Since 2011, the Alumni Association of the Vienna School of International Studies has been awarding up to five students with ClubDA Scholarships annually. With this initiative, ClubDA members are proud to support the next generation of DA students and to make sure that they are able to receive the same excellent academic education, which our alumni themselves enjoyed and enabled them to start their successful careers.

ClubDA Scholarships are open to first-year students enrolled in the DA’s Master of Advanced International Studies (MAIS), Master of Science in Environmental Technology and International Affairs (ETIA) as well as the Diploma Programme (DLG).

ClubDA Scholarship Awardees 2020-21

Nourhan Dib

Introducing Nourhan Dib

MAIS 25 student and ClubDA Scholarship awardee 2020-21

What was your main motivation for enrolling in the DA?

There were many drives that led me to finish my advanced studies at the DA, the first being my interest in International Studies, seeing as the DA employed a general  approach to all International fields. However, my primary motive, despite the university’s great standing and prestige, was the support given via the tuition waiver. Coming from Lebanon, the financial situation was tough and the DA presented me with a very affordable method to be able to finish my Masters in a university of my choosing.

Could you name one experience which influenced and shaped you into the person you are today?

From my seemingly short 24 years of life, the most effective experience is definitely getting diagnosed with Diabetes type 1 at 18 years old. It was a very shocking revelation and changed my general outlook on life. I have since then changed my life goals entirely, having originally been in Pre-Med, I decided to go after a field I am more passionate about and to commit to my hobbies more. I’ve realized that life is honestly too short to not be doing what you find enjoyment and passion in.

What is the single most important thing you have learned during your first year at the DA?

Since most of my first year was spent through online classes and exams, I believe I have learned not to procrastinate any reading until the last couple of weeks before exams! This is especially after spending overnights to make up for procrastination during the study week, particularly in the International History course as it was especially hard to keep up with all the readings then.

Have you experienced any challenges during the first year of MAIS and what has helped you overcome them?

I believe it is generally agreed upon by all of us in the DA right now that the main challenges have come with the global pandemic. Not only has it been troublesome to deal with online classes and exams, but the lack of human interaction and a proper social life with others at the DA has increased the difficulty. This does not only affect students. I am sure the DA staff and professors are also finding many troubles in keeping this academic year as normal as possible despite the COVID situation, their efforts should be appreciated. I think that a lot of our current issues will be solved once this pandemic passes.

What do you miss most about regular in-person teaching at the DA from before the lockdown?

I miss so many things but the thing I desperately long for is going out for dinner or lunch after a long day of classes or meeting up with others for a coffee before class. I long for these social interactions that we used to take for granted pre-COVID. Additionally, with the 2-meter social distance, I miss just generally being around people, whether at a party or a meetup, and just having random conversations.

What advice would you give for the next generation of MAIS students?

Know your limits. I feel that understanding one’s own limitations is an important part of self-growth and progress and it isn’t emphasized enough. It is very clear that not everyone is the same. What could be easily grasped by some isn’t so easily understood by others and this difference should be normalized and accepted. Instead of beating yourself up over not being as good or skilled as someone else, understand where you stand and take baby steps towards a practical and objective goal.

Would you like to get involved with the DA’s alumni network in the future?

Of course! In the end, the DA has always seemed like a big family that branches out to the entire globe. I look forward to keeping in touch with all my fellow alumni and the general network in the future. I’m also very curious and excited to see the different future accomplishments of everyone that graduates!

This interview was conducted by Maria Khoruk, who is enrolled in the DA's 25th MAIS programme.

[April 2021]

Maria Khoruk

Introducing Maria Khoruk

MAIS 25 student and ClubDA Scholarship awardee 2020-21

Maria KhorukWhat was your main motivation for enrolling in the DA?

Before deciding on the DA, I had looked into applying for quite different study programmes including one in an applied arts university: my interests have never been focused on a single field and that is why it was important for me to do an interdisciplinary degree. I appreciate that the DA is open to students from various backgrounds — it certainly adds depth to class discussions, and I have learned a lot from my colleagues.

Could you name one experience which influenced and shaped you into the person you are today?

Moving to Vienna on my own when I was eighteen was certainly the biggest influence on who I am today. It had been a long journey and it had its ups and downs. Moving to a completely new country with the prospect of staying long-term when you just finished high school is at the same time, the most exciting thing, and the biggest challenge.

Have you experienced any challenges during the first year of MAIS and what has helped you to overcome them?

I definitely underestimated how distance-learning would affect my ability to focus and be productive. If I were to repeat the second term during which teaching took place fully online, I would probably take less courses than I did. The environment at the DA is stimulating for achieving amazing results and being involved in many societies, but I found that during the pandemic it was equally important to step back and make sure to get enough rest.

What is your biggest takeaway of the COVID-pandemic?

I took a course on human security in the context of pandemics last term and one of the key issues we discussed was building resilient communities in order to cope with the changes that the pandemic has brought about. I like to think of the DA as an example of such a community. Adapting to the new circumstances is always a learning process, but having a “safety net” of the DA’s students, professors and the whole team working and growing together makes it easier.

What are your plans after graduation and where do you see yourself in the future?

I always plan a few steps ahead, but try to stay flexible. While at the DA, my views of what I want to do after graduation have already changed, and I want to stay open for new opportunities. In the big picture, though, I am extremely interested in questions of development and migration, and doing field work.

What advice would you give for the next generation of MAIS students?

Try to have a healthy balance between your academic life and your social life. Being around a group of brilliant and highly motivated students and great professors makes it easy to delve into studying and prioritize it over everything else, but these two years are also a time for connecting with others, so take advantage of the DA’s social events and make sure to explore Vienna.

Would you like to get involved with the DA’s alumni network in the future?

Certainly, I would! I have already benefited from the career talks, events, and workshops organized by the ClubDA, and I want to stay connected with the DA alumni network after graduating. It is rare and very valuable to have a global community where people are so approachable, supportive and open to share their insights. I would love to give back to this community in the future.

This interview was conducted by Agnieszka Maria Kuderer, who is enrolled in the DA's 14th ETIA programme.

[April 2021]

Agnieszka Maria Kuderer

Introducing Agnieszka Maria Kuderer

ETIA 14 student and ClubDA Scholarship awardee 2020-21

Agnieszka Maria KudererWhat brought you to the DA and why have you chosen ETIA?

My longstanding interest in environmental issues influenced my choice to pursue a career path that is meaningful to me. The ETIA programme seemed like the perfect choice; it combines various dimensions and allows me to include technical and political aspects into my expertise. I have a legal background and I have already worked in the field of International and Medical Law. Currently, I am also studying African Studies at the University of Vienna. I truly believe that this combination will help me to see the bigger picture in the combat against the pressing environmental issues of our future.

What impact did the ClubDA Scholarship have on your first academic year?

It was certainly a cash injection I really appreciated at that time. From my own personal point of view, the COVID-pandemic has brought some unexpected consequences which no one could have foreseen. Certainly, the ClubDA Scholarship eased the burden on me and allowed me to fully focus on my studies and my future career.

What is your biggest takeaway of the COVID-pandemic?

I have been on the road quite a lot, and this has always come with great experiences, but sometimes, also distraction. The COVID-pandemic somehow allowed me to slow down and focus on my own vision as well as my own path. On the other hand, it challenged me personally, to become more pro-active among my colleagues since we did not really have a lot of opportunities to meet in person. Although we all spent a lot of time on Zoom together one could still feel quite isolated. Despite the circumstances, I think we all managed well to build a sense of community and that is certainly due to the motivation and creativity of all great individuals at the DA.

Name one experience abroad which influenced and shaped you to the person you are today?

Travelling has definitely broadened my horizons and shaped my view of an inclusive world. When spending several months in Myanmar some years ago, I had the great pleasure to talk to a very wise Buddhist monk named Ivan about connections and how every choice and step of ours influences not only ourselves, but the whole environment. This experience helps me to live gently and honestly as well as it encourages self-reflection.

What are your plans after graduation and where do you see yourself in the future?

I believe that sustainable management of the environment and its resources requires multidisciplinary and integrated knowledge. The ETIA programme provides me with a solid basis to tackle environmental issues on a global level. My goal is to contribute competently to resource management as a policy-maker capable of using cross-disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges.

How do you prefer to spend your free time?

In my free time I really enjoy connecting with my family and friends while cooking, making music or having inspiring discussions. Also, I love to practice yoga to balance my mind and exercise in nature.

How and in which form would you want to be involved with DA’s alumni network?

Sharing of insights and experience is crucial to address complex global challenges our societies are facing. I hope to give back to this community, that has welcomed me so warmly by contributing actively within the network, and by supporting future students financially.

This interview was conducted by Lydia Maria Lienhart, who is enrolled in the DA's 25th MAIS programme.

[April 2021]

Lydia Maria Lienhart

Introducing Lydia Maria Lienhart

MAIS 25 student and ClubDA Scholarship awardee 2020-21

Lydia Maria LienhartWhat was your educational background before you came to the DA?

Prior to my studies at university, I went to a special type of secondary school with a focus on agriculture and nutritional science in Carinthia. After that I acquired a Bachelor degree in Economics at the University of Graz.

What brought you to the DA and why did you choose MAIS?

Most of all, my interest in transdisciplinary studies. I have always been interested in History, Law and Political Science. I wanted to find a way to connect that with my previous studies and the MAIS Program provides exactly that.

How did the ClubDA Scholarship impact your academic year?

The ClubDA Scholarship motivated me to try as hard as I can and give it my best, as it also motivated me to work towards the tuition waver, because the two together are a big support for my first year and it also impacted me in form of helping me to manage my second year at the academy.

How much has this pandemic changed your expectations for the academic year and how have you managed to stay productive during lockdown?

I am a person who tries to make the best of every situation. Because of the pandemic, I knew that we would miss out on a lot, but I tried to make the best of it and find its advantages. I was able to completely submerge myself into studying and make the most of the DA experience academically. To stay productive I need structure and a clear schedule, which I had and that helped a lot. I also did a lot of sports, like YouTube Workouts, to keep me motivated.

What was the highlight of your time at the DA despite the pandemic?

I don’t have one big highlight, but a couple of small things that stand out. Especially the helpful study groups we formed and, when the guidelines allowed it, meeting some friends for coffee. Studying with my new friends helped to make this pandemic bearable.

What do you plan to do after finishing your studies?

I am still undecided on that and I still have some to time to decide what I want to do. However, during my time at the DA I realized that I really like writing scientific papers and that is also why I think about doing my PhD after graduating at the DA. I am more and more motivated to pursue this path.

If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?

If I could have dinner with one person it would be with Swiss Professor Hans Rosling, who died a couple of years ago. He worked for Doctors without Borders and wrote many books. He used facts and statistics to guide his decisions as a doctor in a developing country. He advocates for a fact-based world-view. I’m convinced that the world needs more of this. I would ask him for advice on how young economists or young professionals can advocate for more fact-based decision making and ask him for his biggest insight into development statistics.

Let’s talk networking, how would you like to be involved in the DA’s alumni network after your graduation?

After I graduate, I would love to be a part of the DA’s alumni network and also take part in Reunions. I want to stay connected to everyone I have met. Furthermore, as soon as I am able, I also want to support future students during their time at the academy, like ClubDA supported me during this time.

This interview was conducted by Hannah Theresa Seidl, who is enrolled in the DA's 57th Diploma Programme.

[April 2021]

Hannah Theresa Seidl

Introducing Hannah Theresa Seidl

DLG 57 student and ClubDA Scholarship awardee 2020-21

What was your educational background before you came to the DA?

I have a BA in History and a MA in Global History and Global Studies from the University of Vienna.

What brought you to the DA and why did you choose DLG?

I wanted to pursue a career as a diplomat and the DLG program is the best program to prepare one for this job and also to prepare for the A-Préalable. Therefore, I thought that I can further advance and improve my skills in French in the DA.

How did the ClubDA Scholarship impact your academic year?

It helped a lot in the form of support. The DLG program is full time, which means I could only work on the weekends and that took a lot of time away from studying. The scholarship made it possible so that I don’t have to work as much on the weekends anymore and can focus on my academic work!

How much has this pandemic changed your expectations for the academic year and how have you managed to stay productive during lockdown?

The pandemic changed my expectations of learning and adapting to new and different situations. I am a positive person and I am trying to see the good in everything. This year that I saw in front of the computer screen was a new challenge and a learning opportunity. I stay productive by staying positive. I go for daily walks, spend time with my family and allow myself to enjoy things that make me happy, like taking the time to read a nice book or watching a new TV show.

What was the highlight of your time at the DA despite the pandemic?

The highlight so far was meeting a lot of new people and making new friends even though we can only communicate online. I really appreciate the support of my colleagues and the way we try to get through this year together.

What do you plan to do after finishing your studies? In what way do you plan on changing the world?

I plan to take the A-Préalable and enter the foreign service. I don’t know if I will do it right away after this year or try to gain some more work experience before that. It’s all a little unclear now.
When it comes to changing the world, I don’t know! I don’t believe that a single person can change the world! But I will try to be a good person that will do the best to make the world around me a better place.

If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?

As a historian, this is a very hard question to answer, as there are a lot of people who I would love to talk to and ask about their thoughts on all kind of issues and topics. But if I could, I would love to talk to Immanuel Wallerstein about his world-system theory, as his theory shaped my studies in Global History and had had a big impact on it.

Let’s talk networking, how would you like to be involved in the DA’s alumni network after your graduation?

After I graduate, I would love to be a part of the DA’s alumni network, in a personal and professional capacity. I want to keep in touch with all the people I met during my time at the academy. Also, if I am able to do so at some point in my professional career, I would also love to support some students financially, giving back the help I received!

This interview was conducted by Norhan Dib, who is enrolled in the DA's 25th MAIS programme.

[April 2021]

ClubDA Scholarship Awardees 2019-20

Castro Amponsah-Yeboah

Castro Amponsah-YeboahSilent and observant, in the breaks between classes, you can find him in the background of Tipsy Weasel, always on the lookout, analysing. No wonder Castro Amponsah-Yeboah, already in his early days as a researcher, was the first one to identify fungal species (mycogene sp.) in dry cocoa beans in his home country Ghana. Nor is it surprising that he was hired as a field auditor for collection and analysing agronomic data on crops. He is all about perception.

Castro holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture, and is currently pursuing a cooperative degree between Johns Hopkins University SAIS and the Diplomatische Akademie Wien - Vienna School of International Studies.

What brought him to Vienna? Though he enjoys the Viennese lifestyle, he came here for another reason. A good one, too. “My goal is to help improve the socio-economic conditions of the incredibly resilient, yet highly disadvantaged people in rural Ghana and Africa.”

This interest stems from him being exposed to many concerning issues while working in the poverty alleviation sector and various development programmes. It was there that he developed a particular interest in helping sensitive groups such as women, children, the physically challenged, and other voiceless people, who, in his opinion, happen to be the majority in Africa.

Before coming to Vienna, Castro was keeping himself busy. He worked with German Development Cooperation in partnership with G12. Since 2010, he has been a budget analyst of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Ghana. In the capacity of an assistant of the Director of Election of Sunyani Municipal Assembly in 2012 Biometric Voter Registration, he voluntarily helped enabling potential voters to be registered. An internship with the Electoral Commission of Ghana and Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, subjected him to practical cases of corruption and social and administrative injustices. This experience ignited his interest in public accountability, good governance, social justice and development.

To follow his passions, he realised he needed to acquire more practical skills. Thus, he went for an MBA graduate programme in Corporate Finance from the University of Bologna in July 2017, eventually landing in Vienna to continue his pursuits for the applicable knowledge at the DA. Here he deepens his understanding of gender and development policies in order to fulfil his goal, namely “to bring about real improvements to citizens’ lives rather than introducing more bureaucracy.”

One could easily imagine him pulling it off. Because, one thing is certain, his time is yet to come.

Ivan Pantelić, the author of this portrait, is enrolled in the DA's 24th MAIS programme.

[March 2020]

Ivan Pantelić

Ivan PantelićAlways busy, Ivan is an all-rounder who never sits still. Indeed, he always has a lot on his plate. During the last trimester, he directed a film, wrote several articles, managed a team of corporate writers on a daily basis, played guitar in a few performances, and still managed to attend every single lesson at the Diplomatic Academy and take all the exams.

Ivan holds a Bachelor’s of Theatre Directing and is about to obtain his Master's from the University of Applied Arts Vienna. In the past decade, he has been working as a copywriter and marketing consultant for small, medium and big businesses. In between, you could have found him in various artistic residences around the globe. Before coming to the Academy, he did quite a few things. He was a presenter and workshop maker at many political conferences worldwide, most notably in New York, Berlin, and Budapest. His art works were exhibited or screened in 4 continents. In addition, he was on the editorial board of several literary journals and has been regularly contributing to tertiary literature publications of publishers such as Springer NY.

How did he end up at the DA? That’s quite a story. He started out as a theatre director. Working as an assistant director in major theatres in Serbia and having directed several productions himself, he soon realised no stage theatre can provide a stage big enough to address the real social issues. Coming from Serbia, he has seen ramifications of wars and displacement, and over time grew ardent to contribute where he can.

His eagerness to tackle complex societal problems instead of doing art for art’s sake brought him to study Social Design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. There he realised he still has a lot to learn to truly embetter the world. How does one move from commenting politics to participating in real decision-making processes? “In order to try and change the world, we must first understand how it works”. And to arrive at that point, he had to look for the right school. The Academy he believes to be a place which will give him both intellectual stimulus and practical know-how to see his plans through.

What does he like best about the DA? Apart from enjoying vivid discussions with bright colleagues and knowledgeable professors in a rewarding international environment, he appreciates the multidisciplinary approach in teaching. This he finds both accommodating for his Renaissance spirit, and necessary to bring about any meaningful change in the world. “To tackle complexities we are facing in our societies, multidisciplinary holistic approach is a must.”

His only regret is the lack of time. Two years is a time too short to fully enjoy the DA: to connect with its greater network, as well as attend all those insightful courses that sometimes overlap. But he is an optimist: “ClubDA will be there to keep us together after the study time is over. And what a marvelous job they do!”

Castro Amponsah-Yeboah, the author of this portrait, is enrolled in the DA‘s 23rd MAIS programme.

[March 2020]

Fabian Kracmar

Fabian KracmarWhat brought you to the DA and why have you chosen ETIA?

Since the beginning of my Bachelors, I aimed to study at the DA. Since high school, I have collected academic, professional and volunteering experiences in 8 countries, on 4 different continents. These experiences included volunteering in a day center for the homeless in London, as well as regional and multilateral representations in Brussels and NYC. All these experiences prepared me perfectly for the DA, and motivated me even more to study here. Sustainable Development and Environment were always my focus, and I truly believe that with the ETIA programme, the DA has established a crucial educational programme to combat the biggest issues and challenges the world will face in the near future.

What impact did the ClubDA Scholarship have on your first academic year?

The scholarship will help me finance the upcoming study trip to the Ukraine, and I will use the remaining amount for the tuitions. This helps me a lot in focusing even more on my studies and contributing to the DA social/societal activities.

What is/are your personal highlight(s) of the Diplomatic Academy?

My personal highlight - so far - was indeed the DA ski trip. A group of around 75 people going skiing, après-ski and occupying the only “Dorfdisco” in the village was such a great and fun experience. Another highlight are my fellow friends and colleagues at the DA, who are all so unique, with such interesting backgrounds and personalities. They are truly the DA’s main assets.

Name one experience abroad which influenced and shaped you to the person you are today?

All of my experiences abroad worked to shape me into the person I am today. To name one specifically: In 2018, I volunteered at an NGO in a village in Central India working on rural development, women empowerment and especially people suffering from the Agrarian Crisis. Living in rudimental conditions with such a colourful and interesting culture opened my mind even more and taught me to appreciate the little things in life. Helping with and working on these issues deepened my interests in Sustainable Development and Equality even more.

What are your plans after graduation and where do you see yourself in the future?

I am planning another development project during the summer after graduation somewhere in the Global South and to combine the project with travels. After that, I would like to work for an IO, the government, or an NGO, and focus on sustainable development, especially on climate change and the usage of natural resources. In the future, I would like to work in a job where I can contribute to a better, sustainable and equal future for all.

How do you prefer to spend your free time?

Friends, friends, friends. I love socialising and spending my free time with friends. Playing sports, cooking, chatting, dancing or playing games. As long as everyone is having a good time, I am happy. To balance the intense times I am dedicating for studying, I practice piano, like to draw something, or simply take my bike somewhere green to get a clear mind.

How and in which form would you want to be involved with DA’s alumni network?

The alumni network is a great possibility to stay connected with like-minded people and networking is also something I really enjoy. If my future job allows it, I would like to contribute financially to support future students with a scholarship, and I would like to become a mentor and share experiences in a career talk.

This interview was conducted by Rudolf Schatz, who is enrolled in the DA’s 24th MAIS programme.

[March 2020]

Rudolf Schatz

Rudolf SchatzWhat brought you to the DA and why have you chosen MAIS/ETIA?

Becoming a graduate student at the DA was a goal of mine since I finished high school, when I decided that I want to pursue a career at the Austrian Foreign Ministry one day. As someone who is particularly interested in both politics and history, the DA’s multidisciplinary programme was the perfect choice to develop my academic knowledge in both fields at the same time. Another important aspect for me was the prospect to be able to study and spend time with colleagues from all over the world who share the same goals and interests.

What impact did the ClubDA Scholarship have on your first academic year?

The ClubDA Scholarship was of great help to me. The main impact it had was the fact that it took the burden of financial uncertainty away, thus allowing me to focus entirely on my academic success. In addition, it allows me to join our study trips, which are an essential part of learning about and understanding events abroad.

What is/are your personal highlight(s) of the Diplomatic Academy?

After the first two terms at the DA, I already had the chance to make a lot of good memories. For me personally, I want to use my time at the DA not only for improving my academic understanding, but also especially for making long-term friendships and getting in touch with people. This is why the academy’s social events are special to me. The kick-off Weinwandertag, the Brexit-themed Halloween Party and the DA Ball were my personal highlights so far, and I hope there will be more to come.

Name one experience abroad which influenced and shaped you to the person you are today?

One influential experience abroad I made was during my time in Russia, when I had the opportunity to work for a local NGO. It was my second time in Russia, but the first time outside of Moscow, in a city called Samara. Life there was completely different, and in order to overcome the obstacles of a new life in a new country, I learned to become the positive and adaptive character I am today. Also, by becoming more outgoing, I was able to establish friendships with locals that have lasted until today.

What are your plans after graduation and where do you see yourself in the future?

After graduation, I want to take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow as a little reward to myself. After that, I will start preparing for the A-Préalable, which I hope will be in 2021. In the future, I see myself working in remote places around the globe, pursuing, and hopefully also living, my personal dream.

How do you prefer to spend your free time?

My favourite sports activity has always been playing football. This is why I play football at the Theresianum every Tuesday with my colleagues from the DA. I also enjoy going for a run and going to the gym every now and then. Nonetheless, I also enjoy “couch potato activities” like watching series or playing games with my flatmates. However, a good party with my friends is something I would not want to miss either.

How and in which form would you want to be involved with DA’s alumni network?

Until now, I already had the chance to participate once at a DA alumni event, when we visited the House of Austrian History. Even though I am not an alumnus yet, I enjoyed the time and the event a lot. In case I will get the opportunity to work in different countries one day, I would love to join the chapter meetings and get in touch with like-minded people, sharing stories of the time at the DA and enjoying a cold beer.

This interview was conducted by Fabian Kracmar, who is enrolled in the DA’s 13th ETIA programme.

[March 2020]