Hope you enjoyed the weekend and ready for another episode! Today, I have the pleasure of sharing Carla Madueno’s story. This Peruvian beauty is one of the most ambitious young ladies I have come across so far. I met Carla last year at the Alternative Economic Monetary Systems (AEMS) Summer School in Vienna, Austria. I am so happy she agreed to be part of this project. Hope you find her story inspiring.
What is your name and what university did you attend?
Hola! My name is Carla Madueño Florián, I come from Lima Peru and I attended the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (University of Munich in English) in Germany.
What year did you graduate and what course did you offer?
I graduated from the LMU with a Biology B.Sc degree in July 2016.
Briefly describe how your university life; any extracurricular activities you were involved, scholarships, awards/ honors etc.
The undergraduate student life in Germany is fun and tough. On the one hand side, it was fun because I was surrounded by an international group of people and I got to know people from different nationalities that otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to know back in Peru. On the other hand side, my entire Biology degree was in German and on top of that it was a Natural sciences degree so I had to learn a lot of vocabulary in German for things that I was seeing for the first time in my life. I love the German language ever since I was a child so I was always aware of how challenging a degree in German may be, but at the same time it ended up being very rewarding. Now I can say I hold a degree that is a result of my own effort in a foreign country and in a foreign language. Regarding my extracurricular activities during my bachelors, I would work part-time at the University as an office assistant or in the City in local stores in order to cover some of my personal expenses. Finally, during my Bachelors I had two awards (both were interestingly related to Canada). The first one was a German exchange scholarship to spend a semester abroad at the University of Alberta in Edmonton Canada. And the second award I got was for the first prize of a Photography Contest organized by ABMI (Canadian Biodiversity Agency).
Based on your experience in university, do you regret going to university or did you regret at a point? If so why?
I don’t regret going to University, in fact, I love the academic environment. I am a very curious, eager to learn and creative person. I have witnessed how at a German or even Canadian Universities you can play around with ideas and discover. From the natural science perspective, research funding possibilities and infrastructure have always been an amazing opportunity in the Northern countries not to be missed. For instance, at German Universities, you can be very creative with your own research projects and that I believe is a very powerful tool. The only things that required extra energies were the language and cultural challenges, as I have to constantly adapt to new social and weather rules (until now, cold weather is a challenge for me).
Upon graduation, did you have any plans as to what your next move was? Could you please share?
Before graduating from my Bachelors, I knew my learning experience couldn’t stop just there. Moreover, I had heard from many friends and family that if one would start working right after graduating from the Bachelors, one kind of gets stuck to the working routine and then it is harder to go back to school and integrate into the academic environment. So I saw a really good opportunity for me to rather stick to the academic environment and pursue Graduate Studies in Germany.
Based on the answer from the question above, did these plans materialize in the short term or even long term? If it did what was the process like? If not, what happened? Did you have any backup plans?
I started my Masters two months after graduating with my Bachelors. So now after 3 semesters in the Masters program and about to start the Master thesis I already kind of feel a bit tired, because I have had the University working rhythm for almost 6 to 7 years. But I must say that it is a choice that I don’t regret and that has taught me more about my passion ecology and nature conservation.
Prior to starting the Master, I did have however back up plans and those were to work for a year in an Ecology or Conservation related branch after my bachelors. But then again, as a scientist in the academic environment, one can do little with a Bachelor degree, Master is mostly the first step into an academic career and that is followed by Ph.D. and PostDoc studies. Besides friends and family’s experiences of working after graduating didn’t convince me, so I was 110% sure that in order to become a good ecologist I had to pursue graduate studies right away.
In the case where you faced rejections especially in applying for jobs etc, what effect did it have on your person? Care to share any experiences if you had one?
I have had job rejections in the last portion of my Bachelor studies. I had to become financially independent from my family and it was very disappointing for me that even for “normal” jobs I would get rejected, for instance at local fashion store or offices. I knew these stores were looking for people with experience in selling and customer care, but nevertheless, I felt like my scientific effort wasn’t having an immediate use nor effect. Eventually, I would get a part-time job at a shoe store and as a private tutor for school kids, which helped me cover my living expenses here in Germany for the last portion of my Bachelors (thank God).
If you were to be that 18/19 year old going back to university, knowing what you know now (irrespective of how many years after university) what advice will you give yourself? Any advice to others?
My advice to an 18-year old version of me is to choose a University in a country (if financially possible) where natural science is not only done by Academia and for Academia but instead by Academia and for Society. I would advise myself to chose universities with a lot of social impact and outreach, like non-profit projects by Student Associations, or volunteering and entrepreneurship programs abroad. I would encourage myself to engage more with student initiatives with political, social or environmental outreach.
But I must also be honest: learning a science career in a foreign language – like German – left me little time for extracurricular activities. So I think the way I had my Bachelors done was amazing and very self-rewarding.
With the current state of the job market, do you think in like 10 years time, universities will still have value? Especially with the rate at which many graduates end up being unemployed or young people prefer to start their businesses or train in apprenticeships?
An academic degree holds always a value and that is a certain type of authority that one gains when trying to understand and investigate a topic from a scientific, structured and objective point of view. Reality is of course complex, emotional and human. But Universities nevertheless offer you the tools to abstract a complex reality and provide solutions. My current Master degree focuses on Global Change Ecology and we learn how to provide solutions to ongoing human mismanagement of nature. So I think this is extremely visionary, applied and holds a very unique value, not only for the people that study it but also for the potential beneficiaries of projects I could work for or be starting on my own in a near future.
What do you do now in terms of work or any other thing you are involved, care to share your social media handles so people could connect with you?
As a scientist in the training, I realized that scientific knowledge rarely leaves the privileged boxed world of science. As a Youth Ambassador by GLF (link http://www.globallandscapesforum.org/ ) I encourage you to check two blogs I have featured on, Global Change Ecology (link: https://globalchangeecology.com/ ) student-led initiative from Germany and NoisyScience (link: http://noisyscience.wixsite.com/noisyscience ) a Peruvian blog about fun science.
On Instagram and Twitter, you can find me as PuraCarlura
Thank you very much, Gertrude, for the Interview! Gracias 😉
Hope you enjoyed Paula’s story….Stay tuned for the next future…Have an amazing week!