Our RPTU Story

Volunteering instead of waitressing: how scholarships can boost student finances

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Voluntary work is time-consuming, often strenuous and usually virtually unpaid. Nevertheless, almost 40 percent of Germans volunteer for a good cause in their free time. One of them is Katarina, 22 years old and a student at RPTU in Landau. As a result of her many years of work for the scouts, she has received a scholarship. She told us how this changed her relationship to volunteering, paid work and finances. She also dispels clichés about highly gifted scholarship holders and scouts selling cookies.

Scouts have long played an important role in Katarina's life: At the age of seven she joined the scouts and spent a large part of her childhood in the association there. "In the weekly group sessions, which were led by people in their teens, we played a lot, but there were also always events that lasted for whole days. You can imagine it like a vacation camp," says Katarina. When she graduated from high school in 2020, she had been a group leader herself for several years. For her studies of Sozial- und Kommunikationswissenschaften an der RPTU she moved to Landau. But that hasn't stopped her from continuing her involvement with the scouts. "I think many young people end their involvement after leaving school because they move. You could also change the scout group when you move house, but it's a bit like joining a soccer club. In a way, you're born into it," laughs Katarina.

Katarina has a special scholarship to thank for the fact that she didn't have to turn her back on her commitment and hobby after leaving school to earn a living with a part-time job like many students. Let's award it from the Stipendienstiftung Rheinland-Pfalz and is aimed at "talented students who stand out in a special way through their social commitment." Like many others, Katarina initially thought that you had to have top marks in every subject in order to apply for this kind of funding. Good grades are indeed a prerequisite, but you don't have to have a 1.0 average. What counts for this scholarship is, above all, commitment to society. Every year, the foundation supports around 400 students and graduates who are in financial need, have children or are socially committed like Katarina. The students are selected by the universities themselves.

Scholarship instead of Bafög

Katarina explains that she found it difficult to give an average number of hours for her work when applying for the scholarship: "I work 24/7 at camps and courses, including at night. Other weeks it might be two or three hours." She has much more positive memories of her application to the scholarship foundation than her Bafög application: "I still remember getting lost in a mountain of documents at the beginning of the first semester to apply for Bafög. It was a complete disaster for me". As with many other students, the stress wasn't worth it: Katarina still doesn't receive any Bafög to this day.

Work is not possible without appreciation

"Thanks to the scholarship, I definitely worry less about money," Katarina reflects. In general, however, she is a thrifty person who is good at assessing where cutbacks are possible. Katarina's view of work has also changed fundamentally as a result of the scholarship: "Before I had the scholarship, I sometimes compared my working hours with others and realized that I was working more and receiving less money for it," says Katarina. "Of course, the point of volunteering is not to do it for the money," she admits. If the scholarship money were a regular salary, she would be "grossly underpaid". Nevertheless, for her it is one of the rare material appreciations of her voluntary work. "People are always thanking me for what I do. But I was missing some kind of official thank you." The scholarship is perfect for this.

From participant to organizer

Even though Katarina no longer lives in her hometown and can get involved locally, people are needed at the national level of the scout associations to take on important tasks. Katarina is currently working in the federal association in the podcast editorial team and the "Participation" specialist group. And she is still involved in her home district. Here she sits on the "Anti-discrimination" working group and takes on a number of public relations tasks. She also teaches other volunteers on courses on how to become good group leaders.

Teaching values as work

Through the scouts, Katarina was able to make friends with people from all over Germany. Everyone works together towards one goal: The children should have a great time and, ideally, take something valuable away with them. This is a particular concern of the "Anti-Discrimination" working group: "For example, we come up with ideas on how the group leaders can communicate what is behind racism. With seven-year-old children, we can't start with the definition of cultural appropriation. It's more about encouraging their empathy for other people and other cultures, which is a basis for anti-discrimination," explains Katarina. The working group therefore devised a game in which feelings have to be mimed and guessed. Because: "This helps the children understand, for example, how unpleasant it feels to be sad and not wish it on others." Katarina has been sensitized to such social issues through her studies, among other things. For example, she attended courses on the social structure of modern societies as well as social psychology with a focus on groups and interaction. Katarina perceives the Scouts as more inclusive than the rest of society: "At grammar school, I hardly had any points of contact with people with disabilities or from other social classes. There is still room for improvement in the Scouts, but we are generally much more mixed."

Text: Lena Frohn
Photo: private

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