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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