Recently, on a summer day at the end of June, four incoming exchange students who are taking English-language modules in the International Health Sciences (IHS) Bachelor's degree programme went on an excursion to the Wasserkuppe together with four fellow students and the department's International Coordinator.
When the summer semester began in mid-April, strict Covid-19 regulations still applied in Fulda and at the university: Courses were held online, the cafeteria remained closed, and there was no real campus life. Meeting fellow students was therefore basically only possible virtually. Closed shops, restaurants and party locations had transformed Fulda's otherwise so picturesque and inviting streets into a place where visitors could not immediately feel at home. The weather did the rest to spoil the beginning of the exchange students' stay, making it an arduous stage of their studies.
The climb from the Guckaisee over the Pferdskopf up to the Wasserkuppe - the highest elevation in Hesse at 950 m - was also an arduous journey for the students. Once at the top, however, there was a magnificent view in the distance and some attractions to make it fun.
For IHS students Pika Plaznik Canc, Anna Leontine Schröder, Fenja Gottschalk and Fabiola Godinez Hernandez, the day together with exchange students Merve Öztürk from Turkey (Medipol University), Laura Fabich from Denmark (University College Copenhagen), Adelina Mican from Romania (Babes-Bolyai University) and Elora Francois from France (Institut d`Etudes Politiques de Toulouse) was a great experience, not least because they themselves will spend a semester abroad during their studies.
Pika Plaznik Canc, who is herself an international student from Slovenia that works as a mentor for the exchange students, finds: "It is unbelievable how quickly a feeling of connection develops during an excursion like this - through real, physical encounters - something that is hardly possible to achieve virtually. I am very glad that we now have the opportunity to contribute to an eventful stay for the guest students in Fulda after all!"
After a rest with a bratwurst and radler, and lots of chatting, it was off to the slopes! To the astonishment of the exchange students, you can ski, snowboard and toboggan here in winter when the snow is good. In summer, however, the slope serves as a summer toboggan run - something fun to be tried out! With a little too much momentum, one of the students was even thrown off the track, toboggan and all. Fortunately, the student remained physically unharmed, only the group ride ticket ended up so battered in her trouser pocket that it was a total write-off. However, the students worked together to get a new ticket - real teamwork.
After the fresh breeze from the ride, the group headed back down on foot, past the radome and the aviation monument, lush meadows and cows, while paragliders and red kites circled in the air, to the idyllic Guckaisee, the starting point of the tour. Exhausted and hungry, a delicious picnic was enjoyed at the end, to which everyone contributed, and during which the next meetings among the students were already being planned.
The International Coordinator, Annika Salzmann, summarised the excursion: "While you are climbing the Wasserkuppe on the quiet paths in the midst of nature, you cannot imagine the tourist hustle and bustle that awaits you at the top. But that's how close things can be: like a solitary start to the semester and the feeling of connection that suddenly begins to grow..."