From housing projects to an elite Master’s program
The term "non-academic household" does not begin to describe it: Marlia I Gusti Bagus grew up in a social housing estate, her single mother was not in a position to provide education. These were the cliché prerequisites for an existence at the bottom end of society. But Marlia wanted to get out of this life, to study, to do research, to impart knowledge - also through the Germany Scholarship with success.
Marlia I Gusti Bagus grew up in the housing projects on the outskirts of Hamburg. Her father, an Indonesian, abandoned the family when she was just five years old. Her mother was unable to convey any sense of education being important. “They weren’t the best conditions for being successful later on in life!” the 28-year-old recalls. But Marlia fought her way to the top. By the time she reached her last year of elementary school, she was dreaming of climbing the social ladder. Accordingly, she was anxious to attend an academic high school (“Gymnasium” in German), even though this meant a long bus journey by herself, every single day, to the other side of the city. Every small success reinforced her confidence, and she set her goals higher and higher. And so she advanced through secondary school. In 2010 she passed her advanced school leaving exams — the first and only child in the family to do so. Her grade: 1.9 (good).
Marlia is now studying neurosciences at the LMU in Munich. In a nutshell, neurosciences covers everything that’s connected with the brain. Her work involves creating data models based on nerve activity. She conducts experiments to see whether her theories match up with real life. She knows most of her professors personally. And because her course of study involves a great deal of machine learning, Marlia has even learned computer programming. She’s currently engaged on an internship in an IT consulting company where she develops machine learning algorithms for various data analyses. Her friends describe her as resolute and extremely ambitious. She graduated in biology, achieving a grade of 1.6 (good), and presented the results of her bachelor’s dissertation to medical professionals and neuroscientists at a symposium in Starnberg. In 2019, she published her first paper for which she was the lead author.
“I really enjoy presenting my academic work and sharing my insights with others,” Marlia emphasizes. But she wouldn’t be able to do so without the help of the Deutschlandstipendium scholarship. Her family, of course, was not able to contribute any money towards her studies. And various trusts rejected her applications for scholarships because she’d “wasted” too much time after leaving school before beginning her studies. “That was unfair!” Marlia says. Because she’d spent the interim period volunteering in Columbia, where she helped out at a school for deaf and disabled children. From the time she was fifteen through to the time she moved to Munich, she also helped out in parenting classes at a nearby youth center, where she was responsible for childcare, organizing music events, and interpreting for youth exchanges. And she continued her social engagement when she started studying — as a mentor in the LMU’s “peer-to-peer mentoring” program, and organizing her own tutorial for 16 students every winter semester.
In the summer of 2020, Marlia achieved another significant goal: she was awarded a place at the Center for Digital Technology and Management in Munich, where she’ll be completing an honorary Master’s. This program is open to students from the LMU and the Technical University of Munich and focuses on technologies, trends, and business acumen. It was initiated by the USA’s renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and the Technical University of Munich. “It’s a great program!” says Marlia enthusiastically — and only the best is ever good enough for her.
She’s primarily driven and motivated by her love of science, the fact that she enjoys studying, by her ambition, and — last but not least — by her social background. She hopes that her story can help inspire and help others who come from similarly difficult backgrounds. “Nobody,” asserts Marlia, “can stop me now!”
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