An Interview with the BMW Center’s First Fulbright-Schuman MAGES Scholar, Julian Müller-Kaler
Hometown: Sommerach, a small village in northern Bavaria, Germany
Undergraduate university and academic major: Zeppelin University at Lake Constance. Academic major in Politics and International Relations, with a minor in Public Administration
Fun fact about yourself: It was not a European politician but the American President Barack Obama who ignited my political interest. Ever since then, the transatlantic relationship has been at the center of my passion for politics.
Academic focus for the MAGES program: The rise of populist actors in Europe and the United States of America was already my focus during my undergraduate studies in Germany. My bachelor thesis dealt with the question whether the Republican Party has turned into a populist party over the last decades and especially during the presidency of Obama, thereby enabling the political rise of Trump.
Further research about the nature of populism, specific reasons for its recent success in liberal democracies, and political implications on international and transatlantic relations are key during my graduate studies at Georgetown as well. For my final MAGES capstone project, I am examining the correlation between the rise of right wing populism and the simultaneous decline of left leaning and social democratic parties in Europe and the United States.
Additionally, I am a candidate for the Diplomatic Studies Certificate offered by Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. The program prepares students to work effectively in an interdisciplinary, interagency, and multilateral context and encourages them to go out of their academic comfort zone. In pursuing this certificate, I have taken classes on US-Iran relations, international law, and the intersections of Globalization, Energy, and Security.
What aspect of the MAGES program has been most beneficial to you, either intellectually or professionally?
The BMW Center for German and European Studies maintains a phenomenal faculty, provides its students with a world-class education, and exposes them to a bewildering array of speakers. First and foremost, the MAGES program is an extraordinary community that emphasizes critical thinking in academics, fosters mentoring relationships, and enables each individual student to grow personally. Studying international politics and the transatlantic relationship in such a special environment has been a truly wonderful experience so far.
The most beneficial thing to me personally was probably the center’s integration into the School of Foreign Service as well as its location in Washington, D.C. Pursuing a Masters degree in European Studies while at the same time being able to choose classes from all other programs of the School of Foreign Service is a unique and amazing opportunity to develop a deeper knowledge of international relations, to set a specific regional focus, and to learn about the interdependence of world politics.
The same is true for its location in Washington, D.C. In fact, I couldn’t think of a better place to pursue my graduate studies. Not only being exposed to the university’s event offerings, but also attending talks at embassies, think-tanks, or other important institutions can be a little overwhelming from time to time, but has been extremely beneficial to me. The level of additional expertise, the chance to get to know people, and the development of a professional network have enhanced my studies tremendously, and I would not want to miss these opportunities.
Why would you recommend that other Europeans come to Georgetown for European studies?
Transatlantic relations have emerged as my strongest interest within international politics and diplomacy. However, contemplating this relationship as well as American politics only from a German or European perspective during my undergraduate studies left me feeling somewhat insufficiently prepared. Studying at the BMW Center broadened my understanding of transatlantic and European politics from an international and American point of view. Since I believe that political empathy and the awareness of differing mindsets are critical in diplomacy and the successful management of international relations, this potential dissemination of knowledge is the main reason why I chose to complete my graduate degree in the United States of America. Given my experience here on the Hilltop, I would strongly encourage European students to come to Georgetown for European studies. And the Fulbright-Schuman program is a wonderful support for such ambitious and exciting aspirations.
Now that you are half-way through the MAGES program, can you comment on how the combined support of Fulbright-Schuman and the BMW Center has helped make your studies successful?
Pursuing your graduate studies at a private university in the United States is, in most cases, an extremely expensive endeavor. Especially Europeans, who can attend universities for free or significantly lower costs in their respective home countries, often ask themselves whether it’s worth it – and that’s a totally fair question. Personally speaking, if it weren’t for the combined support of the Fulbright-Schuman program and the BMW Center, I probably would have decided against coming to Georgetown.
But a Fulbright scholarship is much more than monthly financial stipends. Joining an exclusive community that consists of incredible scholars from all around the world is not only a great joy, but also a tremendous learning opportunity. Fulbright’s D.C. chapter is a thriving example of mutual understanding and international cooperation, and it shows the benefits of diversity. Getting to know other scholarship holders, attending Fulbright conferences and events, as well as having access to an impressive alumni network, have definitely enhanced my time in the Unites States and made my studies at Georgetown more successful.
Can you give us a little insight into the application process for Fulbright-Schuman? Any advice to future applicants?
I found the first steps of the application process for the Fulbright-Schuman award to be quite similar to the application for the MAGES program at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. In addition to the requested curriculum vitae and the statement of purpose, however, Fulbright-Schuman also asked for an extensive research proposal. Furthermore, the second round of the application process included a Skype interview with the Fulbright commission in Belgium, where questions were asked about my motivation, certain details on my CV, and specific areas of interest regarding the transatlantic relationship.
The established partnership between the BMW Center and the Fulbright-Schuman commission is indeed a unique opportunity for European students to pursue their graduate studies at one of the world’s leading institutions in the political science and international relations field. I want to encourage all potential applicants to give it a try, since you will learn a lot throughout the application process itself. My central advice would be to put a lot of thought into the application, already at an early stage. The process is fairly comprehensive, and deadlines for the next academic year are in December. Please feel free to reach out to me if there are any further questions about the scholarship, the application process, or the cooperation between MAGES and Fulbright-Schuman in general; I would be delighted to share my experience and happy to help.
What do you hope to do after the program/where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?
Ever since I started to be interested in American politics and the transatlantic relationship, it was a personal desire to pursue my academic studies in the United States at some point. Being given this opportunity by Fulbright and Georgetown University is an extraordinary privilege for which I am deeply grateful.
The MAGES program might not only be a major step in my career trajectory, but also an obligation to contribute to transatlantic relations and international understanding. After graduation, the Fulbright-Schuman program provides its scholars with 18 months of academic training, utilizable for any work that is related to the subject of your education. Making use of that opportunity and thereby extending my time in the U.S. would certainly be a wonderful thing.
The “five years” question, on the other hand, is always a hard one, since life is full of sudden, unexpected terms. However, building on previous work experiences, I would love to join an international organization, the German foreign service, or non-government organizations in the long run. Or even joining politics myself–we’ll see!
Interested in learning more about featured scholarships and external funding opportunities available to MAGES students? Travel to our Featured Scholarships page to read further!