Settling in a new city can be dif­fi­cult. Moving to an ent­i­re­ly new coun­try, howe­ver, is even more chal­len­ging. Paula Klötzke is the con­sul­tant for inter­na­tio­nal mat­ters of MLU’s stu­dent coun­cil and hel­ps inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents at their arri­val and during their stay in Halle. In the fol­lowing inter­view she talks about a “num­ber fetis­hism” that seems to have infec­ted some uni­ver­si­ties, her work as con­sul­tant and the new­ly foun­ded working group AK Internationales.

How did you end up in Halle?
That’s kind of a fun­ny sto­ry becau­se I was actual­ly born in Halle. My par­ents went to uni­ver­si­ty here, but we moved abroad when I was an infant and I only came back to Halle for my own stu­dies. I have lived in Belarus, then in Budapest, Hungary and Zagreb, Croatia. Though as from Croatia I also kind of lived part­ly in Germany, atten­ding a boar­ding school. After that a bit in Rotterdam, The Netherlands whe­re my par­ents still live today.

What are your fiel­ds of stu­dy and why did you choo­se them?
I stu­dy poli­ti­cal sci­ence and phi­lo­so­phy, both very inte­res­ting to me. I strug­gled to com­mit mys­elf to only one sub­ject and I also thought it would be a good star­ting point for deli­be­ra­ting after the bache­lor degree what might come next. 

Why did you want to beco­me the con­sul­tant for inter­na­tio­nal mat­ters?
I app­lied becau­se I wan­ted to get invol­ved and thought I could help due to my own expe­ri­en­ces abroad. I am fami­li­ar with the pos­si­ble chal­len­ges and pro­blems that might occur. 

What do you do as con­sul­tant?
My main task is to advi­se inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents, for that I offer a con­sul­ta­ti­on hour to which ever­yo­ne is invi­ted. I try to help direct­ly or put the stu­dents in con­ta­ct with other spe­ci­fic coun­sellors and also some­ti­mes accom­pa­ny them the­re. For examp­le to the legal con­sul­ta­ti­on the stu­dent coun­cil pro­vi­des, to trans­la­te, if necessa­ry. Other than that, I keep in touch with the International Office, Studentenwerk and of cour­se the Studienkolleg. 

What’s the Studienkolleg?
The Studienkolleg offers pre­pa­ra­to­ry cour­ses for uni­ver­si­ty to inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents who­se diplo­mas pre­vious­ly awar­ded aren’t reco­gnis­ed in Germany and who the­re­fo­re tech­ni­cal­ly aren’t qua­li­fied for uni­ver­si­ty admis­si­on. The cour­ses are struc­tu­red depen­ding on the sub­ject they plan to pur­sue and con­vey, as far as I know, gene­ral German lan­guage skills as well as sub­ject-spe­ci­fic knowledge.

What do inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents need sup­port with?
That can vary, depen­ding on their home coun­try and length of stay. There often are issu­es in con­nec­tion with visits to government offices, espe­cial­ly regar­ding pro­blems of under­stan­ding due to the lan­guage gap. Furthermore, the apart­ment search poses a big pro­blem becau­se in many coun­tries housing is usual­ly pro­vi­ded by the uni­ver­si­ty or is at least easi­ly avail­ab­le, which isn’t the case in Germany. Many don’t anti­ci­pa­te how pro­ble­ma­tic and time-con­suming fin­ding accom­mo­da­ti­on can be here.

Which task do you like best?
Definitely con­ta­ct with the inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents. It’s extre­me­ly inte­res­ting to learn more about whe­re they are from, about their stu­dies, their inte­rests and how and why they came to Halle.

What bothers you that you would like to chan­ge?
I have the fee­ling that in Halle, but also at many other uni­ver­si­ties in Germany, when we talk about inter­na­tio­na­li­sa­ti­on it’s only about num­bers. The uni­ver­si­ty adorns its­elf with a cer­tain per­cen­ta­ge of inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents. Sure, it’s gre­at that exchan­ge can take place, howe­ver, I think the indi­vi­du­al is often for­got­ten in the pro­cess. By that I mean, for examp­le, the addi­tio­nal obsta­cles many inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents have to face once they are here. But the­se are also part of the big word “inter­na­tio­na­li­sa­ti­on”.

Logo Arbeitskreis Internationales 

Was that the rea­son why you foun­ded the newest stu­dent coun­cil working group “AK Internationales”?
Yes, howe­ver, I didn’t estab­lish it on my own but tog­e­ther with a fel­low stu­dent, who herself came from her home coun­try to stu­dy in Germany. The working group was foun­ded becau­se I noti­ced that the­re is insuf­fi­ci­ent repre­sen­ta­ti­on of inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents. There are few oppor­tu­nities for them to take an acti­ve part wit­hin the stu­dent com­mu­ni­ty, to par­ti­ci­pa­te and get invol­ved. Being enab­led to pur­sue their own inte­rests but also the inte­rests of the who­le stu­dent body. The AK Internationales offers the pos­si­bi­li­ty for inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents to come tog­e­ther, exchan­ge views and to work on topics that are important to them.

So who can join the AK Internationales?
Well, I per­so­nal­ly am not an inter­na­tio­nal stu­dent, so we are princi­pal­ly open for ever­yo­ne, alt­hough our main tar­get group are inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents. Though if anyo­ne else feels clo­se­ly con­nec­ted to the­se issu­es and perhaps has per­so­nal expe­ri­en­ces abroad, that per­son would be wel­co­me too, of course.

What are your plans for the future as con­sul­tant for inter­na­tio­nal mat­ters?
Definitely to fur­ther estab­lish the AK Internationales. It would be gre­at if many inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents joi­ned us during the upco­m­ing semes­ter to start and deve­lop new pro­jects tog­e­ther. We have a lot of ide­as, only at the moment we sim­ply aren’t enough peop­le. Furthermore, I hope to main­tain and sta­bi­li­se the net­work I was able to deve­lop as the con­sul­tant for inter­na­tio­nal mat­ters, so that my suc­ces­sor can con­ti­nue the work more easi­ly. Not knowing who to ask or call regar­ding spe­ci­fic pro­blems was actual­ly one of the big­gest chal­len­ges for me at the beginning. 

Which ide­as do you have for the AK?
Our ide­as can be broad­ly divi­ded into two are­as. On the one hand we would like to deepen the dis­cus­sions with the rector’s office and insti­tu­ti­ons like the International Office to impro­ve the infor­ma­ti­on flow. It also beca­me evi­dent during visits of the Ausländerbehörde (for­eig­ners’ regis­tra­ti­on office) that for examp­le it wasn’t clear which docu­ments must be brought with. These are qui­te prac­ti­cal mat­ters. On the other hand we also want to work rather ide­a­tio­nal­ly and gene­ral­ly address what it means having inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents come here and being one oneself. How our dif­fe­rent expe­ri­en­ces and ide­as can mutual­ly enhan­ce one ano­t­her, how the stu­dent com­mu­ni­ty can bene­fit from new mem­bers from dif­fe­rent coun­tries. I think it would be gre­at if we tal­ked more about mul­ti­lin­gua­lism both in terms of tea­ching and also in gene­ral wit­hin the stu­dent community.

Finally, would you like to share anything else with our rea­ders?
The AK Internationales warm­ly wel­co­mes every new mem­ber. We hope for fresh ide­as and new con­cepts, but any­one who has com­p­laints or pro­blems is also invi­ted to share them with us. Hopefully we can dis­cuss and try to resol­ve them tog­e­ther. Therefore: Come join us at the next mee­ting of the AK Internationales!

Translation: Paula Klötzke 

Die deut­sche Version die­ses Interviews fin­det Ihr hier.

Foto: Jonas Leonhardt 
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