International students and local buddies make their way to the Brocken
6.5 km up and 6.5 km down. From Schierke to the Brocken. Seems easy, but at 10 a.m. on a Sunday it can be quite a challenge. Nonetheless, the international students challenged themselves and hiked to the top of the Brocken, also called the “Blocksberg”. Taking the “Brockenbahn”, the railway that takes you all the way to the top, wasn’t an option.
But fortunately, the international students weren't alone. They were accompanied by their buddies.
The buddy programme is a programme by the International Office where each international exchange student gets partnered up with a local student to help them if they need anything and, of course, hike with them. Alice Fourmond is an exchange student from our partner university “Université d‘ Angers” in France and is studying abroad at Harz University for one year. She told us about her local buddy Xenia Breuer, a student of the International Tourism Studies programme, “I have a lot in common with my buddy, she speaks French, she plays music, which made us get along well. She helped me with important paperwork during the first week, she came with me to my first class because I was so scared”.
All in all, about 30 students made their way to the top of the “Brocken”. For some international students like Alice, hiking was a new experience. "It was a bit hard, because where I live in France, in Angers, there are no Mountains, so I’m not used to it." Alice was accompanied by Xenia, who said about her motivation to become a local buddy: “I figured that it’s a great opportunity to get to know more people and learn about each other’s cultures. I also thought that it could potentially help me in my own year abroad to have learnt about common experiences international students face”.
After about two hours and a few shorter and longer breaks, the group reached the top and could enjoy a clear view over the Harz National Park. “We were a quite big group and had lots of interesting conversations on our way. Even though we all preferred different paces, we were always watching out for everyone and making sure nobody gets left behind by taking a lot of short breaks on the way. Like this, we managed to climb the last bit of the Brocken as a big group.”, Xenia mentioned. Finally, the students could enjoy a warm meal and hot chocolate, but only after taking lots of photos.
The way back to Schierke didn't take as long as the hike up and wasn't as tiring. And everybody was happy that nobody fell or injured themselves along the way. "It was a really nice moment with my friends", Alice stated.
The Brocken hike will most likely be a memorable experience for the students. But for Alice, the hike itself is not as important as the people she got to know. “My best experience here is meeting other international students. We can learn so much from all the different countries. Most of us live in the same building, so we can learn about habits that we are not used to.”
The exchange students come together from all over the world, live together and experience their exchange year (or semester) together as a group.
After half of the semester, most exchange students have settled in and probably don't need as much guidance from their buddies now - not only when hiking. But they know that they can always reach out to their buddy if they need anything.
Information for all those interested in an exchange semester at Harz University of Applied Sciences can be found on the website for exchange students of the International Office.
Students of Harz University of Applied Sciences who would like to become a local buddy for international students can contact the International Office.
Author: Paula Aust
Image author: © Paula Aust, Nick Hartmann
Image rights: © Harz University