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Interview with the International Office

Anyone coming to a German university from abroad can choose between numerous advisory services. The staff at the international offices know which of the many addresses is the right one for which question. Daniela Simut-Perent, the supervisor for international students at the International Office of the University of Cologne, gives an insight into her work.

Often there are questions about visas, residence and work permits, financing for studies, or looking for accommodation. Health insurance is also an issue. And of course the knowledge of German and networking with other students.

At the beginning of the semester, we explain organizational issues to the students through informational events. We also refer you to the right advice centers in the faculties and departments for technical questions. We advise in our consultation hours on the course of studies, study financing, and other individual questions. On the subject of residence permits let’s explain, for example, how the foreign Authority demanded Proof of funding can look: that can be a Blocked account to which sufficient money has already been paid in the home country, a scholarship notification, or a commitment declaration by a person who usually lives in Germany. In individual cases, we support students with visa issuance before they arrive in Germany and contact the German representatives in their home country. We also work closely with other institutions: As a result of our cooperation, the immigration authority of the City of Cologne has set up a student service, for example, to better respond to the needs of this target group.

First of all, we help the students to organize their studies well. At German universities, students are relatively free to decide which courses and exams to take and when. That’s why we have many advice centers here at the university that helps with planning. There is professional advice at every faculty. A special feature of Cologne is the Studienstart International program, with which international students from non-EU countries should get an optimal start to their studies. In addition to the first specialist events, fixed components are in-depth German courses, a course on intercultural awareness, an orientation series, and a course on study skills. This entry-level program deals with very specific questions: What is a seminar? What should housework look like?

We are there for the perspective. We show where students can find the right support. In our consultation hours, we refer specifically to the offers. When it comes to language, we show the many possibilities in our “German as a Foreign Language” teaching area. If you have questions about academic writing or topics such as exam anxiety, we refer to the offers of the faculties or the Cologne student union.

In addition to the general leisure activities at the University of Cologne, there are special offers for international students. The international university groups we oversee, for example, in which students from certain countries or regions of the world have come together, offer information events, readings, and music evenings where foreign students can get valuable tips and make contacts with fellow students from their own country of origin. In cooperation with the CologneStudent union For example, they organize events such as the “multi-cultural kitchen”, and the “Café Babylon” for language exchange or breaking the fast together in Ramadan. We offer cultural excursions in Germany and contribute to the networking of international and German students with our TANDEM program for language partnerships.

I enjoy being able to support international students. Especially at the beginning of your studies, it is important to convey the necessary information and also to convey the feeling that you are not being left alone. We are happy when students and our alumni stay in contact with us, inform us about their successes, or get involved in looking after “new” international students.

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