My direct supervisor and the Team of Sprachen/Internationales informed me about the option of participating in an ERASMUS-sponsored mobility program hosted by one of the partner universities - and I decided to use this opportunity to make experiences abroad both for the department as well as for my own development.
After some consultations with the persons in charge and our Office of International Programs, I decided to take part in a staff training hosted by our Belgian partner university, KU Leuven, the „Katholieke Universiteit Leuven“, from 29.05.2017 – 02.06.2017. KU Leuven has more than 15 faculties, including Faculty of Church Law, Theology, Philosophy, Law, Economics and Social Sciences. In addition, there are faculties of medicine, pharmacy and rehabilitation science. Especially with regard to the future orientation of the health and social services market in Germany, this university seemed to me to be appropriate because of its Christian orientation.
I could also find out that the university is a Dutch and English-speaking university. It is located in Flanders, in the northern part of Belgium. KU Leuven offers three-year bachelor's degrees in Dutch and one-year and two-year master programs in Dutch and English. Students can also take PhD programs in Dutch or English in all disciplines.
Some more basic information
All in all, we were a group of 11 participants from different countries in Europe, for example from Spain, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, Germany and Hungary. Together with the organization team, which looked after the group very well, it was an interesting group.
The participants of the Staff Week came from different backgrounds. Thus, there were employees from the International or Mobility Office, from the IT sector as well as participants from the areas of teaching and research. Overall there was a good mix for good talks even within the group.
The oldest and largest campus of the KU is located directly in Leuven. Furthermore there are more campuses in Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and in other Belgian cities. A total of 55,500 students are enrolled per year, of which approximately 16% are international students. The campus is therefore very international. All professors, lecturers and employees have to teach and work in English as well as in Dutch.
Visiting and work program
The program of the training week was varied and well organized. We were offered a wide range of interesting lectures on specific topics, visits to various institutions of the KU as well as a guided tour of the city and visits to restaurants.
On the first day of the course, the participants even got a crash course in Dutch (which was quite easy for me as a German). Furthermore, there were lectures on the restructuring of KU Leuven and its risk management (especially for students who are abroad or planning an international stay). They gave us an insight into the operations of the Mobility Office, including the IT and software programs which are used in the office as well as a visit to the AGORA Learning Center with group rooms and social study areas.
During our free time, we had the possibility to deepen these topics in a relaxed atmosphere. For this reason, we received more and more insights into what the professional practice in different universities looks like. The presentations of the individual participants and of their home universities were very interesting.
In addition to the official program, there was the opportunity for discussions with professors at the campus, which we had to organize ourselves or which were organized by the office. In this week, I had four very good conversations, which were very uncomplicated. All the participants were happy about the contact and they told me about their research areas and work. Some even offered their support with my PhD research. From the perspective of our Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, I established some interesting contacts, which I want to continue for the benefit of our department at RheinAhrCampus Remagen. For me personally, these discussions were particularly interesting and I am sustainably impressed.
City and student life
At the time of my visit, the city of Leuven was very lively. There are numerous bars, cafes and restaurants in the city center, so that the leisure activities seem to be attractive for students. On the last day of my stay, I met a PhD student from Australia, with whom I could exchange a lot of ideas about our doctoral theses. In addition, a participant from Greece told me that she had successfully completed her master's degree at the KU Leuven a few years ago.
Both students praised the city as well as the university as a very inspiring place to study and to work.
Learning English in Leuven
In a personal conversation with a German professor who is living and working in Leuven for many years, I heard that it is essential for all professors and lecturers to master the two languages English and Dutch in order to be able to teach in these languages. Because of the internationality at the campus, he pointed out that Leuven and the university could be good locations to learn and practice English. More-over, the distance to Germany is not far, so that the private environment in Germany is well compatible with the stay abroad.
Even though some students may think that distant destinations are more exciting than a neighbouring country, the university and the city of Leuven can provide optimal conditions for studying and making many interesting contacts. The student life in the city is very diverse and the possibility of further international contacts seems to be good. I could well imagine that a closer cooperation between the RheinAhrCampus and the KU would be beneficial for both, especially with a focus on medicine, business economics, health and social economy, social sciences and Christian theology. In summary, I can say that the ERASMUS Staff Training Week in Leuven was a great enrichment and experience for me.