Ilka Eßmüller


Journalist, TV presenter

DAAD Scholarship 1988–1989

Ilka Eßmüller DAAD

Alligator eyes glowing through the twilight, flooded houses in the poorer quarters of Baton Rouge and convicts working in the fields while wearing their shackles – the journalist Ilka Essmüller had a number of impressive encounters during her study stay in the Southern States of the USA in 1988 and 1989. "Actually, I had applied to the DAAD for a scholarship on the East Coast," recounts the presenter of the TV news programme RTL Nachtjournal. However, the DAAD allocated the America scholarship holder places to universities abroad, and so Essmüller, who was born in Stolzenau, Lower Saxony, in 1964, went to Louisiana State University (LSU) in order to extend her knowledge of American literature and history.

American professors are often a lot more open-minded and accessible than German ones. Although they are tougher and stricter in their assessments, they are also highly committed and motivate the students.
Ilka Eßmüller

Following her initial disappointment, the aspiring American studies student quickly realised that the LSU had more to offer than the courses she would have needed for the study of American studies, political science as well as theatre, film and television studies, which she had begun in Frankfurt. It was at the LSU that she came across a School of Journalism. She had already completed some journalistic internships in Germany and now saw an opportunity to extend and widen this field. "Since I only had two semesters available to me, I immediately applied to the professor in charge for a postgraduate course." From then on, she used every opportunity available to her to work in journalistic fields, for example, she wrote for the university journal as well as the local newspaper, and sat in on the work of the local TV broadcaster.

The lecturers at the LSU encouraged her all along: "American professors are often a lot more open and accessible than German ones," says Ilka Essmüller. "Although they are tougher and stricter in their assessments, they are also highly committed and motivate the students." The rewards for Essmüller's hard work were not only good grades, but also plenty of samples of her journalistic work, which had a positive influence on her career path. In 1992 she graduated with an excellent Master’s. She has worked at RTL since 1994 and been presenting Nachtjournal since 2008. "It was a really valuable year for me," says Ilka Essmüller, when talking about her scholarship. "I'm really grateful to the DAAD."