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Help for foreign students

The Corona crisis presents many international students in Germany with new challenges.

Kim Berg, 30.03.2020
Many students have lost their financial basis.
Many students have lost their financial basis. © picture alliance / ZB

Germany is the most popular non-English speaking country for international students: according to the Federal Statistical Office, more than 300,000 are currently enrolled at German universities. The Corona crisis is a special challenge for most of them. Many used to have side jobs in the catering or retail trade. Now they are unemployed following the temporary closure of shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. According to the Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW), the German National Association for Student Affairs, more than 66 percent of all students take a job while studying; the figure is as high as 75 percent among foreign students. DSW General Secretary Achim Meyer, says: "The situation creates a considerable financial problem for them, especially since students with a temporary job are not usually entitled to the short-time working benefits that regular workers can apply for. We now call upon the Federal Government and the Länder to act quickly and unbureaucratically for the benefit of the students." He is supported by the Federal Association of Foreign Students (BAS), which is asking the Federal and Länder governments for 'emergency aid'.

The keyword of the hour is improvisation.
Andreas Weihe, International Office, University of Bamberg

Many individual problems – and solutions

The situation on the ground differs little between the various German universities and colleges. Universities, their international offices and the student associations help wherever and however they can. For example at the University of Bamberg. "Of course German students are also affected by the closures. But many of them, unlike foreigners, can get on a train and go home to their parents if necessary. International students can't do that," says Andreas Weihe, head of the university's International Office, which looks after about 1,000 people a year who go abroad or come to Bamberg to study.

Students from Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa or Latin America are being hit particularly hard by the financial losses. Many parents don't have enough money to support their children in Germany during the crisis. Some of the young people don't even have the option of flying back to their home countries. "We have a Turkish student who was supposed to do a semester abroad until the end of March, but now he has to stay longer because his return flight has been cancelled," says Weihe. He currently has no way of leaving Germany, so the university has unbureaucratically enrolled him for another semester. He can keep his room in a student hall of residence because the next tenant doesn't want to start his semester abroad due to the Corona crisis. "The key word of the hour is improvisation," says Weihe. There is no generally applicable procedure: "We have to process each case individually."

Bridging allowance for students

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is also helping foreign students in the crisis. "We are seeing financial emergencies which could mean that a large number of international students can no longer afford to live and study in Germany," writes DAAD Secretary-General Dorothea Rüland on the exchange service's website. For this reason, the DAAD is also appealing for more financial resources to help students who are particularly hard hit by providing a bridging allowance. "We are therefore already in talks with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development on whether we can obtain additional funds. We want to help these young people on a large scale," explains Rüland.


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