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Erasmus semester in the current academic year

The International Office (IO) is the central hub for the university's numerous international relationships. As a science-supporting institution, the IO develops impulses for strategic internationalization, develops advisory and support services for international members of the UOS and supports Osnabrück students, employees and teachers in the preparation, financing and implementation of a stay abroad.
Due to the current situation this year, the situation of all those who are planning a semester or internship abroad or are already in it has changed significantly. We from the Career Service spoke to Laura Rohe from the International Office about the current situation.

How has the current day-to-day business changed for you in the International Office of the University of Osnabrück since the outbreak of the corona pandemic?
In the International Office we enable cross-border mobility and global exchange formats. We were therefore particularly hard hit by the corona pandemic. The students, some of whom had just started their semester abroad in mid-March, were confronted with university closings, curfews, border closings and great general uncertainty. I'm sure? How do i get home What will happen to my scholarship? These were just some of the questions the students turned to us with during this time.
Ultimately, a large part of the cohort decided to leave the respective host country early. But there were also students who continued to feel at home in the host country and ended their semester there.
Fortunately, the change to a digital semester, just like at UOS at most partner universities, worked very well and quickly, so that many students were able to complete their studies abroad at their host university virtually from Germany.

What advice would you give to students who are currently planning their stay abroad or who want to start soon?
Despite all travel warnings, quarantine regulations and border closings: stays abroad as part of the Erasmus + program are currently possible.
Prospective Erasmus + students should inform themselves extensively on the website of the Federal Foreign Office about the current situation (epidemiological situation, quarantine obligations, hygiene rules, restrictions in public life) in their host country and be in close contact with their internship provider or the host university. At the same time, we have intensified our consultations in the IO. Especially in these uncertain times, we would like to offer assistance for all questions that arise.
Basically, of course, the health and safety of the students is in the foreground. If students have doubts about the implementation of their stay abroad, they should consider whether they would rather start their mobility virtually from Germany in order to actually travel to the host country at a later point in time. In this case, too, close consultation with the host institution is necessary, as it must of course be ensured that the desired courses can also be started from the home country using virtual formats.

Can costs incurred be reimbursed if the trip and stay have already been booked but the country has prohibited entry?
Unfortunately, a general statement cannot be made here; The basis is always an individual examination of the respective circumstances. In any case, the following applies: Students who are currently planning a stay abroad should not enter into any premature financial commitments.
If the trip cannot be canceled without additional costs, the European Commission in the Erasmus + program allows reimbursement of actually incurred travel costs under certain circumstances. In this case, the students must prove that they have to bear costs that can no longer be canceled and that are directly related to the planned stay abroad. The costs must then be proven by supporting documents. Accordingly, students should carefully collect all documents so that they can submit them to the International Office in an emergency.
Under what conditions will scholarships and grants for stays abroad continue to be paid?
Erasmus + students who start their mobility in the host country as planned will continue to receive financial support for the duration of their stay abroad. The promotion of mobility begins at the time of travel to the host country; be it for face-to-face or online studies - however, the funding of the stay in the home country is not eligible. This also applies to so-called “blended mobilities” (a virtual course beginning in the home country and a subsequent face-to-face phase in the host country).

Can students who are already on their stay abroad break off earlier than planned without losing their funding?
Safety concerns should always take precedence! It is of course possible to cancel an Erasmus + stay and return to Germany earlier than planned. If Erasmus + students have to end their stay early due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Erasmus + program offers various options for dealing with the situation. The students are entitled to the grant that covers the period of time they spent in the semester / internship abroad. Additional costs incurred in direct connection with the demolition can be reimbursed under certain circumstances. In the event of early termination, students should always contact the International Office of the University of Osnabrück as early as possible, as an individual examination of the circumstances is also necessary here.

But not only the corona pandemic has an impact on stays abroad. Political events in one of our neighboring countries also have consequences for internships or a semester abroad:
The time had come on January 31, 2020. Three and a half years after the British referendum, Great Britain became the first country to leave the European Union after 40 years of membership. In addition to a significant change for the European economy, the country's exit also presents students with a new situation. In 2017, around 11% of the total of 140,400 German foreign students studied in the United Kingdom.

How has the situation changed for students studying abroad in the UK?
At this point in time, nothing has changed for students who are going abroad, as we are in the Brexit transition phase until December 31, 2020.
One of the conditions of the exit agreement of January 31, 2020 is that the UK will continue to participate in the current generation of Erasmus + programs. In short, this means that mobilities to the UK can be funded under the Erasmus + program until 2023. At the moment, however, it is unclear how the right of residence will be structured from 01/01/2021. So far there is no concrete information about how the entry will be organized and whether it will be necessary for students from Europe to apply for a visa. This will probably be necessary for longer study stays in the UK from 2021 onwards. We expect more information here in the coming months.

If the UK is no longer part of the EU, will the Erasmus student grant still be available? Is it possible for the cost of living and tuition to get more expensive? Which alternative financing options do students stay there for one semester?
Until the end of the current generation of programs, we will still be able to support students financially within the framework of the Erasmus + program, depending on the financial resources available. It remains to be seen how the situation will develop for the new generation of programs. If Great Britain continues to participate in the Erasmus + program as a partner country, an exchange would still be possible. But the UK's own exchange program - similar to the Swiss-European Mobility Program (SEMP) - for student mobility would also be conceivable.

Which countries offer a good alternative if you want to do an English-language semester abroad?
Study stays in Great Britain are of course very popular with students who want to complete a semester or internship abroad in English-speaking countries. Within Europe, Ireland and the English-speaking part of Malta are good alternatives. In addition, you can of course also take English-language courses at the absolute majority of our numerous partner institutions, so that you can improve your language skills here as well. Finally, of course, students also have the option of studying in an English-speaking country outside of Europe. The USA, Canada and Australia are attractive target regions here every year.

Laura Rohe, M.A. works in the International Office and advises on issues relating to studying in other European countries as well as internships abroad.

Conduct interviews online

Due to the corona pandemic, restrictions and precautionary measures apply that have a strong influence on the social and economic life of the Federal Republic. Far-reaching changes in everyday work, such as home office or short-time work, affect workers in many industries. Nevertheless, students should currently be concerned with planning their internships or starting their first job after graduation. But are new workers being sought at all in the current situation? A look at the job market shows that vacancies are still being advertised and application processes are running using digital media.

The telephone interview

In order to be well prepared for a telephone interview, there are a few things to consider. First of all, it should be ensured that the house connection can be reached and that the mobile phone is charged. Preparation also includes having an easily understandable mailbox announcement so that you can leave a professional impression if you are absent. If the call comes unexpectedly and inconveniently, it is advisable to arrange a specific appointment so that you can concentrate on the phone call and take it easy. If an appointment has been set for the interview, the following points should be observed:
The environment: The environment should be prepared in such a way that the conversation can be conducted undisturbed by street noise, loud neighbors or the music of roommates. A pleasant room atmosphere makes it easier to feel comfortable and to talk to the contact person on the phone. Your own application documents as well as pen and paper for notes and your own questions should be ready. The environment should allow an upright, attentive posture and be free of distraction.

Language, gestures and facial expressions: The telephone interview limits communication to what is audible. Body language signals are largely hidden, but not entirely. Sitting and standing upright makes it easier to maintain a straight posture and allows you to maintain a strong voice and calm breathing. To prevent nervousness and dry mouth, it helps to have a glass of still water ready beforehand. Smiling while making a phone call has a positive effect on the voice and mood; physical dynamics such as underlining gestures also help to bring dynamism to the speech melody. Since background noises can also be heard, nervous playing around with pens or the like can in turn distract from the conversation and appear unfocused. It is helpful to visualize the situation: Imagine your counterpart and speak as if they were sitting in the room with you.

The preparation of the content: In no case should the phone call be underestimated. It might give the impression that a job interview on the phone is like a nice conversation in which you “get in touch” with potential employers. As before an on-site job interview, it is advisable to look at the information about the company again in order to be able to answer questions without delay. You should also ask your own questions about the position and work environment, since you don't have to look at the premises yourself. Often it is not about the hard skills, which are already known from the résumé, but rather about soft skills, such as B. communication skills, conversational skills or self-presentation. Since a lack of communication skills on the phone is quickly noticeable, a few things should be taken to heart and best practiced in advance with family and friends:
- Speak clearly and at a reasonable pace.
- Get to the point in a nutshell.
- Actively participate in the conversation instead of question-answer staccato.
- Let the other person (s) finish speaking.
- Asking honest questions that show interest.

The video interview

The technology also has to work for video interviews. It is therefore important to first find out which application the company is using and which requirements are required for this. Do you need your own account, e.g. with Skype, do you need a specific web browser or perhaps an app such as e.g. with Zoom? The camera and microphone should be set up and tested with the application in advance. In addition, the following preparations are important for a smooth process: The privacy settings should be selected so that they can be found. It should be ensured that the PC does not install updates during the interview and therefore shut down. In addition, the Internet connection should have enough bandwidth for a smooth conversation. Ask your roommates not to stream large amounts of data at the same time during your conversation. Analogous to a professional mailbox announcement on a mobile phone, for example, with a Skype account, you should pay attention to a serious profile name and a professional application photo.

The environment: As with the telephone interview, it is important to ensure peace and quiet in the immediate vicinity, to ask the neighbors to suspend the renovation work if necessary and to agree on rules of conduct with the shared apartment. In addition to a quiet place for the conversation, video interviews also have the right lighting conditions and a tidy environment in the background. Think about how much of your private environment you want to reveal and, if in doubt, turn your seat so that the background is a little designed wall of the room. The light should illuminate you well, but not dazzle you or the people on the other end of the video line. In the case of a video interview, it is a good idea to sit at a table, as if you were a guest at the company for an interview. You can then put your documents and notes in front of you. Of course, distractions should be avoided, as HR managers can see immediately when their eyes frequently wander from the monitor.

Language, gestures and facial expressions: Depending on the transmission quality, the linguistic transmission can sometimes be slow. It is therefore important to speak clearly and calmly here as well. Basically, the same recommendations apply as when making a phone call. During the video conference, gestures and facial expressions can again be used to emphasize and make them visible. At the same time, your own appearance is important. You should therefore appear in front of the camera in well-groomed and professionally appropriate clothing. Eye contact is a particular difficulty in a video conference. The camera is often mounted a little above the screen, so that a directional distortion arises. If you follow people on the screen, however, do not look at them from their perspective. So keep reminding yourself to look directly into the camera and make eye contact on the other person's screen. That seems focused and professional.

The preparation of the content: The same duties of care apply here as in an interview in the company or on the phone. During the video conference, you can also be given tasks such as developing a concept, creating a presentation or solving a problem. Make sure that you have stored these files on your computer so that they are easy to find so that you can quickly upload them to the conference tool or send them to your counterpart. Practice the presentation in advance, preferably using the same channel, in order to be confident in handling the technology and self-presentation.

With good preparation and positive presence in the conversation, a convincing impression can also be made in the interview conducted from a distance. Test out beforehand with friends or family members how you can put yourself in the right light and strike the right tone in order to feel as comfortable as possible using digital media in job interviews.

 

From studying to practice despite Corona!