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Message from 2021-02-05

Two International Students Reflect on their Erasmus Experience in Witten during Corona

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Michal in Cologne

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Two International Students Reflect on their Erasmus Experience in Witten during Corona

Despite the uncertainty, Martina Gianferri from Italy and Michal Kosnik from Poland started their Erasmus experience in Witten in October 2020. Martina studies at the faculty of economics and society, Michal is a medicine student who is doing his clinic blocks at Witten’s partner hospitals.

Read the interview to learn about their Erasmus experience in the mid of a pandemic and why they would do it again.

International Office: With the Erasmus programme, you can go to many different countries in Europe and beyond. Why did you decide to come to Germany? Why Witten/Herdecke University? Did you know or hear anything about Witten before?

Michal Kosnik: The reason why I have chosen a German university was natural to me, since I would like to work in this country in the future. What really got my attention about UW/H was the special programme of medical studies whose aim is to teach clinically important practical skills to students. Admittedly, I had not heard about the university before, but its website looked very convincing to me.

Martina Gianferri: To be honest I had never heard of Witten. Even before choosing the destinations, I was directed to Germany. I had visited Dresden on a school trip and enjoyed it very much; I was very impressed with that "different" atmosphere. I had therefore promised myself to return to Germany and maybe live here for a longer time.

Moreover, it is useless to deny it, today knowing German has a great relevance on a potential curriculum. Even knowing that six months would not be enough to learn it, I thought that having a first approach with the language would still be useful. It is a completely different language from mine; it would still have been an interesting experience.

For this reason, before choosing, I looked for something about the various destinations proposed in Germany (photos, some information about the city and the university). I had never had an experience like this before, so it was a bit of a leap into the void. I chose Witten because looking at some photos it seemed to me a "very green" city. Scrolling through I saw many photos of parks and trails. I am very fascinated by places like this. Also looking at the University website I found it extremely organized and there was a lot of information about the University itself. Surely, such a clear and useful web page was very decisive for the choice.

International Office: Despite the uncertain situation due to the pandemic, you decided to go on Erasmus. Which personal and academic challenges and opportunities did you encounter?

Michal Kosnik: I have decided to participate in the Erasmus Programme because the university provided me with detailed and well-organized information on my courses. In fact, I learned a lot not only during that time thanks to regular classes, but also at online courses in the new year. Sadly, my Polish friends were not able to visit me in Germany, but this somewhat disturbing circumstance would seem normal during any given pandemic.

Martina Gianferri: I do not deny that I was undecided as to whether or not to have this experience given the particular situation. However, in the end I decided to do it. I think it was because I really cared a lot. Despite this pandemic I decided to do this experience anyway; honestly I did not want this situation to affect my decisions. The greatest opportunity I had was definitely being able to have this experience despite everything. I was lucky enough that the organization within the UW/H managed the situation very well. I do not think it is obvious given the times. I had the opportunity to see different places, meet people, things I would not have done if I had not left. The challenge was certainly being in an unfamiliar place during a pandemic. The things you would like to do are many and lot of these impossible to do.

Life does not always go smoothly, and an Erasmus during a pandemic is still an experience that certainly helps to grow.

International Office: What is it like to be an Erasmus student in Witten? Even though the situation has been quite challenging, did you still get an “Erasmus feeling?” What makes your Erasmus experience in Witten special?

Michal Kosnik: The Erasmus feeling in my case is somewhat different from what I expected, yet still unique and very positive. On the one hand, having medical classes at different hospitals in Nordrhein-Westfalen did not yet make me feel a part of a bigger group. On the other hand, however, all students and teachers I met during my stay were extremely friendly and encouraging on my career path. Thanks to them, I feel reassured that this is the right one.

Martina Gianferri: Yes, I had “Erasmus feeling”. Certainly different from those of any other Erasmus. I, like the other Erasmus students, had the opportunity to test ourselves with this experience. Although different, it was still a unique experience of its kind. With many limitations due to the pandemic, but we also had the time and the way to get to know each other, to know what we had around us. One thing I learned in Witten was to enjoy every moment. Given a situation of uncertainty, you learn to appreciate all the little moments. See what's around you with different eyes.

International Office: What is different in Witten from at your home university? Why would you recommend someone to go on Erasmus in Witten?

Michal Kosnik: I am impressed by the fact that studies in Witten students are provided with a great load of practical skills and contact to patients, which already counts as experience. I appreciate the teamwork and the trust people have in each other. Erasmus in Witten? Any time!

Martina Gianferri: My university is completely different from Witten's, from the didactic to the structural organisation. I honestly found UW/H much better organised. The professors are extremely helpful and clear in their requests. One thing I really appreciated is the attitude of the teachers; less formal than teachers in Italy and much friendlier. I found them genuinely interested in getting feedback from students, and in having conversations with them. I find this approach very open minded.

I have interfaced several times with the international office, since I was still in Italy. The people who work there have always been helpful and very informed. I immediately noticed their great openness to students. They have always helped us and not only for didactic matters. They were very kind when we were confused, when we found obstacles in everyday life. I personally happened to find myself in an unpleasant situation and the staff were very helpful.

I would recommend going on Erasmus to anyone. Even though Witten is a small city, all the elements I have already talked about can help anyone. When you are away from home, in an unknown country, it can happen that you have some problems. It is important to have people around who do not make you feel alone.

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: