Alumni Interview Paula Rauschendorf – Class of 2012

Paula Rauschendorf graduated from Leipzig International School in 2012 and after a gap year where she spent some time in Uganda volunteering in a school and figuring out what direction she wanted to take in life, she began studying Medicine at the University of Hamburg. She is now at the end of her studies writing her doctoral thesis.

Hallo Paula, it’s so nice of you to come and talk to the LIS students about your experiences and your path to medicine. How long were you at LIS for?
I was here from Grade 9 to Grade 12, four years in total. I was in German school, here in Leipzig before I joined LIS.

How was that transition?
I was really surprised at how welcoming my classmates were. It is not what one expects from a new school but I integrated immediately.

And how long did it take you to adjust to English as the class language?
I would say about a half a year. I have always liked languages and I think it depends on one’s commitment to adjusting to a new environment but it happened very quickly for me.

What subjects did you take for the IB Programme?
History SL, German A1 HL, Maths HL, Physics HL, English A2 SL, Chemistry SL

When did you decide you wanted to study medicine?
I didn’t know in high school that I was going to study medicine. I considered engineering as my Dad is an engineer and I am not bad at maths and physics. I did a work experience in a psychiatric hospital as I was considering psychology too and it was then that I decided to study medicine. It seemed more practical than psychology and better suited to me personally.

How did you find the transition to University life after LIS?
It was a shock. Medicine is a lot of learning by heart and I had learnt not just to think in-depth at LIS but also to enjoy thinking in-depth. I missed it but I found ways to channel that kind of thinking into other projects.

Could you tell us a bit about what your thesis is on?
It’s titled “Surgical Care in Eastern Uganda”. There was a lot of interview fieldwork involved. My time in Uganda after school really took hold and I’ve returned there often, not just for thesis work but also in association with ANDO Modular Aid who I am supporting with the results of my research. ANDO is planning a hospital in Jinja and I’m involved in the needs-assessment. We look at what infrastructure is in place and connect with other surgeons in the area to establish what is needed. Especially as a European, we have to be very reflective about how we approach setting up projects like this. Too often they fail because people assume the European solution will work best without taking regional and local circumstances and solutions into account.

My time at LIS was certainly a preparation for this. The way we are taught critical thinking and repeatedly challenged to think and argue from multiple perspectives as well as being integrated in a student body that automatically gives you access to multiple cultural perspectives, was extremely valuable.

That’s not to say that being in Uganda didn’t come with challenges.

Could you tell us about some of these?
Well, you are forced to define your own inner values more clearly than you are at home and you are compelled to find ways to react to ethical confrontations. You need to ensure that you don’t put yourself in danger but also that are you are not perpetuating European ideology but are true to your beliefs.

Once, for example, I was in a church gathering when someone started to talk about healing homosexuals. I was torn about how to react and in the end decided the best thing I could do was to leave. This signalled my feelings on the subject in a ways I was comfortable with.

I also had to come to terms with the fact that women greet men in everyday situations by kneeling down. It was very jarring at first but I had to learn to accept it.

Are you involved in any other projects?
Yes, I do some work with Tukolaganhe Youth Foundation. It is an organisation that has set up and is running a pre-school. They are also in the process of setting up a vocational training centre and looking for volunteers.

What do you value most about LIS as a school?
In the end, it is as Mr Hampton told us often, school’s purpose is not to just give you expertise in a subject. Its purpose is to teach you to think! And that LIS certainly did.

What are some of your fondest memories of LIS?
Well, foremost the very welcoming culture of the school. Not just the students but also the teachers made an enormous difference in making me feel at home here.

Going to London to watch Macbeth at the Globe was a huge highlight!

And the Deutscholympiade – I was in the competing team and it was a lot of fun. You are tested on your language ability and have to write spontaneous poems, tell stories and improvise a great deal.

What are your hopes for LIS for the future?
I hope the personal connections stay the same even as it grows. At a German school it was hi and bye. I had no opportunity to share successes or personal problems if needed. LIS allowed me connections to my teachers and support when needed, be it academic or personal. And I still enjoy coming back to visit and say hi to my old teachers.

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