Info Table: First aid for students from around the world
What courses should I take and where are my classes? Can I take a university sports course? Where is the nearest copy shop or Internet café? The team at the Info Table in Giessen offers advice and assistance to help you take care of the most important matters on your first days at university.
by Sophie Nagel
You’ve just arrived in Germany. If finding your way around wasn’t hard enough, now you have to find a place to live, too! You haven’t drawn up your course timetable yet, you don’t have Internet, and you ask yourself: Where do I begin? The first place you should go is the International Office at your university. At the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, for example, a team of German and international students can help you organise your daily life and studies. In a series of events, the team of mentors aims to get you off to as good a start as possible in Giessen.
The team headed by 24-year-old Patrycja Zakrzewska makes sure that you’ve paid your semester contribution, brought a photo for your semester ticket and the notification of admission to your degree programme. Patrycja, who originally comes from Gdansk, Poland, once sat at the same Info Table when she began her master’s degree programme in German as a Foreign Language. She appreciates the help she received back then even more today. Now she has the chance to pass on her experience as a team leader. She or one of her colleagues help you fill out your “Stammdatenblatt” to make it easier for the Registrar’s Office to enter your data into the register. The “Stammdatenblatt” is an information sheet which contains your degree programme, current address and other relevant information.
If you come from a non-EU country and need to obtain German health insurance cover, one of the mentors can take you to a representative of a health insurance provider. Or if you haven’t opened a German bank account yet or haven’t transferred the semester contribution, Patrycja and her team can show you what to do. After you have officially enrolled, you will receive an info bag with helpful advice and instructions about Internet cafés, the housing market, events offered at “Lokal International” and a city map.
All the exchange students receive a personal advising meeting with one of the instructors of his/her degree programme. At this meeting, you’ll discuss exactly which modules you could or must take and how to draw up your course timetable. And if you have questions which are too specific for the Info Table team, you can contact the International Office (AIS) whose advisors are responsible for counselling and supervising international students and university applicants. They also have advisors on hand who specialise in helping doctoral students.
Presidential welcome, campus tour and visa applications
During the orientation weeks before the semester begins, team leader Patrycja is busy arranging other important matters, for example, helping you fill out your residence visa application. The students in her team also offer a campus tour where they show you the dining hall, various faculties, athletic facilities and the main university library.
The official welcoming ceremony with the university president is also a chance for you to get to know your fellow students and the structure of the university. This is where you can chat with other students about your first days in Giessen and check out the semester programme at “Lokal International” which includes regular theme-based events, game evenings, speed dating and film clubs.
Life outside the university
Before the semester begins, the AIS offers new students an excursion to a nearby destination. This offers you yet another opportunity to get to know your fellow students. Other excursions are offered throughout the semester. If you wish to participate, simply sign up at the Student Administration Office in advance.