Hans-Joachim Kleine

"Sport has taught me that everything is possible as long as you have the willpower to make your goals come true."

Congratulations on winning the IELTS Award, Saskia! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? Where are you from and what are you studying or working on at the moment?

My name is Saskia Bauer, I’m a 24-year old sports and change-making enthusiast from Germany. For the past four years I have followed my interest in world politics and international relations, having studied the international and interdisciplinary Bachelor program Liberal Arts and Sciences with a major in Governance at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Having participated in several social and environmental projects in various countries around the world, I soon realized that I want to study something that helps me understand why some people live under better conditions than others. Now I’d like to supplement this knowledge with the right tools to actually go out into the world and help people from less privileged backgrounds. As I love sports and the outdoors and have experienced myself how sport has a tremendous power to change the societal status quo, I will combine my interest for politics and my love for physical activity in the Master program Sport Policy, Management & International Development at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. 

How did you find out about IELTS and the IELTS Award programme? What drew your attention to it?

For my application at the University of Edinburgh I had to hand in an English proficiency test and since I had previously done a TOEFL test for my year abroad at Michigan State University, I decided on IELTS this time - I love diversity and new experiences. I saw the ad about the IELTS Award program and was very excited to learn that the application deadline was exactly the same date I would receive my test result - I immediately decided to apply, even though I did not know yet what my results would look like. I liked the fact that the IELTS Award is looking for individuals who want to improve the world by what they study and what kind of career they choose. I thought this program perfectly fits my profile so the decision to apply was easy.

Can you tell us about your study plans and what you want to use the IELTS Award for? What impact do you want to make after finishing your degree? 

I will be pursuing a one year master degree program in Sport Policy, Management & International Development at the University of Edinburgh. The reason why I chose this program is its practical approach and its collaboration with different sports institutions and organizations in Scotland and abroad. I hope that this degree will equip me with the tools to work for an international organization or NGO in the field of sports for development and peace. In several projects I have seen myself how sports have the power to change the lives of children from less privileged areas. Studies have shown the impact sports can have on two parties that are in conflict with each other and that there is a large potential for peace-building and peace-keeping. After finishing my degree, I would like to get some hands-on experience with several projects in the field which will help me understand the structures and see the impact of sports projects. My future will then probably be more on the structural and organizational level, strategically coordinating different projects which will hopefully make a difference in peoples’ lives.

The IELTS Award will help me to follow my dreams and study at a world class university – in fact one of the only ones which offers a program that combines sports and politics. I’m very thankful for this opportunity and beyond excited to study an international and interdisciplinary program.

What made you choose this institution and what excites you about living in Edinburgh for the next year? 

I chose the University of Edinburgh for its great offer of study programs. The M.Sc. Sport Policy, Management & International Development is exactly what I was looking for, but it took me a while to actually find a program which combines my interest in such a perfect way. So for the largest part, I’m very excited about the program itself. Another reason why I chose Edinburgh is that I love mountain biking, and having lived in Freiburg, I cannot imagine living in a city where nature and mountains are far away. I’m very much looking forward to the great outdoor opportunities Scotland offers, be it hiking, biking or camping. And of course I’m excited about the city itself: everybody who has been there keeps on telling my how culturally diverse and architecturally beautiful Edinburgh is. 

You’ve been involved in quite a lot of volunteer projects, abroad and in Germany. Can you tell us a bit more about these programmes? What impact have they had on you and how have they shaped your decision of pursuing a postgraduate degree?

It all began in 2011, when I found this wonderful program by a South African explorer, who took young people from all around the world on a three weeks expedition to a remote place on our planet. I applied for the expedition the Magnetic North Pole – and was chosen as one of 7 participants! I couldn’t believe it! The experience itself was extraordinary, I had never seen anything like this white world consisting of ice and snow before. This program taught me how small we as human beings actually are, and what a large impact we have though. Meeting young change-makers from all around the world inspired me to participate and organize projects at the grassroots level as I wanted to become active myself! 

With friends from this program, I organized several projects with kids and teenagers in Serbia, South Africa and Uganda, to enable them to have similar experiences as we had. We took them on nature hikes, excursions into national parks, camping under the stars and taught them about the environmental changes we see today. Our focus were kids from less privileged backgrounds, who could not afford experiences like this by themselves. 

After some years though, we realized that it is difficult to have a lasting impact and to ensure the sustainability of a project when you live in a completely different part of the world for most of your time. When the Black Forest national park was opened in 2014, we took this chance to develop a program for teenagers between 16 and 19 in order to show them the beauty of nature just on our doorstep. For the third year in a row, we have taken 18 young adults into the national park for a week of guided tours with rangers, project development workshops, physical activities, inspirational talks, as well as photography and filmmaking workshops. We believe that a camera opens up new perspectives; the participants see nature from a different angle. These unique experiences form a great group and network of young people who are actively engaged for the national park and environmental projects in general.

In all of these projects, sports have been an essential part. In the future, I want to focus even more on the potential of sports for change making.

Your passion is enduro mountain biking – not an average hobby! How did you discover it and what do sports and nature mean to you? 

Sports have always been a big part of my life. As a child and teenager, I played tennis and football for several different teams and when I got older, I started to love everything I could do outside in the forest or in the mountains. I remember that I had always been drawn to BMX racing and mountain biking, which is both very popular where I grew up, but my parents were not very fond of the idea of me having bruises and broken bones the whole year round. So I stuck with tennis and football. When I moved to Freiburg for my Bachelor degree, I discovered my love for mountain biking again. I bought a beginners hard tail bike and soon discovered the beauty of the surrounding black forest on my bike. Luckily, I had friends who loved the combination of sports and nature as much as I, and so we regularly went on our “Magic Monday Mountain Bike Trips”. We witnessed wonderful sunsets, foggy forests, and even the beauty of rain and mud. The proximity to nature is very important to me, because it makes me realize again and again how important it is to have the opportunity to go outside, challenge yourself, but also relax and find new energy.

Last year, I met people who introduced me to enduro mountain biking, which is more extreme and exactly what I have always dreamed of doing. It brings together the physical challenge of riding up the mountain and speeding down steep and narrow trails, full of roots, rocks and obstacles, as well as the mental challenge of endurance when the uphill just never ends, or when the downhill seems impossibly steep and rocky. This sport has taught me that everything is possible as long as you have the willpower to make your goals come true. You have to overcome obstacles, mental or physical ones, and this experience and knowing about your own capabilities helps you in any kind of situation outside of the world of sports.

What was the best and most bizarre moment you’ve had during your time living abroad?

During my bachelor degree, I had the chance to move abroad and study at Michigan State University for one year. One of the best experiences was a canoe race that I participated in, covering the distance between my university and Lake Michigan – 260 kilometers in total. My team took 42 hours to complete it, without sleep, without long breaks, and without having been in a canoe more than twice before this. It was tough, painful and I hated it for many hours of the trip. But paddling into the lake after two days and two nights on the river was just incredible! 

The most bizarre moment is easy to choose: I lived on campus, so I had breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining halls, which were always part of the different residence halls. I had an 8am class twice a week and it was totally normal that students would attend class in their pyjamas, because they lived in the same hall where they had breakfast and where they also went to class. Over the year I got used to students who took dinner in slippers and snoopy pyjamas, but it still seemed very bizarre to me…

Based on your personal experience and how it has impacted you, what would you tell students who are contemplating going abroad as part of their education?

Do it! It’s as simple as that! The idea of going abroad might seem scary and uncomfortable in the beginning, but this feeling will vanish quickly as you get immersed into a new environment, meeting people from all over the world, learning a new language, understanding a different culture and making experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life. For me, it always felt like being on a very long vacation while I was abroad in Michigan. Of course I also had to study for my classes, but everything around me was new and exciting. Living in a country for a limited amount of times makes you want to explore as much of it as possible and so I went on countless weekend trips to nearby and further away places – a constant traveling adventure! And finally, I learned a lot about myself: who I am, what I want, what I cherish, what I need, what is important to me and how I can be happy and comfortable. Living and studying abroad is a great learning experience and I wish every person in the world could make this experience at least once. I am more than grateful that I got the chance to study abroad for the second time and I’m excited to see what the coming year will reveal.

Finally, where did you take your IELTS test with the British Council and how was the test experience for you? 

Luckily, I could take the IELTS test in Freiburg at my own university, so I did not have to travel somewhere else. I urgently needed the test for my application and I was very happy to see that the next test date was only a week from then. The examination itself was very relaxed, I had looked into the procedure beforehand and so I knew what was going to await me. Everything was well organized and especially the oral interview was very nice and an enjoyable conversation with interesting topics. Compared to the TOEFL test, I liked IELTS better because it was way more personal and interactive. 


Saskia Bauer


Saskia Bauer


Saskia Bauer