Support families and their exchange students visit a local beer garden. (photo: Armin Gertz)

Ute Störiko, her family and the visiting students Natalia (l.) und Laura. (photo: private)

    Helping Guests “Settle In”

    Integration programmes for foreign students at the University of Bamberg

    They come for one semester, a year, or even for their entire studies: they’re foreign students. In order to help these students settle in and feel more at home in a new city and culture, the University of Bamberg offers both tandem and support family programmes.

    There are currently 906 foreign students enrolled at the University of Bamberg, and as the “Silver Award 2013 International Student Satisfaction” has shown, they are highly positive about their experiences here. There are numerous initiatives that contribute to these outstanding results, and two programmes in particular are geared towards helping students feel at home in Bamberg. The so-called tandem programme, coordinated by the university’s International Office, initiates contact between students from Bamberg and abroad.

    The programme, which has been serving Bamberg’s students for twenty years, arranges an average of 250 tandem partnerships each semester. The tandem helps exchange students become acquainted with Bamberg and the university during their first days in their new home. “First and foremost, the programme should help a student who has just arrived in Bamberg ‘settle in.’ This entails things like meeting our foreign guests at the train station, showing them the way to their living accommodations and giving them a hand with the initial formalities and aspects of life in Bamberg,” explains Edith Hallberg, the coordinator of the tandem programme.

    Shu-Ching, one tandem participant from Taiwan, confirms how important it is for newly arrived foreign students to have a local contact person: “Naturally, there are initial problems with the language, and that’s one reason why we come up against difficulties in everyday German life. We also know almost no one in our new city. This friendship is very important to us, especially because we are also missing our families.”

    In addition to coordinating tandem partnerships, the International Office also organizes a large meet-and-greet event for all foreign and local participants at the start of each semester. Please visit the International Office website for more information on becoming a tandem partner.

    Discovering German Family Life

    A different kind of focus is at the core of the “StiPf” programme (roughly, “Students in Support Families”) which was founded by Language Centre employees in 2012. Dr Ute Störiko, part-time lecturer of Swedish, and Armin Gertz, project staff member for international student mobility, bring together exchange students and local families. Dr Störiko got the idea when she noticed that many of her foreign students seemed only to have contact with university students – and in the worst case, only with their fellow exchange students. “It’s something we wanted to change,” Störiko explains. “Families are more firmly rooted in the local culture than most university students, and then of course there are also many generations under one roof. This kind of contact provides exchange students with a very different perspective on German culture.”

    Support families accompany visiting students through different phases of their studies in Bamberg, and various activities like baking traditional Christmas biscuits, game evenings or visits to the local beer gardens give the students the unique opportunity to experience German family life. And as Dr Störiko knows, these friendships endure long after visiting students return to their home countries. She and her family have also been host to two exchange students who have since returned home, and they are even planning a trip to visit one for their former guests in Poland next spring.

    According to Mr Gertz, each relationship is different and exchange students and families can decide for themselves how often they wish to get together. “There isn’t some kind of rigid guideline, but we do encourage at least two meetings per semester. We’ve even had support families that met up every weekend.”
    In order to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible, both coordinators put a great deal of effort into matching students and families. Some important things that they take into consideration are general interests, language abilities and also nationalities. Over 20 families are currently involved, but the programme is always looking for more. If your family is interested in hosting a student, or if you are a student who would like to discover real German family life, please contact Armin Gertz (for students) or Ute Störiko (for families). Contact information can be found here.

    Notice

    This press release was written by Samira Rosenbaum for the University of Bamberg’s press office. It may be used without restriction for journalistic purposes.

    Please contact the press office with any questions or image requests by email or telephone at medien(at)uni-bamberg.de, or ++49 (0)951-863-1023, respectively.