Member Spotlight: May-Britt Stumbaum, PhD  By

Member Spotlight: May-Britt Stumbaum, PhD

May-Britt Stumbaum, PhD, is one of the leading women in the field of international security. She is Head of the NFG Research Group “Asian Perceptions of the EU” at the Free University of Berlin. Aiming to bridge academia and policy, she has published widely on EU security affairs toward Asia and China.

Currently, she is on sabbatical in Taiwan and took some time from her busy schedule to discuss with us how she got her start in the field.

Q. How did you become involved in International Security?

A. My first intro was by my parents who were very active in the German peace movement in the 1980s which exposed me to a lot of discussions on international security from early years onward. I started working with the German Council on Foreign Relations in its then Forum on European Foreign and Security Policy. Delving ever more deeply into security policy, the chief editor of the institute’s journal recruited me to set up with her and four other brave women a German chapter for “Women in International Security”,, that connected women in international security in academia, business and policy. The following years, I could connect my ever-growing interest in the field with meeting outstanding, inspiring women and men in the field.

Q. What sparked your interest in the field?

A. International security deals with very basic, essential questions – trust and cooperation, life and death. Without security, there is no development, no growing up, no dreams to be pursued. Moreover, you meet very diverse, inspiring people — it is absolutely amazing to talk to officers about why they have chosen their profession; it is moving to meet those who try to cope with the impacts of a lack of security, of conflicts, of war, and to try to contribute a bit by analyzing policies and bringing different mind sets together.

Q. What is the most important thing that people don’t know about International Security that they should know?

A. That it is a topic that concerns every one of us, even those of us who live in peaceful countries. On our website, we try to provide more information publicly to spur the discussion on International Security and particularly in Asia Pacific and to show the different perspectives people can have and do have and that need to be taken into account.

Q. What do you think is the future of Women in International Security?

A. I think women will gain more ground to show that they can deliver the same level and sophistication as their male colleagues, but it will remain a thorny and tough path for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, it is important to continue this path to supply the full range of perspectives and assessments and ways of implementation in International Security. As for the organization Women in International Security in Germany,, we started with brave 10 women in 2003 and are more than 360 by today. There is a great new generation coming up that are proving themselves in depth of expertise, dedication and capability.

Q. Can you share some stories about the people you’ve met through

A. Amazing people, even those that could not move in due to time clashes – I had very interesting conversations on email, Skype, and in person and I have always had the feeling my flat is in good hands with people who share interests and conditions and know what it is like to be abroad and to research and study there. In return, also those I have met for the flat I a moving to – Katherine and Greg – have been utmost helpful and forthcoming, so I feel welcome in my new, temporary home, which makes things way easier. Having had two almost-bad experiences at Craigslist with two scams, it makes a big difference to be able to have much in common and to be able to see that it is real people you are dealing with.

Q. What’s the most challenging thing about renting your home? And how do you overcome it?

A. Most challenging thing is trust – even though you are signing a contract and get a deposit, you are renting out your personal space to someone relatively unknown to you. I am overcoming the hesitance by engaging in a conversation on email, skype and in person where possible to get a feeling for each other and for the extent of commonalities that will make trust much easier.

Q. Do you have a dream sabbatical/travel destination?

A. Bora Bora. Or Hawaii – the latter actually has an East-West Centre that deals with my topic — International Security in Asia Pacific.


Sara Priztkat frequently corresponds with Sabbatical Homes members via our communications team. Her goal is to help you optimally use our site to find, or offer, the perfect home exchange or rental. She also enjoys writing about our members, their adventures and accomplishments.

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