Rising to the (next) challenge
Young people today are often seen as self-centered and apathetic, but these epithets certainly do not apply to Tanzeem Haque. Lots of things annoy her, and this motivates her to take action in very diverse areas.
“I believe that if one has time for voluntary work, one should do it,” says Tanzeem Haque. A petite figure with dark curly hair, Haque (29) has just been presented with the DAAD Prize. In the Large Conference Room in LMU’s International Office, she might easily be overlooked - if it were not for the unmistakable energy that animates her when she talks about the many part-time jobs and voluntary commitments she has taken on, in addition to her studies. She works as a paramedic and youth leader for the Red Cross, and is actively involved in the Students’ Council at LMU. – Not that she ever let these activities interfere with her studies. Her Bachelor’s thesis in Bioinformatics, completed when her daughter was only 2 years old, was awarded the highest grade. And having been selected to receive the DAAD Prize for her academic accomplishments and her services to the wider community, she has now earned a further distinction.
“But I didn’t do any of that in the hope of winning a prize or with the intention of impressing people,” says Haque. Her work for the Students’ Council and for the Red Cross is motivated by the desire to change things for the better, she explains. For instance, her decision to take a course in first aid came about by chance. “It was at the Oktoberfest, and a young woman suddenly collapsed before my eyes,” she says. “We all stood around her, shocked and anxious – but no one knew what could be done to help her. And I decided there and then to change that.”
“You have to get worked up if you want to change things”
Her interest in student affairs was also stimulated by a specific issue. When she heard that the Students Council had been unable to find anyone to take on the post of Equality Officer, she applied for the position herself. Her immediate aim was to improve the position of students with young children at the University. “One can of course interrupt one’s studies in order to look after a child,” she says. “But I think it is important that one can continue to attend courses and still be able to take care of young children.” She herself is familiar with the challenges that this presents. When she collects her daughter from kindergarten, Haque’s first priority is to devote herself to the child’s needs. Her studies and her voluntary work must take a backseat, and must be done later in the evening. Naturally enough, there are times when she dearly wishes she had more time for everything: “Time to take this or that exam, for instance,” she sighs.
Yet Haque herself is brimming with energy. She speaks rapidly and has much to tell about her various jobs and her voluntary work – and about why she has become involved in such a wide range of areas: “When I get involved in something new,” she says, “it is usually because something has made me angry. Many people ask: ‘Why do you get so worked up about this or that?’ But you have to get worked up if you really want to change something.”
“It gives me pleasure to reach my goals”
Haque arrived in Munich from Bangladesh in 2003. “Actually, my parents are the reason I’m here. They decided that I should study Medicine – because there were no doctors in our family.” And because medical education in Germany is widely recognized as being of high quality, she chose to come here to study. But in the end, Medicine didn’t really appeal to her, as she realized while convalescing after a serious accident, which forced her to break off her studies for a long period. By the time she had fully recovered, she had realized that her interests lay elsewhere. She switched to Bioinformatics and is now doing her Master’s degree in the subject. “Of course, my parents were not at all pleased at first,” she recalls. “But with time they came to accept my decision – particularly since I earned my first university degree."
After she has finished her Master’s, Haque would like to continue her research. Although she suspects that, at the age of 29, she may already be too old for a full-time research career, she intends to give it a try nevertheless. “It simply gives me great pleasure when I succeed in doing what I set out to do,” she says.