“A great deal of work in the background”

When you think or hear of the International Office at ISM, it immediately conjures up images of spending a semester abroad as part of the full-time bachelor and master’s degree courses. But what very few people know is how the department is actually run and that the International Office is also responsible for managing and coordinating other necessary services.

The International Office opened in 2002 and is currently staffed by a dedicated team of seven people. Four are employed at the campus in Dortmund and one each at the campuses in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich. The team in Dortmund will continue to provide the brand new campus in Cologne, which opened at the start of the winter semester 2014/2015, with wide ranging support until the summer of 2015 after which it will have its own International Office staff to assist students.

“If I had to describe our key roles in a single sentence, it would be developing and maintaining relationships with the overseas partners and sponsors of ISM,” says Dr Gertrud Schink, Director of the International Office. In addition to setting up and supporting the current network of over 170 partner universities worldwide and organising student exchanges and study abroad, the activities of the International Office revolve, above all, around ensuring a sufficient number of places for ISM students at partner universities. “The students take it for granted that the places will be available, but actually organising them demands a great deal of work in the background,” explains Schink.
The fact that ISM continues to send visiting lecturers to its partners and in return welcomes visiting academic staff and exchange students from around the globe is also down to the hard work of Schink and her team. “The exchange students are in contact with us from the start of the application process,” says Schink, who has been working at the ISM International Office since 2007. “We provide advice and guidance about searching for accommodation and, if necessary, organise visas and undertake other administrative tasks.” On arrival at ISM, the International Office helps to organise several welcoming events which help new students to settle in and start life at the university. Extremely beneficial is the Buddies Programme, which sees current ISM students providing exchange students with support, advice and valuable experience. The programme gives new students a friendly face to turn to for help with any questions during the semester and is a great way to make friends and go on trips together.

The International Office is in permanent contact with its partner universities and representatives from these institutions are regular guests at ISM for presentations. Staff from the International Office also travel overseas regularly to visit partner universities and see what conditions are like there. This also provides an opportunity to raise important issues with ISM partners. “We additionally participate in international conferences where thousands of universities come together to discuss ways of cooperating,” adds Gertrud Schink, who has seen the number of partner universities more than double under her guidance.

Schink explains the key criteria for accepting a new partner is the respective institution’s accreditation and ranking. The main focus of the courses on offer also proves crucial in the final decision about entering into a new partnership. The International Office calls on the help and advice of experienced course administrators, particularly in the latter case.

And last but not least, negotiations about the double degree programme play a crucial role in the work of Schink and her colleagues. At the moment, ISM offers international double degrees for all of its master’s programmes in cooperation with nine partner institutions. A double degree gives graduates a distinct competitive advantage when beginning their professional careers.

“Compared to other universities we offer a particularly comprehensive service. The evaluation results show that the students are very satisfied with the work we do,” sums up Schink. Thanks to Gertrud Schink and her team, we, the students, can be sure of receiving first class advice on all aspects of studying abroad and double degrees.

Author: Nicolas Regiani