Our RPTU Story

From university to the ministry: In the footsteps of Luisa Mayer (alumna two-subject Bachelor)

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Luisa Mayer studied a two-subject Bachelor's degree in Landau. After studying political science and philosophy in the Southern Palatinate, she completed an English-language Master's degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Magdeburg. Today she works at the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of the Interior and Sport. Last year, Luisa Mayer returned to her university in Landau to teach a key skills course on the topic of "Social Discrimination Structures", which is organized by the Competence Centre for Studies and Careers (KSB). In an interview with us, she shares her experiences from her time at university, how she dealt with doubts about studying and why it is important for her to bring her seminar topic closer to young people.

What made you decide to study in Landau?

I really wanted to study political science and as it was important to me to be close to my home town of Speyer and to start my studies in the summer semester when choosing a university, I decided on Landau. In addition to Political Science, I studied Philosophy as a basic subject and Intercultural Education as an elective subject in my two-subject Bachelor's degree. At the beginning of my studies, I was still a bit at a loss and didn't know whether I had chosen the right second subject, which is not uncommon for many students. But in the end, it turned out to be a very good choice that led me to the career I enjoy.

How did you perceive your time at university?

Very intensive, especially the time from my Bachelor's degree to my semester abroad in Poland. I simply did too much, took too many seminars in too short a time and wrote too many exams. I wouldn't do the same thing today, I would take more time. It definitely wasn't good for my health and, looking back, I should have enjoyed my time at university more. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed studying. I'm now in my day-to-day work and often think back to my studies.

What do you currently do for a living?

In August 2023, I started a new position as a parliamentary and cabinet affairs officer in the Minister's Office of the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of the Interior and Sport. The activities in my area of responsibility include the interface function between the specialist departments and the top management in answering parliamentary questions. In addition, this department also coordinates preparations for plenary and committee meetings, ministerial conferences at federal level and the Council of Ministers.

Did you already know during your Bachelor's degree where you wanted to go professionally?

When I started my studies, I had no idea what I wanted to do after my Bachelor's degree. That changed during my internship in the Bundestag, where I got to know the scientific work in the Bundestag and knew that I would like to work in politics.

Were you politically active during your studies?

I joined the SPD while I was at school and was active in the local association. From 2015, I supported refugees and offered homework support, for example. I was a mentor at the university, at the Competence Center for Studies and Careers, where I acted as a contact person for students. During my bachelor's degree, I also received a scholarship from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. This gave me the opportunity to train as a seminar leader and I was the spokesperson for a working group there. After moving to Magdeburg, I spent three years as a youth ambassador for the development policy lobbying and campaigning organization ONE, which engages in dialogue with the public and political decision-makers to combat extreme poverty and preventable diseases, among other things. As a team member of Team Global, I led workshops on sustainability in schools and was the contact person for finance, networking and social issues for the Viva con Aqua crew. Looking back, all my commitments were a lot of fun, but also very challenging.

What kind of scholarship was that?

I was accepted into the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's basic sponsorship program. The decisive factor for the award was not the grade point average - this should be at least in the good range - but the voluntary commitment and identification with the basic values of this foundation. I myself would never have expected to be considered for a scholarship. Accordingly, I can only recommend all committed students to submit an application to a suitable foundation.

Did you do a Master's degree?

Yes, I studied Peace and Conflict Studies in Magdeburg for my Master's degree. I was originally thinking of doing a master's degree in political science, but during my bachelor's degree I discovered my passion for international relations. If I remember correctly, the former managing director of the Peace Academy Rhineland-Palatinate gave a guest lecture on peace and conflict research as part of the lecture "Introduction to International Relations" in module 6 of political science. It made a big impression on me and was ultimately a decisive factor in my later choice of a Master's degree course.

Did you ever have doubts about your studies?

During my bachelor's degree, I was told by people around me - sometimes "humorously" - that I was studying art for no reason and was repeatedly asked what I wanted to do with it. At the time, however, I wasn't interested in this because I had just come out of an aborted apprenticeship as a bank clerk and I knew that the apprenticeship wasn't right for me and that I would rather study. I enjoyed my studies and made a conscious decision to study subjects that really interested me.

During my Master's, I often had the unfounded fear that I wouldn't get a job. The people who, like me, were part of the international politics network were the best of the best for me, who it felt like held a hundred honorary positions and never rested. In comparison, I thought that my previous achievements were not enough. At the time, I didn't realize that I was very good at what I was doing. Looking back, I take away from this time that doubts are normal during your studies and that it is important not to constantly compare yourself with other people. Instead, you should realize your worth and focus on yourself.

What would you say to students who are worried about the future or have doubts about their studies?

I think it's more fulfilling to study something you're passionate about. You shouldn't look at which degree earns you the most money. In my experience, the technical knowledge you learn during your studies is only a fraction of the actual skills you acquire. You gain comprehensive insights into your own personality and acquire interdisciplinary skills from which you benefit in your career. The most important thing for me is honesty. Ask yourself: What do I enjoy and what is my passion?

What tips would you give students for their time at university?

  • Exam periods can be annoying, but try to enjoy this time anyway.
  • Seek help if you need it, regardless of the situation.
  • Studying is not an education after which you usually know exactly what you are going to do with it. You have many more options than you think.
  • Take advantage of offers and further education outside of university. I did a yoga course during my Master's and even if I don't give yoga classes now, I benefit from it every day. I think understanding that brings a lot of security.
  • It's okay not to go out every weekend and stay at home instead.

In the summer semester of 2022, you offered a key skills course at your former university here in Landau on the topic of "Social discrimination structures: perception, thematization & handling". Why was it important to you to offer this course?

In my opinion, the topic of "social discrimination structures" is neglected in social and academic discourse, but above all in the discourse with young academics. In particular, people who are not affected often do not perceive discrimination as such in everyday life - be it in the private, professional or public sphere. In my opinion, raising awareness of the extent to which one's own behavior is discriminatory and how I, as a person not affected by discrimination, can behave in discriminatory situations are essential skills that we need to establish within society.  

I found the key skills course very enriching - for me too. I believe that a number of "aha" moments occurred in relation to certain discrimination structures. The course showed me that there is a need for exchange and discussion and that the participants are willing to uncover and admit their own discriminatory behavior through self-reflection.

What's next for you?

I am currently very happy. I can very well imagine staying in politics. But I can just as well imagine that if you ask me about my job again in a few years' time, I'll do something else in the meantime. I see many opportunities for my professional future because I am well trained and good at what I do. I can say that today without any great shame, it wasn't always like that.

Photo: Private