Studying with an integrated year abroad: Maaja Gehde

Inspired to Peru

2023-06-27 The 23-year-old has been studying at the renowned Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) in Lima for almost a year. The two semesters abroad are possible as part of the Bachelor's programmes Global Environmental and Sustainability Studies and Environmental Sciences B. Sc. - "a unique opportunity", thinks Maaja Gehde.

Studying with an integrated year abroad: Maaja Gehde ©Leuphana
Studying with an integrated year abroad: Maaja Gehde ©Leuphana
Studying with an integrated year abroad: Maaja Gehde ©Leuphana

Maaja Gehde has always had a fascination for the diverse continent of South America. Shortly after graduating from high school, she visited a friend in Argentina and knew: "I want to come back." First, however, she began studying in Germany. The subjects of history and politics interested her, but still the young woman missed something. "I believe that with a degree that focuses on sustainability, I can make more of a difference in the world later on," says Maaja Gehde.

During her research, she came across Leuphana and the Environmental Sciences B. Sc. programme: "My interests are broad. In this major I can combine human and natural sciences." Maaja Gehde was particularly interested in one option: in the Environmental Sciences programme and also Global Environmental and Sustainability Studies, students can apply for a 4-year Bachelor's degree with an integrated year abroad in Sweden, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands or Peru in the second semester until 30 June each year.

"The semesters abroad are a unique opportunity. Later in my career I might not be as flexible as I was during my studies," says Maaja Gehde. She crammed Spanish and applied for the programme: "When I actually set off for Peru, I was blown away," the student recalls. The participants are prepared for the semester abroad by Leuphana and also accompanied during the year. "We have contact persons at Leuphana who help with difficulties," says the student. During the semester break, for example, there were serious political protests in Peru: "Someone from Lüneburg contacted us right away and made sure we were okay."

In Lima itself, Maaja Gehde is supported by the International Office of the PUCP, for example in finding accommodation. "I am very grateful to be able to study in Lima. PUCP is one of the best universities in South America," says the student. But in return, the workload is also high: "We have a lot of submissions and I learn a lot." Although Maaja Gehdes came to Peru already knowing Spanish, the start was challenging: "At first it's mentally exhausting, but the effort is worth it. I take so much with me here," says Maaja Gehde. She was able to finance her stay thanks to a DAAD scholarship.

The budding environmental scientist is experiencing the great biodiversity of the plant and animal world and the diverse landscapes in Peru. The Andes and Pacific coast, among others, characterise the country. "A highlight for me was the excursion to the Amazon region," says Maaja Gehde. No less important to her than getting to know Peru is being able to better understand the perspective of people in the Global South: "Often our perspective from Europe is perceived as lecturing," she reports.

Maaja Gehde would like to add a Master's degree in Sustainable Governance later: "At Leuphana, the study model gives me the opportunity to continue studying political science and I could take the subject as a minor." When she returns to Leuphana in autumn, she would like to take more courses in ecology and geography in her final year in the major: "In terms of content, this fits very well with what I am learning in Peru," she says. Maaja Gehde's academic year at PUCP officially comes to an end in mid-July, but she will stay until October: The student is not yet letting go of Peru.