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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