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Message from 2021-02-05

From Erasmus to an International Master’s Degree: Interview with Aurora Mane

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From left to right: Shalaka Kaprekar, Aurora Mane

From Erasmus to an International Master’s Degree: Interview with Aurora Mane

After coming to Witten for her Erasmus Semester more than two years ago, Aurora Mane from Italy decided to come back full-time for an international PPE master’s degree. In this interview she tells us what made her take this decision and how she experienced her semester in Witten despite Corona.

International Office: How did you first hear about University Witten/Herdecke? And why did you decide to come here to pursue your international MA degree?

Aurora Mane: I got to know the University of Witten/Herdecke more than two years ago, when I applied for an exchange semester abroad. At the time I was in the third semester of my bachelor’s degree, eager to see and experience something new. I chose Witten because I liked the idea of studying in a small and private university, the exact opposite of the one I was enrolled in. I also liked their programs, which made me think I could have taken this as an opportunity to get to know something more about them. My experience proved me that I wasn’t wrong. The semester in Witten was so special that at the end I was looking forward to coming back. Not only did I like the university, the classes and the general environment, but one of their international programs, the one in Philosophy, Politics and Economics was exactly what I had been searching for. I made many friends from the PPE Master when I was an Erasmus student, and from them I got to experience the diversity and interdisciplinarity of topics that this program offers. When I first applied, I knew what to expect from this university and its program, and precisely because I knew it I couldn’t help but be happy of my choice.

International Office: You started your PPE degree in October 2020. What was it like to begin this new chapter of your life in the middle of a global pandemic? Which personal and academic challenges and opportunities did you encounter?

Aurora Mane: I have to confess that the idea of moving back to Witten for my master in such hard times hasn’t been that immediate, despite of my great enthusiasm. I wasn’t sure whether it was worth it to afford a rent and other expenses if I then had to attend online classes – which unfortunately had been the case for more than half of this semester. But as many other students facing such a choice in this situation, the desire of fully starting this experience without any delays was what convinced me. Things at the beginning of the semester were pretty normal, and despite of some restrictions I could start the semester more or less as in normal times. The first friends that I made were my flatmates, two adorable girls, one from Frankfurt and the other from Mumbai, both UW/H students. My Indian flatmate, Shalaka, is also a PPE MA student in her third semester. Being able to enjoy the PPE community starting from my home environment has been a blessing, especially in these challenging times. Within the first months I made many friends with whom I spent some great time. Having the opportunity to meet great people and to study subjects that I really enjoy is what is paying off my decision to come. I must say that a big challenge is not having the opportunity to study with my classmates and getting into the typical engagement that I saw PPE students having wherever they are. Half of my classmates are attending lectures from their hometowns and the corona restrictions make it impossible to meet the ones that are here. Losing the opportunity to enjoy discussions in person with my classmates and studying together is what I regret most.

International Office: The Witten International community has been growing steadily over the last few years as more and more international students have decided to come to UW/H. What’s it like to be part of this international community?

Aurora Mane: What is beautiful about the international community in Witten is that, since the city and the university itself are very small, it’s easy to be in contact with everyone and to have a feeling of community with both German and International students. From the Erasmus community to the Master students’ cohorts, you can’t feel like being left behind. You are constantly surrounded by English speakers of different nationalities among which you can easily find many similarities with your own. For instance, in our flat there is an ongoing share of traditions, perspectives and different way of being, and I found out how many similarities Indian and Italian people have. I love my Indian friends and I always feel somehow at home around them. Yet, being in such a close international community is a great opportunity to learn from others and grow, developing not only cultural skills, but especially different ways of looking at things, an essential feature of my master studies. The members of the international community benefit from each other both in academic and non-academic terms. Indeed, there are many students that differently from me, decided to live alone or do not happen to have a close relationship with their flatmates. But as I experienced in my Erasmus, this does not stop you from making good friends and enjoying your time in the city. During Corona times, things have been challenging for everyone, especially for the newbies. But this hasn’t stopped the international community, and my own classmates, from gathering somehow together. From the very beginning we have started to set online meetings to study together or even to enjoy a drink in front of our computers. As I mentioned before, half of my class is attending from their hometowns, and for many international students this means being to other side of the world. Some of my classmates are in Iran and Zimbabwe, yet I already feel close to them.

International Office: Witten is not as well-known as Berlin or Hamburg. Why do you think international students should nevertheless consider coming to Witten when looking for an international MA degree? What would you tell them, why is coming to Witten a good choice?

Aurora Mane: As I said, one of the advantages of studying in Witten is its community. Witten is a very small town, surrounded by nature and very close to other big cities. It is definitely smaller and less known than Berlin or Hamburg, but this is exactly why it’s more special. The student life in here is completely different, under every point of view. Besides of the opportunity to make friends and to never feel left behind, there are many academics advantages that come from being in a small university. Lectures in the master program are usually attended by more or less fifteen students, and it is obvious how the student participation in class benefits from this. A typical lecture is half frontal and half with classroom discussions, and the latter turn to be easier in smaller groups. At UWH, beside of the great teachers which classes I happened to attend so far, what I really enjoy is the opportunity to discuss with my fellow students, learn from them and provide my own point of view. Sometimes things get really intense because everyone has strong opinions and different perspectives, yet, for me, this can’t help but making thing more interesting. All this is an extra gear for this small university: the undeniable expertise of professors is matched with fresh and bright discussions among students from different backgrounds and cultures. I personally think that whoever is looking for an engaging and culturally diverse environment should definitely consider coming in Witten, a student friendly town with a deeply bonded international community.

Overview

Die Universität Witten/Herdecke ist durch das NRW-Wissenschaftsministerium unbefristet staatlich anerkannt und wird – sowohl als Institution wie auch für ihre einzelnen Studiengänge – regelmäßig akkreditiert durch: