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16.07.2021

Swift integration

Dedicated staff and student buddies support international exchange students at ESB Business School

The exchange students in the business and engineering programmes got to say goodbye in person on campus.

Yahye Ahmed and his buddy Jannis Dippon with fellow students in the virtual escape room.

By Katrin Reil

A new country, new people, a new university system - for international students, starting at ESB Business School can be challenging. In particular, exchange students who are only staying for one semester need to settle in as quickly as possible in order to make the most of their semester abroad. Designated exchange coordinators as well as student buddies provide important support - even online during the Coronavirus pandemic.

All exchange students at ESB Business School are supported by so-called "Exchange Coordinators" who take special care of this group of students. They help with every step, from preparing their stay at ESB to saying goodbye and following up if questions still arise back home. "Last semester, of course, we had to communicate a lot online. But at least we were able to meet outdoors to say hello and goodbye," says Clara Wankmüller, one of the coordinators who look after the exchange students in the business and engineering programmes.

The latter do not always want to go straight to official ESB staff members or professors with those little questions that arise when you are in a new country. This is where the student buddy programmes come in:“The buddy programme in BSc International Business is about connecting ESB students with incoming exchange students to give them someone they can refer to prior to the start of as well as during the semester,“ Anna Scholl explains. The ESB buddies are an important contact point for "their" exchange students, especially when it comes to life outside of lectures. The buddies ensure that everyone feels welcome and a part of Reutlingen University life - taking their buddy partners along to everyday study and leisure activities. This was not easy for Anna Scholl and the other buddies this semester because of Coronavirus restrictions. “It’s a lot more difficult to find something to do when everything is closed, especially because I was relatively cautious with contact restrictions etc. I showed my buddy the Achalm and went to see my parents at home with her. We also went for a few walks and talked about life.”

Jannis Dippon was also active as an ESB buddy last semester. His buddy, Yahye Ahmed, is studying in the Netherlands and was not physically present in Reutlingen; he was a “virtual” exchange student at ESB Business School. Despite the physical distance, Yahye was glad of the chance to swap ideas. “The programme helped me with a lot of problems that are too small to ask professors or the administration. Jannis has helped me integrate better into the ESB community. The more questions I asked, the better the experience was for me,” he says. In their free time, for example, the two visited a virtual escape room along with other exchange students.

The chemistry between buddies is not always right. Larisa Goicu from Romania did not manage to make contact with her assigned partner. Yet the buddy programme is able to deal with cases like that. This is where Anna Scholl stepped in. “We have taken long walks accompanied by longer and interesting talks, followed by reaching out to one another for support with regards to either personal or studying related matters. We actually became good friends,” Larisa says. Everyone working together helps to ensure that no one is left behind. 

It’s clear why the international students are happy to get this support. But why do the Reutlingen buddies get involved? “I take part in the programme because it gives me the opportunity to meet people from different cultures and to basically make new international friends that I hope to visit in the future,” says Jannis Dippon.

Anna Scholl also has her own stint abroad in mind. “It’s awesome to be the first person someone gets to know in a new country and to experience a lot with them during the first few weeks. Later, they’ll figure it out and make their own way, which is beautiful to see. This whole process takes the fear away from my own semester abroad, since I know that everything will turn out okay,” she explains.

Some of that was likely learned from Larisa Goicu, who says: “I’ve learned to take action on my own, find people to help me, create my own circle of friends, recalibrate myself and choose confrontation when needed. This has taught me that one should be independent, but with the ability to ask for help when needed, and adaptable. I've had a lot of realizations and wake-up calls with regards to social dynamics, the behaviours of people coming from different countries and cultures, which could be later translated into people management skills for my future career.”

On both sides, the buddy programme is the ESB spirit made manifest. Certainly Yahye Ahmed thinks so: “ESB is very inclusive and teaches not only business, but also lessons for your personal life,” he says. Jannis Dippon adds: “With the buddy programme, you are doing something really meaningful for the incoming exchange students. Secondly - and most importantly: the buddy programme simply means a lot of fun for everyone. It consists of great events and the unique opportunity of meeting like-minded students from all over the world!”

Students interested in being a student buddy are invited to contact the respective buddy programme offices. If you would like to be a buddy in the BSc International Business programme, please send an email to ib.incomings@dont-want-spam.reutlingen-university.de. Students of the business and engineering programmes and in the MSc International Business Development and MSc International Accounting, Controlling and Taxation programmes may send an email to Lydia-Sophie Dufner@reutlingen-university.de or sign up to the "Students4Students" programme at Students4Students registration.