Inside Gauss Haus: The creation of Gauss Haus
by Lena Heinecke
The emergence of the Gauss Friends and the Gauss Haus is a long-term process that began through a combination of different ideas and wishes.
Before the Gauss Friends were founded, international students coming to Braunschweig were much more left to their own devices with their questions and problems (language barrier, making contacts with German students, finding a job, financing their studies, bureaucratic difficulties with the Foreigners’ Registration Office, etc.). There were already some offers on the part of the university, but these tended to be Eurocentric and the focus was often on partying. The founder of Gauss Friends, Younouss Wadjinny from Morocco, who was regularly confronted with questions from international students at the International Office at the time, therefore wanted to enrich Braunschweig with a project that offered a space for intercultural exchange, in which non-European cultures such as India, China, the Muslim world, the Persian and Arab regions, Africa and Latin America were taken into account. International friends should not only be met at parties, but one should also be able to get to know their cultures (languages, festivals, food, etc.).
Furthermore, before the Gauss Friends, there was no association for C.F. Gauss in Braunschweig. Thus, the founding of the Gauss Friends was also intended to set up a memorial for the most famous alumnus of the Braunschweig science area. This was also fitting because C.F. Gauss was demonstrably an international man with an enthusiasm for literature. He was not only a mathematician, astronomer, geodesist and physicist, but also a person with a heart, who wrote love letters to his wife and learned new languages even at an advanced age in order to correspond with scientists from other countries. For this reason, as the eponym of the association, he symbolises the bridges built between sciences and cultures and serves as a motivation to bring people together in a profound intercultural encounter.
The Gauss Year, which was celebrated in Braunschweig and Göttingen in 2005 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of C.F. Gauss, was the occasion for the initial planning before the Year of Mathematics in Germany in 2008 provided the final impetus for the founding of the Gauss Friends. The international team was initially characterised by a passion for mathematics and enthusiasm for the person Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss. A room was rented in a pub in Jakobsstraße where the events were held, but this was not financially affordable in the long term, as the rent significantly exceeded the income from donations. Younouss Wadjinny says: “When we left the pub, I took our temporary sign with me, which symbolised for me the belief that it would continue. (The sign still exists, as does the association.) After the events had to take place at changing locations for some time, such as the Haus der Wissenschaft, after several negotiations and discussions with the Studentenwerk, the time finally came in January 2010 and the Gauss Friends were handed the key to the Michaelishof, where the Gauss Haus is still located today. On Gauss’ birthday on 30th April 2010, the Gauss Haus was officially opened with a big party and many guests from the city and the TU Braunschweig, and the sign with the title “Gauss Haus” was put up, which for Younouss Wadjinny still marks the best moment in the now thirteen-year history of the Gauss Friends. What started as an idea became reality and the team was able to start building intercultural bridges, to make the personality of C.F. Gauss known and to connect science and culture.
In the beginning, the programme consisted of, among other things, moderated discussions on a high intellectual level, the literary café, where people philosophised for hours on various questions such as “What is happiness?” and an international theatre. The programme has changed over the years and has become more diverse as well as more comprehensive, but the goals of the Gauss Friends remain the same to this day: to support international students, to forge friendships, to keep the spirit of C.F. Gauss alive and to build intercultural bridges.