Glass ceiling?

I once talked to a guy from my masters degree class. We were discussing our future career. He had applied for a PhD. He wasn’t sure about going for it. He had gotten the place, but he needed to secure funding for it. He told me that he would be the first person in his family to have a PhD. His sister wouldn’t have the brains to do it, he told me. She had stopped after her bachelors. He, however, had never felt that he had reached his academic limit. Like… intellectually.
I had never even had a thought of anybody having such a limit. For me it was always a question of will (and maybe opportunity) rather than intellect.
I was the first person in my family to enrol in an institution of higher education. I am also the first person to have gained a degree from a university. And a postgraduate degree. I have always believed that this is not because my family was stupid and intellectually incapable of attending university. They just never had a chance. It was no option for them. Either for socio-economic reasons or… being a woman.


An offer I couldn’t refuse

It was a warm summer day in the second half of July. I was wearing a blue and white striped dress that had a kind of maritime look to it. I had received an offer for a Master’s programme already a couple of days ago, i was still waiting for responses on some other programmes and so I was in a good mood. My internship was going to be finished in a couple of weeks and I had already booked the flight to the United States. Yet, i was still sitting at my desk, across from the secretatary looking at my very old computer screen. I had to get used to the shabbyness and poverty of cultural institutions after having worked as a student assistent for the economics department of my university earlier. I had to get used to being an intern as well. But after some time, I had shown that I was not the regular intern, but capable of working independently and with responsibility. So I was now participating in the fundraising campaign for a new project my institute had launched. It had been hard, I wasn’t the one for calling random people and asking them for money, but I had gotten a publishing house to sponsor books and catering for the final event of the project. So, I was feeling confident that I had done a good job at this internship. This was, when the head of our publishing department entered my office in theĀ  late afternoon. The secretary had already left. I was alone. She asked me: “So, I heard you got into that Master’s programme here in Berlin. Are you gonna do it? Did you already make a decision?”

“Yes, I think it is a very good opportunity and so I will do the programme here in Berlin.”

Actually nothing had been decided as of then. I was still waiting for other responses and those were tempting as well. But somehow, I didn’t feel like telling her all about the distress of applying for postgraduate study. I wanted to be seen by her as someone who knew what they wanted, went for it and got it.

“That is very nice. You see, I’ve been thinking, we would be very pleased, if you returned to us in autumn part time, during your studies at university. If you are interested. We thought, you did a good job so far. You already know everything about our work, our books, our projects.”

I took the job and registered for the Master’s programme in Berlin. Who was I to turn down a combined job and masters offer?