Author: Ana Alibegova
Geo2gether is an initiative that helps international students reading geography at the University of Bonn in terms of organizing them and offering them support so they can easily adjust to the new environment. Apart from providing them with advice and help for writing papers, this group of students also takes care of the international students’ social life.
Being an international student abroad is not as easy as it might seem. Studying abroad is a challenge, and is often strewn with “difficult moments”. Adjusting to a new environment can pose certain challenges. When you go to study in a foreign country, you face a different culture, a different way of life, a different society. The saying ‘Each beginning is difficult’ can be absolutely true, especially for a young student, living alone and in the process of making new friends. All these moments can be even harder, if you cannot adjust to the new university. That is why a group of students from the University of Bonn in Germany, decided to start an initiative called “Geo2gether”, whose aim is to help with the orientation and socialization of international students reading geography at the University of Bonn.
“Within the framework of the support programme for foreign students at the University of Bonn, we are the official contact persons at the Institute of Geography since the beginning of the 2006/2007 winter term. We would like to support you in your studies and offer you an extensive programme”, states the official Geo2gether website. The project idea came about as a result of the international experience of some German students, who had the opportunity to study abroad. Faced with all the formalities and the organisational difficulties, they saw the need of a project like this one, a project that will bring international students together and will provide them with support for their studies and some kind of language courses. Geo2gether offers individual coaching for international “freshmen” at the University, a tandem programme and provides important information on all the activities of the Institute of Geography.
A Tandem Programme and Help to Learn the Language
The individual couching is probably one of the most important services that Geo2gether provides. It covers Language Training, during which students learn how to give presentations and deliver speeches; Writing and Spelling training, that helps students improve their language skills and gives them tips on how to write better papers; Personal Guidance through the Institute and the University, under which international students gather information about the institutions’ organization, and Training for Time Management and Preparation of Exams. A very important aspect of Geo2gether is the tandem programme; German speaking students help international students learn the language and communicate better. This so-called “exchange” is very popular in Germany, even in the dormitories. Foreign students learn German from the German students, and in turn, German students learn foreign languages or improve their English by communicating with the foreign students. With Geo2gether you can easily get your individual contact person or your learning partner, who will help you improve your German and sometimes even help you get familiar with the German educational system. At the moment, students from Georgia, Cameroon and Germany are available within the tandem programme.
Parties to Meet New People
Apart from helping students in terms of studying and getting to know the University and the Institute of Geography better, Geo2gether takes care of the international students’ social life. Quite often they organize parties, where people can get to know each other better, share experiences and have fun. Movie and karaoke nights, international evenings, visits to the theatre and the opera, and field trips are on the list of Geo2gether activities. At the beginning of each school year, a get-to-know party is organised and all students are invited. International students are introduced to these activities, which often are very beneficial for them, since in the beginning they need some place they can go out to and meet new people.
Award from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs honoured these students’ devotion and awarded the Geo2gether initiative with a prize of 7,500 euros, which are going to be used to organize short trips for the international students. The government’s idea is to stimulate and support similar projects that promote intercultural exchange and intercultural dialogue. Initiatives like Geo2gether can be found at some other universities as well, for example as part of exchange programmes such as Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus or Basileus Programme, where usually the Universities themselves assign coordinators for international students. Most of the highly ranked universities in Europe have International Students’ Department. In addition, some sort of help with the orientation and socialisation international students can also get from the student non-governmental organisations, or from the student body organisations.