Vote now for the University Pearl of the year 2021! An Oldenburg project is also on the ballot: The certificate course "Work it out!" supports international students in their transition to professional life.
From December 2020 to October 2021, fifteen students from all over the world completed the certificate course Work it out! organized by the University of Oldenburg's Study and Career Counselling Service (ZSKB). The students come from Rwanda, Brazil, Egypt, Vietnam, India, Belarus and Syria, among other countries, and their fields of study range from social sciences to business informatics and engineering physics to medicine. "The course prepares international students with and without a refugee background for their career start in Germany," explained ZSKB team member Lukas Engelmeier, who coordinates the programme.
The pilot project has now been awarded the University Pearl of the Month award by the Donors' association for the promotion of humanities and sciences in Germany (Stifterverband). "This project gives participants the chance to actively prepare for beginning their careers despite the pandemic," said the Stifterverband jury when announcing its decision, adding that with its exemplary peer group approach, the University of Oldenburg had succeeded in bringing the students closer together online. The award aims to raise the profile of small, innovative university projects, making them visible beyond the regional level so that other universities can be inspired by them. In 2021, the theme of the award is "Transitions in pandemic times", and it is dedicated to promoting initiatives that support international students at critical points in their studies.
Getting through the pandemic as a group
The Oldenburg project, which was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), had exactly this goal. The 15 students in the programme learned the basics about the German labour market to facilitate their transition to professional life. A special feature of the programme was that over the twelve months of its duration the students were able to form a close-knit group. Although almost all components of the programme took place online, the students had various possibilities to interact with each other and exchange ideas. "With this approach we wanted to offer participants a structure for interaction and facilitate closeness and networking even in the pandemic," Engelmeier emphasized.
As well as career orientation and local job market workshops, the programme included intercultural training, company tours and the university's Career Day event. There, the students had the opportunity to meet employers from the Oldenburg region. Participants attended seminars offering guidance on visas and health insurance after graduation, as well as how to look for jobs and defend themselves against discrimination. In job application training sessions, they received feedback on their application documents and were able to practice typical job interview situations through role-playing. In addition, members of the university's alumni network gave the participants insights into their professional practice.
Reflecting on resources, skills and aspirations
The feedback from the participants was very positive. Many of them said they found the programme worthwhile and well organized, for example. "I gained valuable experience to help me make my career choices later on," one participant wrote in the final evaluation. The two courses on the subject of job applications were particularly popular. Many participants also found the opportunities to reflect on their own resources, skills and aspirations helpful.
The ZSKB and the university's International Office have also learned valuable lessons from the pilot programme: "One important point was to take a holistic approach to supporting international students," Engelmeier observed. To this end, the Work it out! programme also brought companies, the employment agency and the immigration authorities on board. After the certificate course has ended, the university is offereing further open activities for interested international students. It is expected that the DAAD will continue to fund the program in the coming year.