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Home away from Home

31 July 2007 

Today, no one gets very high up on the ladder of success if their CV is boring. And people working in the human resources departments are not the only ones checking whether or not the applicant has spent some time abroad. In cooperation with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the University of Heidelberg has started a campaign to promote spending a semester abroad.


Just back in Heidelberg from sunny Italy, Janine Luth still seems a little nostalgic. She had gone to study at the university in Cassino, a small city with 15,000 students somewhere between Rome and Naples, and she is enthusiastic about her six-month stay: "Intercultural exchange, meeting new people and making new friends...all that is simply awesome," she says. "The people there are very amiable and friendly!"

Manuel Neetz, who spent a semester in Singapore and is still swept off his feet by that city, tells a similar story: "Singapore is definitely a one-of-a–kind place. An endearing mixture of Eastern and Western culture, perhaps a little artificial on times but also spiced up with other ingredients. There are many good reasons to choose Singapore for a stay abroad. Initially I just wanted to get out and see the world. Thinking back now about my year in South East Asia, I even feel a little homesick.”

Compared to their counterparts from other countries, German university students normally do not hesitate to go abroad. Now, however, tuition fees and the new Bachelor and Master degrees may have made for a little insecurity. This is why Heidelberg has joined the campaign "Go Out! — Study the World”. It was initiated jointly by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Nicole Dorn and Elisabeth Trnka of Heidelberg University’s International Relations Office are the project coordinators. "Most of all, we want to encourage the students’ independence of spirit," they explain. "We want to give them the support they need to act on the conviction that experience abroad is so important for them that they will happily 'sacrifice' a year for it. We believe that they gain so much for their lives from this experience that it more than compensates for the 'lost time' — if you can even call it that.”

Accordingly, the International Relations Office in Heidelberg recommends a semester abroad to every student. This cultural exchange is not only beneficial for the students, but also for the universities themselves. Personal experience, though, is number one on the priority list, says Elisabeth Trnka: "Time and again, students have returned home with a lot more motivation for their study careers. We have also observed that such stays abroad strengthen the students' self-esteem. Other factors are the international contacts they make and the fact that everyone broadens their horizons with experiences like that."

Here’s a final word from Janine Luth: "Ciao ragazzi, fate un anno in Italia ed é sicuro che voi avete un anno molto bello!" If you can’t understand that maybe you should consider going to Italy for a semester.

Featured in an interview of "Campus Report" (audio file).

Nils Birschmann

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer University of  Heidelberg
06221/542310, fax: 54317

Irene Thewalt
06221/542310, fax: 542317

Editor: Email
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