Simona Helmsmüller was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1983. After spending one year in Australia, she graduated from High School and moved to Saarbrücken to pursue her studies of mathematics. During her studies, she concentrated on statistics and insurance mathematics, and on quantum chemistry in her minor subject. She also studied one year at the Université de Montréal in Canada. Following her graduation, she completed an internship with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and decided to build a career in the field of microfinance. Before joining the University of Mannheim, she therefore spent three years working as Project Manager and Consultant for financial sector development at a German consulting company based in Bonn. Her work took her on short-term assignment to diverse places such as Tajikistan, Cambodia, Nigeria, and Egypt, amongst other countries. Parallel to her work, she also gained a Bachelor's degree in Economics at the Distance University Hagen. Her decision to deepen her economic knowledge was spurred by the desire to understand the factors influencing the growth of an economy on a macro and a micro level. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, ballet dance, jogging, reading, and the endless search for the perfect piece of chocolate.
Why I chose the University of Mannheim and in particular the GESS
The doctoral program in economics of the University of Mannheim is among the best in Germany. With a large number of professors covering a broad range of fields, I remain convinced that this school offers the best possibility for high class research in the areas of my choosing.
The best part of being a doctoral student here
The best part of the program is the interaction with other students, be it in class, in seminars, during the biannual department happy hour, or simply in the office next door.
A description of my fellow doctoral students
My fellow doctoral students come from diverse countries, have visited different schools, have various sets of experience and knowledge, each enriching our group. We are a team, which leaves each member enough freedom to follow own interests.
My most challenging experience within the program
During the first year of the program, the courses focus almost exclusively on methodological know-how, not yet touching on their application to some of the economic questions that I came to this program with. At the same time, the immense work load does not leave much free time to do any reading besides what is required for class. It was challenging to find the right balance between learning the required curriculum and finding time to develop own trains of thought.
My advice for prospective students
If you consider joining this program, talk to current students and faculty. Everybody here is very open and will be happy to share his/her experience with you.