In terms of cultural and academic challenges, the stay in Germany is usually only a short period of time in the lives of our scholarship holders. However, as soon as they begin to find their ways, they have to start preparing for their return to their home country and start thinking about their career prospects. The reintegration period is often associated with greater challenges than the initial phase in Germany.
To support this process, our digital two-day workshop "Return and reintegration: challenges for international students" took place at the end of November under the direction of our Secretary General Dr Nora Kalbarczyk.
In group work, the participants were first able to discuss the question of whether, how and when they want to return to their home countries and what questions, problems and thoughts are on their minds. It became clear that there is a great need for dialogue and information on this topic - the exchange in small groups was therefore experienced as very valuable.
This was followed by a panel discussion with returned alumni from each of the five focus regions: Dr Mekdem Tesfamichael Hassen, psychologist from Ethiopia, Prof Dr Patricia Cabero, economist from Bolivia, Prof Dr Oxana Chira, Professor of German Studies from the Republic of Moldova, Trinnah Caracho, social scientist from the Philippines, and Dr Osama al-Madanat, prospective Professor of Chemistry from Jordan. They reported on how their return and reintegration went, talked about the hurdles and challenges and about false or overly high expectations beforehand. They also reflected on the fact that returnees should not assume that things had remained the same in their home country and had not changed during their absence. It therefore makes sense to stay regularly informed about the local situation, ideally even to travel there more often and to be in dialogue with local people in order to realistically assess developments in the home country and prepare for them in advance (see below). It is also advisable to plan the return well in advance. Overall, the alumni recommended being patient and not setting expectations too high for the initial period.
The next morning, Dr Julia Boger, a speaker from the project "Grenzenlos - Globales Lernen in der beruflichen Bildung" (“Unlimited - Global learning in vocational education and training”) of the World University Service e.V. (WUS), spoke about strategies for preparing for return, particularly when looking for a job. She also emphasised that it is important to deal with the topic at an early stage and to look into starting a career in the home country before returning. It is very important to build up good and stable networks in the home country and to maintain them during the stay in Germany.
In the final part of the reintegration workshop, Dr Nora Kalbarczyk presented the counselling options and support offered by KAAD in the context of return and reintegration.
The workshop offered a total of fifty current and former KAAD scholarship holders a space to discuss their experiences in Germany, their plans for the future and any fears they may have, and to make plans together.