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Students do better wenn they feel at home. From welcome breakfasts to friendship programmes, German universities come up with lots of interesting ways of making it easier for international students to settle into their new surroundings. The DAAD offers them a combined scholarship and support programme (STIBET), which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office. It supports introductory events and country evenings as well as specialist support for foreign doctoral students. Projects like Die Brücke (The Bridge) in Münster have developed their own special approaches and act as examples for other universities.
Which mobile phone contract is the best deal for me? What university sporting activities and facilities are available? Where can I buy a second-hand bicycle? Zoha Moztarzadeh patiently answers all the questions together with two German tutors. They are sitting in a small circle with international students who will begin studying in Münster during the next few days. The newcomers earnestly follow the presentation on the laptop. They receive lots of important information about life in Münster that will help them find their way around. Zoha, who came to Germanyfrom Iran six years ago, remembers her own arrival. “I think about what would have been important to me at the beginning,” says the voluntary helper. Because she arrived a week after the semester began, she missed all the introductory events. “I didn’t know how I should phone my parents or where I could buy food. Even simple things become difficult when you have to deal with them totally on your own.”
For 55 years, Die Brücke – International Centre of the University of Münster – has been supporting students and doctoral students from abroad and providing a meeting place where they will always find someone to talk to. Events are held here almost every evening, while during the day study groups look for a space in one of the rooms or people just meet for a coffee. The project in Münster has already twice won the Federal Foreign Office prize for excellent support of foreign students at German higher education institutions. “We offer a complete support service from arrival from the home country to alumni services,” says Joachim Sommer, director of Die Brücke. “That’s almost unique in the German higher education landscape.” As part of the International Office, Die Brücke works closely with the university, which provides staff funding, among other things. A team of German and international assistants supports students when they have to visit authorities or complete official forms, organises welcome breakfasts and arranges links with German families.
In the light of high drop-out rates, attention has increasingly focused on support for international students in recent years. STIBET, the Federal Foreign Office’s combined scholarship and support programme, offers funding to universities to award scholarships and provide academic and social support for foreign students. “Targeted measures make a discernible contribution to improving the academic success of foreign students,” says Stephanie Knobloch, the responsible head of section at the DAAD. 250 higher education institutions in Germanyuse funds from the STIBET programme. The funding pays for scholarships for students from partner universities and for doctoral students as well as selected measures that create incentives for improved cooperation between different local institutions. Since 2006 there has also been a special STIBET programme division for foreign doctoral students that funds modules at many universities to enhance teaching and research experience.
Facts and figures
In 2011 the DAAD is funding support for students and doctoral students in German higher education with a budget of 9.3 million euros. // The STIBET programme was created in 2001 with funds from the Federal Foreign Office. // When STIBET was set up, the DAAD combined two existing programmes and significantly expanded their financial framework. // A separate programme for foreign doctoral students was established in 2006 that funds modules to improve teaching and research experience. // 250 higher education institutions in Germany participate in the STIBET programme.
Text: Gunda Achterhold/Societäts-Medien