July 14, 2017
Julia and Volker Schwolow are host parents participating in the Host Family Program at Jacobs University – and Lawal Kankia, who recently completed his Masters in Logistics at the international University, was one of their protégées. “Our encounter with him absolutely enriched our lives and we parted with a heavy heart”, says Volker Schwolow.
The students at Jacobs University come from more than 100 countries. For many of them, it is the first time away from their families. First, they have to get used to living in a strange country with a foreign language and culture. They are supported in their experience by the Resident Mentors in the Colleges - the residence halls on campus - and by host families such as the Schwolows who help them to get to know life in Germany outside of the University. More than 500 host parents are currently hosting one or more students on a voluntary basis. More host parents are urgently needed – Jacobs University is growing.
For Julia and Volker Schwolow, their own experiences abroad were an important reason for participating in the program. They lived in India, Australia and Malaysia for an extended period. “It is enormously helpful to have a contact person when you are in a strange culture”, believes Volker Schwolow.
What is required to become a host family? Openness towards other cultures, interest in people, English language skills – nothing more. Not much time is required. Many host parents meet with their students, who generally live on campus, every four to six weeks.
The Schwolow family became host parents to a Bachelor’s student from Nepal for the first time six years ago. The contact never became close as the chemistry was not right – that can also happen. However, the family remained loyal to the Host Family Program. Two years later, they bought a house near Jacobs University. Since then, students have been able to drop by spontaneously for a quick chat.
They are currently hosting three Masters students - from Mexico, Ecuador and Pakistan. “We invite them for a meal once a month - that is then open end” explains Volker Schwolow. Not only German food is served at these meals. Recently Grace, the Ecuadorian, prepared dishes from her home country for everyone. “That’s what makes it exciting”, believes Volker Schwolow. “We learn a lot about the different countries and their cultures. The world is shrinking”. At the same time, the view of one’s own customs, one’s own cultural imprint, is strengthened - such as when it comes to the issue of punctuality.
The Schwolow family want to form an alumni group of their former protégées in the near future: a married couple from the USA is among them, as is a Lebanese student who is studying towards his doctorate in Munich. In autumn, two more members will join the group. The family will then be hosting two Master’s students from India. They are already looking forward to them.
If you are interested in taking part in the Host Family Program, please contact the University by telephone at +49 (0)421/ 200 4208 or by sending an e-mail to hostfamilies [at] jacobs-university.de.