Kleve / Kamp-Lintfort.
On Tuesday, the freshmen start the introductory week at the Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences in Kleve – some on site, many on the PC screen.
It starts on Tuesday, October 27th. Start of the study period with the Freshers Week for the freshmen, information and fun for everyone. But for most of them only online. For an estimated 1200 young people, President Oliver Locker-Grütjen estimates, the exciting new phase of life begins. But only a few of them are actually physically in Kleve at the Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences. Because of the Corona distance, many sit at home in their home countries, their hometowns, and hope to experience what makes student contacts, perhaps in the second semester, as “firsts”.
“You can’t build personal ties via a website,” says Joshua Lehmann, Chairman of the General Student Committee (AStA). “The fun at the beginning of student life falls by the wayside. The experience and future memories are lost. But we want to catch up on that, ”he spreads confidence. Video meetings offer a platform for freshmen to get to know each other on the screen, at least in small groups. The nationality does not matter. The language of the university and of all students among themselves is anyway English. Despite all the loneliness, so far from home: “Those who are here are happy to have made the decision,” says Joshua Lehmann.
For the 6800 enrolled students the start is prepared from November 2nd. Freshmen at universities and colleges can register until November 15th.
There is already Study rooms in the university building with numbered tables, under supervision, with constant ventilation and face-to-face classes for smaller groups.
So that the newcomers are not left alone, students from different semesters support each other in so-called “Buddy Programs. At the same time, an “online buddy hotline” has been set up for short and long phone calls.
With the predicted 1200 freshmen reaches the Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences “70 percent of the normal“, Explains President Oliver Locker-Grütjen. Enrollment is currently difficult for international students.
The AStA as a representative of the students based in the harbor master’s house on campus does not have less to do than usual in Corona times, but rather more. The problems are different: Describing newcomers online how the university works, organizing a virtual tour, explaining to non-German speakers from a distance how to register with the authorities, how to take out insurance. It is very important how and whether foreigners get their visas at all in order to enroll, and how advanced semesters extend their visas electronically.
The AStA, the university presidium and other actors at the university have been meeting for months for weekly corona task forces and Joshua Lehmann has also been meeting with Vice President Prof. Dr. Tatiana Zimenkova weekly to discuss special problems faced by students. “We cannot solve all individual cases, but some are symptoms of greater difficulties,” says Joshua Lehmann, who remains available for the AStA even on weekends with his “workplace” on his laptop and smartphone.
Recognize early, act flexibly – it has worked so far. An example of this is the AStA help in lockdown for students who did not have a printer. Joshua Lehmann had all the necessary documents, whether housework, whether documents, whether rental agreements, e-mailed pragmatically to the AStA address, printed them out in stacks, packed them, sat on his motorcycle with the virus-proof protective helmet over his head, and delivered over hundreds of kilometers the envelopes in the students’ mailboxes in the Klever Raum. What a service.
Financial worries are also an issue. The AStA, the university, the development associations and private donors have so far collected 92,100 euros in the university’s social fund, of which 31,500 euros have already been spent in the corona peak. Lehmann describes: “It was not easy for anyone to apply for this.” If students had lost their part-time job in catering, for example, then they needed the subsidy for rent, insurance and filling the refrigerator “as a really last option”.
The AStA works largely on a voluntary basis. 17 people feel responsible here – and when events start again, there are also a few more helping hands. Everyone is studying, Joshua Lehmann, for example, in the third semester. The newcomers on Tuesday can experience the welcoming ceremony online, regardless of the country. Creative program items have been devised for those arriving in Kleve, including walks through the city. Excursions to the nearby Dutch city of Nijmegen, which students could reach freely with their VRR semester ticket, are not an option with the current Covid-19 figures. The Klever students “show great discipline”, says the 24-year-old AStA chairman. Neither in Kleve nor in Kamp-Lintfort were there large gatherings or parties.
He wants to give a positive outlook: “Let’s not talk about how – let’s say – unpleasant it is now under Corona, but how great it will be when life is back on campus,” Lehmann says. The university and the AStA see this semester from this week as a “transitional phase and a state of emergency”, says Lehmann. There are points of contact for engagement in university groups from Amnesty, Greenpeace, Fairtrade, in the student parliament and last but not least: in the AStA.
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