Reh-Main ⋅ A bachelor’s degree can help, but other qualities often matter: anyone aiming for a scholarship should look closely at the profiles of the various funding agencies. In this series, we feature fellows from various foundations.
Anyone applying for a Heinrich Böll Foundation scholarship does not need to be a member of the Greens. The same goes for the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Many Fellows are still involved in one of two parties. Kimberly Schlueter is one of them. She sits for the Greens in the municipal parliament of Mörfelden-Walldorf and in the district council of Groß-Gerau. Viola Gebek of the FDP is a member of the municipal parliament of Flörsheim. Schlueter studied sociology in Mainz, Gebek studies sustainable marketing and leadership in Wiesbaden. Both had little interest in politics. Today, they discuss childcare places or have to assert themselves against veteran party colleagues in parliament.
Gebek says of herself that she doesn’t fit the FDP cliché of a child from a wealthy, liberal family. She found her way to the party through its values such as openness, diversity and the right to free development. In addition to what Gebek associates with the FDP in terms of values, there is also what she learned in the advanced history course. “It made me realize how important it is to protect liberal democracies.” The student feels more European than German, speaks French and has friends across the continent. Politics, especially local politics, was largely irrelevant to her for a long time. “I didn’t even know how to get involved locally,” says Gebek. With the onset of the pandemic, she begins to think more about her relationship to politics. She ended up best with the Young Liberals, says the student. His scholarship from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation enabled him to start his master’s degree at the private Fresenius University in Wiesbaden. The foundation currently supports approximately 1100 students and doctoral students.
“Somehow I’ve always found parties a little unsexy,” says Kimberly Schlueter, known as Kimi. She defines herself as non-binary, but with her consent, feminine pronouns should be used here. Schlueter, 22, lives with his partner. The Heinrich Böll Foundation has been funding them since 2018. The funding agency supports around 1400 students and doctoral students each year.
“It took me until tenth grade to even understand what politics meant. That’s when I started reading newspapers and got interested in literature. Literature really got to me. politicized,” says Schlueter. She can get angry when she talks about novels that have stuck in her memory. Especially when it comes to the plight of women who perish because of social constraints. It had become clear to her that even today there is no level playing field, no opportunities for everyone to participate. “I want to change that.”
The first application phase for foundations funded by the Federal Ministry of Education usually includes an online application form and a letter of motivation. This is also the case of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. She had to explain what the term freedom meant to her, reports Gebek. Her definition reveals the liberal in her. Individual development is the most important thing, emphasizes the young politician. “Living my strengths, my passions and having all the opportunities. But I also have to do something about it, get involved, defend it. Europe is also part of it, that is to say a Europe with open borders.