Student organisation nominated for prestigious EU prize

Studenterlauget, which is a student organisation at Business and Social Sciences, has won the Danish nomination for the European Charlemagne Youth Prize. The prize recognises projects that promote cross-cultural understanding and integration among young Europeans.

2012.03.30 | Jesper Toft Madsen

Studenterlauget's so-called Buddy Programme, where Danish students act as Buddies to foreign students, has recently been nominated by the EU for the acknowledged European Charlemagne Youth Prize.

When foreign students, who have decided to come to Denmark to study at Business and Social Sciences, arrive at Aarhus Central Station for the first time, full of expectations, Danish students will voluntarily be waiting for them on the platform, ready to help them find their feet in the new, unfamiliar surroundings.

Studenterlauget's so-called Buddy Programme, where Danish students act as Buddies to foreign students, has recently been nominated by the EU for the acknowledged European Charlemagne Youth Prize.

- The nomination shows that the EU appreciates what we’re doing for international students. The Buddy Programme is an example of how it can be done, and I hope the increased attention that our work will receive following the nomination can help us inspire other universities, says Stig Mikkelsen, Project Manager at Studenterlauget.

He will be representing the Danish nomination at the award ceremony in Aachen, Germany from 15 to 19 May, where all 27 member states will be participating. The President of the European Parliament will reward the three projects that have made the greatest effort to promote multicultural understanding and a joint European identity among young people. The three winners will receive €5000, €3000 and €2000, respectively.

Buddies provide academic and social security
Studenterlauget launched the project in collaboration with the former Aarhus School of Business back in 2006, because many newcomers found it difficult to get started, both academically and socially, without either a network or a safe base in Aarhus.

The idea behind the programme is to give international students the best possible start to their stay at BSS and in Aarhus.

- The programme helps the students get off to a good start and provides the social setting. If you want to be a part of the community, you just have to grab the chance, says Stig Mikkelsen.

Last autumn, 300-400 foreign students established close friendships across cultures and national borders with great help from about 80 volunteer Buddies.

Buddy: An equal exchange of knowledge
One of the volunteers was 26-year-old Lisa Mikkelsen. Due to a bad experience during her own exchange stay in the USA, she chose to volunteer as a Buddy last autumn in order to give new students a good start to their adventure abroad, which she herself did not have.

- When you’re new, you need someone other than an official contact person at the university. A Buddy is always available if the students have any questions, says Lisa Mikkelsen and emphasises that the foreign students are not the only ones who benefit from the Buddy relationship:

- There’s an equal exchange of knowledge. First and foremost, it’s been a very educational process. I’ve become acquainted with the openness and curiosity that exists among international students as regards the differences between the countries.

Newcomer: An enriching experience
Lisa Mikkelsen and the rest of her Buddy Team, which consists of 16 buddies and newcomers, still meet once a month. Through international dinner parties, they literally acquire a taste for each other's cultures.

- It’s been and still is an enriching experience to be a part of my team. We share not only stories and experiences from our studies, but also from our everyday lives and our home countries, says Lisa Wagner from Germany, who did not have high expectations when she signed up for the Buddy programme:

- I was pleasantly surprised. It’s good to know someone and have someone to confide in when you’re new in town. My Buddy even offered me to stay with her while helping me find a place to live, although it wasn’t her responsibility.

About the SL Buddy Programme
Studenterlauget gives all international students, who intend to complete a full Bachelor or Master's degree programme at BSS, the opportunity to be assigned a volunteer, Danish Buddy, who will ensure that the students get off to a good start in Aarhus and at campus. The activities range from picking up the students at the station and helping them get a civil registration number and a phone number, to barbecues in the park and cultural events in Aarhus.

Read more about Studenterlauget and the Buddy Programme at www.studenterlauget.dk

Read more about The European Charlemagne Youth Prize at www.charlemagneyouthprize.eu/view/en/index.html

Contact:

Stig Borregaard Mikkelsen, Project Manager
Studenterlauget
Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences

Phone: +45 22 88 11 96
E-mail: sbm@studenterlauget.dk
Web: www.studenterlauget.dk/projects.html

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