What do Indian students cook abroad

Why Germany needs international students

There are 2.87 million students in Germany. Around ten percent come from abroad. The President of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Margret Wintermantel, is satisfied with these figures. "The cross-border mobility of students and scientists and the international cooperation projects funded by the DAAD are a great success," she says in an interview with Deutsche Welle. After the USA, Great Britain and Australia, Germany is the most popular host country for students worldwide. What is still missing, says Wintermantel, is a Germany-wide strategy for integrating students.

German public broadcasting is currently also devoting itself to the subject of studies. From November 9th to 16th, the ARD theme week "Education for the Future" deals with everyday educational life, diversity, digitization, language and education in comparison.

Initial difficulties at German universities

Against racism: the Federal Association of Foreign Students, in the middle Maimouna Ouatttara

Maimouna Ouattara comes from Ivory Coast and is doing her doctorate at the University of Potsdam. She feels well integrated. As chairwoman of the Federal Association of Foreign Students, she advises international students primarily on legal issues and in the federal association defends herself against the introduction of tuition fees for non-European students. you knows the advantages of studying in Germany. "One of the reasons why the students come is because they enjoy a good education here and the German degree gives them more opportunities on the international market," she says. Another plus point: Most universities do not charge tuition fees. But Ouattara also knows the problems. She can still remember the difficult beginnings of her studies in Germany. "I did a language course, but I was lost at the first lecture," she said in an interview with DW. "For example, I didn't know how to take notes or take transcripts of lectures."

The dropout rate is too high

To cope with a foreign culture with another language and bureaucracy is not so easy. Many feel left alone there. The drop-out rate of foreign students is still around 41 percent. Too high, thinks Margret Wintermantel. "We have to ensure that the academic success of foreign students improves. We cannot permanently accept that young people come to us, then drop out of their studies here and return home frustrated." The students need more support, more advice and, of course, the universities need adequate financial resources.

Is committed to more integration: Margret Wintermantel, President of the DAAD

There is more demand than places for language courses alone. This is also the case at Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg. Here Akram Elborashi studies medicine. The Egyptian (in the cover photo above in the green T-shirt) is involved in IKUS, an association of students who help others with integration. For example, Elborashi organizes excursions with international and German students. "I also take care of intercultural problems in the dormitories and help with the translation between caretakers and residents." Unfortunately not many would speak German there. "The free German courses are always full, there are long queues."

The rector of Otto von Guericke University, Jens Strackeljan, knows the problem. He is very committed to the internationality of his university and supports the students with the help of DAAD programs, among other things. The university is specifically looking after Syrian refugees. After preparatory measures, ten of them have now been able to start studying.

Germany needs immigrants

The University of Magdeburg is predominantly technically and scientifically oriented and is considered to be particularly cosmopolitan. Of the 14,000 students, over 3,000 come from 106 nations. "That doesn't make the integration work easy," Strackeljan told DW. The largest group is made up of 950 Indian students who have their own community in Magdeburg. Teaching in the master’s courses is held in English.

Cosmopolitan: the Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg

Jens Strackeljan would like to avoid the Asians staying among themselves and trying to win more Indians for Bachelor courses. There they learn German right from the start. "If we do not manage to offer enough language courses, then a connection to the labor market in Saxony-Anhalt is virtually impossible," says the rector. And this despite the fact that companies in eastern Germany are desperately looking for workers.

"Our society needs more well-trained people, including qualified immigrants in many areas, for example in new technologies such as artificial intelligence and in engineering in general," confirms Margret Wintermantel from the DAAD. "To do this, they must also be able to find their way into our job market."

Magdeburg should become more colorful

But integration doesn't just mean bringing skilled workers into business with language courses. It's also about arriving in society, feeling comfortable there. Rector Jens Strackeljan has had good experiences working with the city of Magdeburg. A welcome center in the middle of the city is being planned for special questions from the scientific newcomers. "It should be an open meeting that shows: You are welcome here," says Strackeljan. "This also makes the international students more visible."

For a colorful Magdeburg: Rector Jens Strackeljan from Otto-von-Guericke University

Strackeljan wants to make Magdeburg more colorful. He sees his responsibility not only for the university, but also for society. In an aging society in particular, the university is an opportunity to bring young people into the city and to keep them there.

Given that the right-wing populist parties in Saxony-Anhalt and just recently again in Thuringia have received an unusually large number of votes, this is not an easy task. The xenophobic attitude of the populists scares off international and national students alike.

The pressure from the right is a deterrent

After an event at the university in 2017, in which the "young alternative", the university initiative of the right-wing populist party AfD (Alternative for Germany), was to have its say, there was a scandal between supporters and opponents. Strackeljan received death threats from the right-wing camp. "That was too much," says the rector. His car was manipulated so that a front tire came off. "In addition, there were graffiti on the house, where you wonder if you stick to the line now." Ultimately, he decided not to be intimidated and to keep his university open to the world.

Akram Elborashi has not yet had any xenophobic experiences. He enjoys being in Germany and wants to stay after graduating. He has friends in Magdeburg - and he will be covered later at work, he says: "You are well insured in Germany, even if you would earn more money as a doctor in the USA." There is health insurance, long-term care insurance and you would get your pension later. Just the bureaucracy, he'll probably never understand it. "There is a shortage of doctors here. Germany needs me," he is convinced, "so why should I go away?"