In the framework of the initiative 'Start with a Peer', we embarked on a feminist participatory action research (FPAR), following the approach outlined by Nivedita Prasad. Our primary objectives revolved around documenting, shedding light on, and enhancing the experiences of international students who complete a full study programme at ASH Berlin. This particular research methodology facilitates an interactive process of reflection and action, allowing for the continuous collection of data. To accomplish our goals, we employed several methods, including semi-structured group interviews, an online survey, focus groups comprising the four international Master’s programs, and insights derived from our advocacy initiatives. It is important to highlight that German-speaking students also participated in the study, leading us to the significant finding that the challenges faced by students in the international programs are not solely attributed to language barriers. Although the Covid-19 pandemic had a detrimental impact on their experiences, we discovered that the difficulties predominantly stem from structural issues.
Our research findings revealed various institutional obstacles that hinder the experiences of international students at ASH Berlin. These include:
- Insufficient information in English, both within the physical premises and online platforms, compounded by a lack of English proficiency among most employees.
- Limited awareness about the range of services available at ASH Berlin, coupled with language barriers and inadequate information, resulting in difficulties accessing these services.
- Inadequate support for international students regarding their status, as program coordinators’ efforts are insufficient, and the international office does not provide services to students enrolled in full-degree programs.
- Scarcity of opportunities for both cultural exchange and the growth of a sense of community among students studying at ASH Berlin.
- Lack of transparency in institutional processes and procedures.
- While German language skills are not mandatory for international Master’s programs, it is extremely challenging to study at ASH Berlin without them.
- The international Master’s programs operate as private programs within a public university, leading to a sense of isolation and a lack of responsiveness.
- Limited inclusion and participation opportunities within the institution due to a lack of knowledge about student organizations and systemic information gaps arising from language barriers. Furthermore, international students are not included in the general email list of the university.
By identifying and highlighting these obstacles, our research underscores the urgent need to address these issues to enhance the experiences of international students at ASH Berlin.
Building on the students’ suggestions for improving the situation, our project also incorporates a significant advocacy component. We have actively engaged in presentations and discussions with key stakeholders such as the International Office, KIA (Kommission für Internationale Angelegenheiten), the President and the Vice President, as well as the antidiscrimination network. Moreover, we have established connections with self-elected student bodies, successfully securing representation for international students in the StuPa (students’ parliament). Additionally, we have set up the International Student Initiative (ISI) with the dual objectives of fostering community building and sustaining our ongoing advocacy efforts.
Currently, our goals encompass the following objectives:
- Encourage ASH Berlin to endorse the National Code of Conduct for German Universities regarding International Students (https://www.hrk.de/hrk-international/study-in-germany/code-of-conduct/).
- Integrate ISI into the framework of ASH Berlin's self-organized student bodies.
- Urge the university’s management to initiate an internationalization audit (https://www.hrk.de/audit/audit-kompakt/).
By striving to achieve these goals, we aim to inspire tangible and meaningful changes that promote inclusivity, support, and internationalization at ASH Berlin.
In conclusion, starting from a bottom-up approach allowed us to gain a clear picture of the experiences of the international students and their needs. Nevertheless, further collaboration with the university management is needed to achieve sustainable and holistic improvements.
How to get in touch? Join our Telegram group chat!
We, the International Students Initiative (ISI), have established a dedicated Telegram group to connect all international students at ASH Berlin. Initially created to support MA students throughout their study program, our initiative aims to expand its reach to benefit the entire community of international students.
- We believe in the power of connection, allowing us to share our experiences and knowledge, challenge discriminatory structures within ASH Berlin, and offer mutual assistance.
- We aim to foster a vibrant community where members can share information about exciting events and activities in Berlin, seek support services, and form networks for collaborative research projects.
- By being accessible to other student organizations using Telegram groups to disseminate information (invitations to ASH events, surveys, etc.), we enhance our engagement and outreach.
What Our Group Is NOT:
- This is not a platform for official communication with program coordinators, counselors, or other authorities. It is exclusively for student-to-student interactions.
- Discrimination has no place in our group. Any individuals engaging in such behavior will be promptly removed from the chat.
Join our group chat using at https://t.me/+Nc4KfSoG5iQxOTA6 to receive valuable information and become an integral part of our thriving community!