We met Deike in Berlin to hear more about her study plans and goals for the upcoming year.
Congratulations on winning this year’s IELTS Award! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background? Where are you from and what are you studying or working on at the moment?
Deike: I’m from the northern part of Germany; I was born in East Friesland which is where the name Deike is from. It’s quite an unusual name that even most Germans have never heard of. I have a background in medicine, more specifically in paediatrics. I always knew that I wanted to work with children, so after completing my degree in Medicine at the Medical School Münster, I specialised in paediatrics, working with children with cancer. After a year, I was given the opportunity to go abroad to work in a hospital in Peru for four months which was a great and intense experience. As this project was developing so well, we decided to do another project to help children in Myanmar. We worked in a hospital there with local doctors to identify the most pressing needs. We found that the main problem was incorrect diagnoses, leading to wrong treatments. We tried to help by sending a specialist over to train the doctors in diagnostics which made a huge difference. This year, I went to Africa with the organisation German Doctors to work in the second biggest slum in Nairobi, treating babies and young children. This experience has had a tremendous impact on my life and my ambition to help more children through structural changes in the healthcare system.
How did you find out about IELTS and this Awards programme?
Deike: The study programme I wanted to apply for required proof of English language proficiency. I compared different language tests and decided on IELTS as it is globally recognised and had a test centre near my hometown of Oldenburg. I found out about the IELTS Award while checking the British Council Germany website for information about the IELTS exam.
Can you tell us about your study plans and what you want to use the IELTS Award for? You’ve already told us a bit about your work with children in Germany and abroad. Will this be the focus of your studies?
Deike: I am going to pursue a Master in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The reason for doing this is that after all my experience in working with children in Africa, Myanmar, Peru and at home, what I felt I really wanted to do was not only help single children with acute problems, such as malnutrition, but to get to the cause of the problems and help change these, in order to be able to help a lot of children, not only one single child at the time. This is what Public Health is about – improving and maintaining the health of a whole population through structural changes in the healthcare system. With this Master in Public Health, I will hopefully be able to gain the skills to make a positive impact on the lives of many children.
What made you choose the institution and destination for your Master's programme?
Deike: After deciding that I wanted to study Public Health I looked up which institutions offered this programme and compared their rankings. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and education in the health sector. They have excellent facilities and some of the best professors to learn from, which were the main reasons for my choice. That the school is located in London is the cherry on top and I’m very excited to be moving there. I’ve only been to London once and can’t wait to start exploring the city.
As part of your studies and work as a paediatrician, you’ve lived in Peru, Myanmar and Kenya, in very poor and rural communities. What impact has this experience had on you and how has it shaped your ambition to pursue a degree in Public Health?
Deike: Living in all these different places and seeing how children and families struggle had a big impact on me and made me realise that we need big structural changes, not only treat individual medical problems. I wouldn’t have realised this if I had only stayed in Germany, as we don’t face the same issues here. Initially, I started studying medicine with the idea to go into paediatrics and I thought this would be enough for me. However, in the past five years, I realised that much more needs to be done. I’d like to be part of that change and want to have an impact on the lives of many more children.
During your time abroad, can you recall any cultural encounters that seem unusual or bizarre to you?
Deike: In Peru, people usually drink coffee in the morning, just like people in many other parts of the world and at home. One morning though, when I was drinking a cup of coffee, I was offered a cooked, unpeeled potato with it. Being German, I do like potatoes, but having one at 8am with my coffee was a bit unusual, even for me.
What was the best moment you had during your time abroad?
Deike: After working in Peru I travelled the country with my sister, up to Ecuador. On our last day, we went bathing in some natural hot springs to relax, until my sister pointed to another pool where there seemed to be a problem. I got up and saw a little girl lying next to the pool, all blue and not moving. I ran over and pushed everyone aside to get through to her – she wasn’t breathing or moving at all, clinically dead. I started doing CPR to try and revive her and I was very scared that I wouldn't be able to save her, but she eventually came back to life! She was really lucky and for me, being able to save someone’s life was the best moment ever.
Thank you for sharing your inspirational stories and experience with us! We would also like to know a bit more about your personal interests and passions. Would you like to tell us a bit more about that?
Deike: My passion is sport climbing which is a form of rock climbing that relies on permanent anchors fixed to the rock. We usually climb between 10 to 30 metres high, always on a rope with a partner. I like the physical challenge of it, but also the mental challenge, because there’s always the risk of falling. But if you get into it and manage to climb all the way up, it’s the best feeling. I love to climb all over the world and have some friends who share the same passion. Last year, we went to Thailand and Laos to climb and in the last couple of months, I’ve been travelling through Europe with my boyfriend, climbing and seeing Europe, before I head off to London in September.
The British Council is a cultural relations organisation that facilitates cultural exchange and we believe that this plays a vital role in connecting with and understanding each other. Why do you think cultural exchange, through studying or working abroad for instance, is important to young people’s lives and development?
Deike: As we live in a globalised world I think it gets more and more important to not only think of your own country or culture, but to get to know and engage with other people with different cultural backgrounds. Especially if you work in a field with a more global outlook, it’s important that you move around, travel and get involved with different cultures, which for me, always equals personal growth.
Finally, where did you take your IELTS test and how was the test experience for you? Would you recommend this test to others who are aiming to study abroad?
Deike: I took my IELTS test in Bremen which is very close to where I live. They offered different slots and I found one that suited me perfectly. On the test day, I felt that everything was really well organised and structured. I always knew what I had to do which helped me focus on the actual tasks. I enjoyed all four parts of the test, but must admit that I was a bit rusty with my writing, mainly as I hadn’t written a free text in a while. I would recommend IELTS to everyone and was pleased with the organisation and experience of the test.
Thank you for these great insights, Deike! We are excited about our year ahead and can't wait to hear more about your experience in London.