"To be honest, two years ago I first had to look at the map to see where Fulda actually lies," says New Zealand-born Saskia Jaenecke. But a spontaneous visit to the baroque city during a trip to Germany and intensive e-mail and telephone contact with Fulda University of Applied Sciences helped her decide to study in East Hesse: She has been studying the Bachelor's programme "International Health Sciences" (IHS) since October 2018.
"The choice of English-language Bachelor's programmes in a social field is rather limited in Germany," reports the 23-year-old, who wanted to study in her German father's home country. Saskia came across universities in Lüneburg and Flensburg while carrying out her Internet research – as well as the University of Applied Sciences Fulda. There, the IHS degree programme was just about to be launched.
Great support from the International Office at Fulda University
There was one catch, however: "Because of my New Zealand school leaving certificate, it was quite difficult to get a university place here in Germany.” That's because in Germany, the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) issues university admission certificates for international students before they can even apply to a university. "And they wouldn't recognise my degree there," says Saskia, adding: "I went to a Steiner School and hadn't taken a second language during the final year of school. Also, history was not listed as a subject in its own right in the final report.” The International Office of the University of Applied Sciences Fulda and Annika Salzmann, the International Affairs Officer at the Department of Nursing and Health Sciences, helped Saskia in this situation as much as they could. "We e-mailed a lot. I was really lucky to have their support," emphasises the student. "One day before the introductory week, I received the acceptance for 'International Health Sciences'. I was in Croatia at the time and had actually already made peace with my Plan B: To travel back home to New Zealand without flying.”
And even in this rather unexpected situation, the open-minded young woman was lucky yet again: "I was able to stay with a good friend of my godmother's who happens to live in Fulda.
[Bachelor's Programme International Health Sciences]
Saskia has now completed her 4th semester and is happy to be studying International Health Sciences at the University of Applied Sciences in Fulda. "Our study programme is very interactive. We are not just supposed to listen and learn by heart. We should discuss things and form our own opinions about them," praises the young woman. "Thanks to online teaching due to the Corona pandemic, the summer semester was not quite as interactive. Nevertheless, the professors did their best to make it work and not just give classic lectures".
Training experts for global health issues
The aim of the study programme is to train experts in global health issues. This involves fundamental influences on the health of people worldwide, such as the climate catastrophe, poverty, voluntary and forced mobility or the ‘flexibilisation’ of working conditions, which affect all countries and thus the entire world population. The COVID 19 outbreak this year shows that diseases do not stop at borders. "We talked a little about Corona during the last semester. For example, we had a lecture from a visiting professor from the Netherlands on 'Ethics in relation to Corona'. From a scientific point of view, however, there is not enough data available yet - it will become much more interesting for us in our further studies, when we have more facts available to analyse and evaluate".
Corona somewhat changes the course of studies
Corona has had more influence on the course of study than just on the content however. In the 5th IHS semester, which starts in October, all primarily German-speaking students should complete a semester abroad. However due to the current entry and residence restrictions, very few students have been able to begin their planned semester abroad. For this reason, the department offers students the opportunity to bring forward the two modules actually planned for the following 6th semester - including a study project.
However, for the international students of IHS, nothing changes as they will still be completing modules of the three specialisations "Health Promotion", "Management in Health Care" or "Health Economics and Health Policy" in the 5th semester. "We have so far only offered these modules in German, and most international students are required to extend their subject-specific German in the first three to four semesters," reports Gretje Wittmann, the IHS programme coordinator.
The compulsory foreign semester now likely to begin in January
Saskia Jaenecke is one of the international students who speaks good German and can spend a semester abroad. Although she was not able to take off as planned in August and travel - climate consciously - for three weeks to Costa Rica on a freighter, all indicators point to a flight in January working out.
She selected the university in the capital San José herself. As this is not a partner university of Fulda University of Applied Sciences, Saskia will have to cover the tuition costs herself. "Luckily I received a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service towards the living and travel costs which helps me to study in San José." She has found courses there in English such as "Climate Change" or "Costa Rican Health System", which she can have accredited in Fulda and bring her closer to her professional goal.
"I am very interested in the interface between health and environment. After all, human health and the health of the planet are tightly interconnected. We therefore urgently need to start acting with more foresight," explains Saskia, who follows a plant-based diet and has been living plastic-free for two and a half years. "What also fascinates me about Costa Rica is the fact that this small country has managed to generate 95 percent of its electricity from renewable energies. A large part of the country is considered a nature reserve and is therefore under protection, and by 2021 it wants to be CO2-neutral as a country. And the health system also has many positive aspects. I would say we could learn quite a bit from Costa Rica."
AT A GLANCE - Information on the degree programme
Saskia Jaenecke is one of the first students in the Bachelor's programme "International Health Sciences" (IHS), which was launched in the winter semester 2018/19 at the Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences at Fulda University of Applied Sciences. The programme lasts 7 semesters and is bilingual (English, German). A semester abroad and a 12-week internship abroad are compulsory. The programme provides knowledge about the worldwide burden of disease, health systems of different countries and institutions of global health policy. The programme is led by Prof. Dr. Dr. Jens Holst, who has been working in development cooperation for many years, among others for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and who advises various countries on health and social policy issues.
The Bachelor's degree in IHS opens up a wide range of work opportunities in international development cooperation, at public authorities and health care institutions in Germany and abroad or in globally active organisations and companies - but also the opportunity to pursue a subsequent Master's programme such as Public Health.