Laura Hope: American Dream in Deutschland
The American Laura Hope came to Germany as an exchange student herself. Today she helps students make their dream of studying abroad come true. Laura is an advisor for foreign study visits at the TU Dortmund.
by Lisa Tüch
Name: Laura Hope
Country of origin: Montgomery, Alabama, USA
Job: Since 2007, coordinator for (foreign) internships and advisor for foreign study visits at the International Office at the TU Dortmund
University study: Applied Literature and Cultural Studies at the TU Dortmund (2002 to 2007)
Postcards from around the world are pinned up on the wall of Laura Hope’s office at the International Office. “When I get a postcard from Namibia or South Korea, I see the impact I’ve made on someone’s life. It’s a rewarding job.”
Laura advises students in Dortmund who wish to go abroad – for example, to complete an internship or a semester of study. She helps students decide where they would like to go and assists them with filling out applications and obtaining visas. “Some people think my office is a travel agency,” Laura says, smirking.
Springboard for a future career – A degree in Dortmund
The US-born Laura Hope is well-acquainted with the situation of those whom she now helps. She too chose to study abroad while at university. In 1999, she packed her bags and studied for a semester in Dortmund. She enjoyed her stay so much that following graduation in the States, she began pursuing a second degree in Applied Literature and Cultural Studies in Dortmund.
Her degree programme at the TU Dortmund prepared her well for her current position because it taught her a lot about marketing and cultures. Yet the “soft skills” she gained turned out to be exceedingly helpful. “The research skills I learned were especially important,” she says. “For example, when I had to draw up a reading list for a seminar by myself. It taught me how to work independently.” These skills come in handy in her current job. Since she is the only foreign study advisor at the International Office, she has to seize the initiative and frequently come up with creative solutions on her own. Laura began working at the International Office as a student assistant. Shortly after earning her degree, there was an opening for a position as a foreign study advisor.
It helps to have German language skills
To get well accustomed to life in Germany, Laura recommends that foreign exchange students learn German. Having said that, it is possible to get by without knowing German, as “there are many master’s degree programmes in English and a lot of people in the Ruhr region speak English.” Nonetheless, it’s easier to understand German culture and become a part of it – as Laura did – if you know German.
Laura’s job at the International Office is quite diversified. In addition to her advising duties, Laura is responsible coordinating scholarship programmes, supervising the research interns, reviewing applications in selection committees and flying to destinations abroad once or twice a year. On such occasions, she represents the TU Dortmund at university fairs and initiates new partnerships. And she also gets to see a lot of the world. On behalf of her university, she’s been sent to Australia and Norway, for example.
But what she likes best about her job is her close contact with the students. “I enjoy making German students better acquainted with other cultures – especially my own. I’m able to work together with the students on projects that will change their lives forever.”
Hopefully, they will be just as happy abroad as Laura is in Germany. “Now I’m married in Germany, have a permanent contract and couldn’t be happier. If it were up to me, I’d go back to the States when I retire.” Most likely with a massive collection of postcards from around the world.