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“Staying in touch”

International Week presented the perfect opportunity for staff of international universities, researchers, and guests from countries all around the world to discuss their work.

Jul 14, 2017

On Wednesday evening at the International House, German and international students celebrated 30 years of the Erasmus exchange program.

On Wednesday evening at the International House, German and international students celebrated 30 years of the Erasmus exchange program.
Image Credit: Michael Fahrig

China, Greece, Egypt, Russia, and Brazil – the visitors of International Week at Freie Universität came from many different parts of the world, including Berlin and other parts of Germany. For an entire week, participants were able to obtain information from lectures and workshops and to discuss their universities. The program was aimed at scholars and scientists, employees, and students of Freie Universität: Numerous events provided information about language courses and stays abroad – and offered an opportunity to enjoy the international atmosphere in Dahlem.

Science and Freedom

Professor Liviu Matei from the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest kicked things off with a lecture about academic freedom. Matei knows from his own experience just how easy this can be threatened. The Hungarian government, through a newly passed university law, is attempting to remove the legal basis for the privately financed CEU and thus drive the university out of the country.

Government influence on universities is not always a disadvantage though, Matei explained. After the Second World War, the U.S. government guaranteed all veterans an opportunity to study at the university, which also paved the way for more African Americans to attend college in the United States. Such education policy decisions are always sustained by particular political narratives, like the “knowledge-based society”: “Hungary is moving away from this narrative,” said Matei.

Research, Teaching, and Society-related Activities

Within the scope of the “International Dialogue on Education – ID-E” on the following day, the so-called “Third Mission” of universities was addressed. Along with the classic tasks of research and teaching, modern universities have a third one, namely, taking on society-related activities, such as founding cooperation activities with partners from society and the economy, offering continuing education opportunities, or supporting start-ups. At an exceptionally stimulating podium discussion, experts from the Netherlands, the USA, Great Britain, and Germany spoke about strategies for moving forward with the Third Mission. Interested parties from all around Germany traveled to attend this event.

Going Abroad from Dahlem

Wednesday was the big day for students: In the corridor in front of the canteen in the Silberlaube, they had a chance to learn about Freie Universität’s language courses and exchange programs. Here, the Institute for Chinese Studies presented the four-year “Bachelor-Plus,” which includes a stay abroad in China. The Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School and the Graduate School of North American Studies encouraged prospective doctoral candidates to go abroad. At the Seminar Center in the Silberlaube, employees from the Student Exchange Office answered the students’ questions. “Many are interested in the opportunities for financial aid and applications deadlines,” said Sabine Simon, who is responsible for the Direct Exchange program, through which Freie Universität cooperates with around 90 universities worldwide. The various stands were well visited. “Here you can ask questions quickly and don’t have to wait until office hours,” said Eric Neumann, a psychology student. His fellow student, Fatima Erkan, took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the Toefl test for English as a second language – she’s hoping to go to Canada soon for a semester.

Visitors in Dahlem

There was also time for celebrating at International Week. On Monday evening around 200 guests attended the reception for visiting researchers from abroad in the garden of the Harnack House, enjoying the pleasant weather. On Wednesday evening, German and international students met at the International House at Freie Universität. The occasion was the 30-year celebration of the Erasmus exchange program. They celebrated together with their fellow Chinese students from the China Scholarship Council – Erasmus worldwide, in a sense.

Internationalization of Staff Members

Last but not least, parts of the program were targeted at the non-academic employees of the university. There are special opportunities for them to go abroad as well as to integrate the topic of internationality into their everyday life. For example, Nicholas Hübner from the Continuing Education Center informed attendees about a new program set up this spring called “ProFI” – a program intended to promote internationalization. The continuing education program is aimed at non-academic staff at Freie Universität and is a combination of an intercultural seminar, a language course, and a stay abroad. “There are still slots open,” Hübner campaigned.

During International Week more than 100 employees from international partner universities were guests in Dahlem. Courses covering topics such as career services, the library, and continuing education were offered as part of Erasmus+ staff training. Additionally, the visitors participated in mutual social activities, and at the end of the week, they were very enthusiastic. “We were split up into three groups, but for the social activities, we were all together. Everything was very well organized,” said Shazara Asgarali-Finn from the United Kingdom. “We, the participants, will definitely be staying in touch with each other.”