Inside Gauss Haus: The path to the FFO-Prize
When the Gauss Friends were founded in 2008, we never imagined that we would be awarded with a nationwide prize in the future. It is much more special that the Gauss Friends have been awarded in 2019 as the first student initiative in the 20-year history of the FFO-Prize for the excellent support of foreign students in Germany.
This excellent concept was not built from one day to the next, but is the result of many years of commitment to the support of international students in Braunschweig. It took a lot of trial and error to find the best measures for international students and to identify the needs to bring them to a successful graduation.
However, it can be said that we could not have done it all alone. Without the support of our partners and the strong networking work, the concept would not be conceivable. In addition to the Studentenwerk OstNiedersachsen, which has provided us with the premises in the Michaelishof for the Gauss Haus since 2010, university partners are also of great importance, such as the International House, the internationalization projects (S.O.S., Scout and inTU), the Language Center and the Sports Center. In addition, the support of the city of Braunschweig and the Federal Association of Foreign Students was essential.
What makes the Gauss Haus so special?
The Gauss Friends are an expression of the will of international students. Through the principle of “taking and giving”, international students participate in the decision-making processes at the Gauss Haus. The Gauss Haus Council ensures the participation of international students and gives them a real say. This governing body allows us to design a needs-based service where international students become an active part of mentoring other students.
The activities take a systemic approach, meaning that our services include a total package of measures for support before, during and after the studies. Likewise, thanks to the team of volunteer foreign and German students, the Gauss Haus has been open to guests at least once a week since 2012 without a break even when other facilities are closed. This also applies to the lecture-free period, holidays and cultural and official celebrations. Although current hygiene and protection regulations do not currently allow us to do so, several events are held weekly in an online format.
Our “Gauss Advice” format also complements existing counseling services as a low-threshold point of contact. Here, the languages German and English have equal status and are used in parallel in all our channels. In addition, we have designated Chinese, Spanish, French and Arabic as our working languages. Thus, static texts on our website and informative content from our “success folder” have been translated into these languages. In this way, we want to get closer to our target group and break down language barriers.
Another special feature of Gauss Haus is the diversity of its offerings. In addition to study-related events such as our Good Start workshop, we offer intercultural evenings with cooking workshops, dance classes and games. Furthermore, we promote a non-Eurocentric perspective by celebrating international festivals from around the world, including the Chinese Spring Festival, Nourouz, Masleniza, Ramadan, Día de los Muertos, and Diwali. We also visit educational institutions in addition to our excursions to popular destinations in the region (Harz Mountains, Göttingen, Bremen, Berlin). As part of an international reading circle, the book “C.F. Gauss and Johanna – encounters of a special kind” was produced on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Gauss Friends in 2018.
Learning languages also represents a personal enrichment. A fixed component of the “Language Week”, which is aligned to the semester schedules and closely coordinated with the Language Center, consists of various regulars’ tables and, in addition, a seminar on German phonetics. This language diversity is also reflected in our annual calendar, where well-known proverbs in different languages can be learned.
Very special is also the “Gauss Buddy Program”. Here, new international students are introduced to life in Germany under the motto “Friendship Worldwide” and are helped with all administrative formalities. As a complementary measure, the “First Steps”, a two-week orientation program for newcomers, provide a good start for international students in their new everyday study life.