At 23, Florian Zarnetta is among the youngest students in this year’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) class. But in spite of his age, he shares a longstanding commitment to public service with his classmates.
“Growing up my family didn’t have a lot of money. For a while, my parents received unemployment benefits and we used foodbanks. They were tough years but in Germany higher education is free and there are policies in place which meant I received financial support for my living expenses during my studies. In the end, I got lucky and was the first person in my family to go to university. I feel I have to give back.”
Florian took an active role in local youth politics and at age 14 became one of the local youth councillors in his home city of Stuttgart. Over the next four years, he gained an understanding of the possibilities and limitations of making change in politics.
With many of the conversations around structural issues affecting Germany taking place at the federal level, he decided to join Germany’s Social Democratic Party.
“I always felt connected to the values of the party, but I was hesitant to join. I had some issues with their climate policy and so I reflected on it for a while. Eventually I decided I would try to work within the party to change this. For the past few years, with many other young people in the party, I’ve been trying to advocate for more progressive climate policies and in many ways we’ve been successful, though there is still more to do. We have to get young people with these values into the roles with power to make these changes.”
During his undergraduate studies in political science and law, Florian worked part-time for local and state politicians from the party and continued to engage locally and nationally, advocating for climate issues.
At the end of his studies, Florian decided he wanted to pursue a master’s abroad and, for him, the MPP stood out from the crowd. Although many people warned him he would not be able to take such an active role in political life if he spent a year outside of Germany, he felt sure that the course would give him different perspectives on the issues that are important to him and strengthen his policymaking skills.
“Pursuing politics full time is an option in the future and the MPP is the perfect programme to prepare you for this. The Foundations module makes you aware of issues you had no knowledge of and really provides a solid base for any type of career in politics. The programme is also so international. You don’t realise the extent of this until you start the course – studying with classmates from 52 countries is an incredible experience. That is one of the main reasons I chose to do my master’s outside of Germany.”
Florian’s longstanding involvement in German politics along with his desire to build the cross-disciplinary knowledge to continue advocating for progressive policies helped him to secure a place on the course. And his commitment to giving back to his country was recognised by the School, who offered him a tuition fee discount through the Public Service Scholarship.
“After just a few days of being on the course, you start to get the sense that everyone in the class is there because they bring something unique to the conversation. There are a lot of other programmes geared towards giving students policy insights which they can then take to the private sector after their studies. At the Blavatnik school you can see that everyone is committed to public service.”
We are committed to ensuring that access to finance is not a barrier to studying at the Blavatnik School. Full and partial funding is available for outstanding European candidates for the Master of Public Policy, including the Lord Browne Public Service Scholarship. Find out more.