Münster (upm/bw/ja)
What's often on the agenda whenever medical student Johanna (l.) and Swedish exchange student Emelie (doing Business Studies) get together, is the next culinary delight ...© WWU - Friederike Stecklum

Why travel to distant lands?

The Buddy Programme offers chances to enjoy international flair in Münster too / Record with 220 "Buddies"

Not everyone is able, or even wants, to spend time abroad – especially as not every course of study includes a compulsory semester abroad. And in any case: anyone who stays in Münster can get to know other cultures and bring the great wide world into their own homes – with the Buddy Programme.

Since the early 1990s the International Office, as a central institution, has been looking after ERASMUS students. The so-called Buddy Programme was devised in 2003 in order to provide them with as much wide-ranging support and assistance as possible, and to promote integration. A Münster student accompanies a student from abroad to various free-time activities, shows him or her both the University and the city of Münster, and is always available as someone the foreign student can contact. In this way, friendships for life can be formed – the finest kind of internationalization.

A case in point is Emelie Davidson from Norrköping in Sweden, doing Business Studies, and Johanna Ettemeyer, studying Medicine in Münster. "We like cooking together – vegetarian most of all – or we go out clubbing with friends", says Johanna. One thing Emelie quickly learned was that this happens a bit differently than in Sweden. "We meet up at 9 pm, go out to a club around midnight and party till 4 in the morning", says Johanna. "In Sweden", explains Emelie, "the clubs close at 2 am – which means we meet up much earlier. That’s why I’m always so tired here when we go out clubbing …"

In the 2015/2016 winter semester there are 220 Münster University Buddies for 400 exchange students – which is a record for the University. Most of the exchange students come from Spain, France and Italy, but there are also some from Poland and the Czech Republic. "We can’t actually arrange for everyone to have just one Buddy, but we’re pleased enough with a ratio of 1:2", says Petra Bettig, who is responsible at the International Office for coordination in the "Internationalisation at Home" department. Four student assistants and a good 30 voluntary helpers from the Erasmus Münster Association help to coordinate the many activities on offer. Whether it’s a cycle tour through the Münsterland, a karaoke evening, the Running Cocktail Night or even an excursion to Berlin – there’s no danger of things ever becoming boring.

No wonder, then, that some people repeatedly offer their services as a Buddy. Marco Kotwasinski, for example. The 21-year-old is in his third semester, studying to become a teacher of History and English at a Comprehensive or a Grammar School. He has already been a Buddy twice. His current Buddy is Gözde. She comes from Turkey and is studying the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language. When Gözde arrived in Münster, Marco was there to meet her and take her to her apartment. Today he helps her as a tutor, especially in her studies. "We speak a lot of English together so that she can practise the language", says Marco. He still has such a good relationship with his first Buddies that he wants to visit them soon in Istanbul.

Having a common (foreign-) language is the most important factor. It doesn’t happen very often that the Buddies’ courses of study match each other as well as in Marco and Gözde’s case. "In future we want to try and set up pairs of Buddies whose course subjects also match", says Petra Bettig. "That will then enable the Münster Buddy to provide more help with course-related questions." Any Münster student who has already spent time abroad can indicate this on his application to be a Buddy and thus get an opportunity to carry on practising his foreign language skills.

This is precisely the reason why Johanna and Emilie are so well-matched – and why they are now more than just Buddies. Johanna already went on exchange to Sweden in Class 11, staying in Tranås, where Emilie’s parents live. The two of them met up there and planned Emelie’s stay in Münster before she came. "I’m so grateful that someone was there for me right from the start. That makes living in a foreign country so much easier", says Emelie. And Johanna is delighted that occasionally she can speak Swedish, the language she loves so much.
                                                                                                                                               Bernadette Winter


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