Uncharted Territory

Students from non-academic families need courage – and tailored assistance

It almost seems like a fact of life that children of non-academic parents will have fewer opportunities at German ­universities. And the figures show that while 79 in every 100 children from ­families of academics take up a place at a university, only 27 percent of children from non-academic families do the same. Going down a different route to your ­parents, breaking the mold, overcoming stigmas – this takes more than intelligence and talent. It takes courage.

Can Canatti has proved this. This young man with Turkish roots is studying mechatronics in Hanover, Germany. He looks back on his rocky start, the lack of support from his family when he moved to a new city, and financial problems that resulted in him spending more time at his job in a fast food restaurant than in the lecture hall. He found help with the tandem program from the Deutsche Universitätsstiftung (German University Foundation). Tandem grants enable students like Can to get the personal support they need from university professors when times are hard. They are assigned a lecturer as a mentor. There are also seminars and workshops about learning and self-management, for example.

Can Canatti is certain that: “Without the tandem grant, I wouldn’t still be studying today. The expert support from my mentor has really enriched my studies. But what sometimes seemed even more important was that my mentor could give me good advice and opened the right doors. He helped me to harmonize my studies and my livelihood.”

“Courage should not only be rewarded, it also deserves effective support,” says Michael Röchling. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Röchling Foundation and is responsible for the cooperation with the Deutsche Universitätsstiftung as the project sponsor. The Röchling Foundation financed the tandem grant for Can Canatti and supported several other grant holders. The partnership between the Foundation and the companies of the Röchling Group means it can also offer internship opportunities.

In another program called “Welcome,” the Deutsche Universitätsstiftung opens the door to education for young refugees and helps them throughout their studies. The Röchling Foundation also supports this initiative.

Can took a major step when he decided to continue into higher education. It involved him entering uncharted territory, navigating his way through a jungle, trying to gain a foothold, and surviving. Now he is able to think about what he wants to do next. After completing his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, he wants to set up his own business. “I work a lot with my 3D printer at home. I’m fascinated by automation and robotics,” says Can, taking an optimistic view of the future. Courage pays off.