"An honor and a privilege" - Interview with the Bucerius Exchange Student Body Representatives 2017

Jessica Baker (University of New South Wales) and Diljá Helgadóttir (Reykjavik University) were elected by their peers to serve as international exchange student body representatives during the 2017 fall term at Bucerius.

Diljá Helgadóttir & Jess Baker, Bucerius Exchange Student Representatives 2017

The two acted as a liaison between students from partner universities and school administration and spearheaded several initiatives, including the organization of regular evening gatherings at a Hamburg pub. In wrapping up the stay abroad, they sat down to answer a few questions and shed light on their time in Germany.  

How was your experience as an international exchange student at Bucerius and in Hamburg? What surprised you, what was different to your home school / home city?  

Diljá: The experience has been amazing and Hamburg is definitely a great place to go on exchange, in the center of Europe. Bucerius is small private university and it has the advantage that you get to know a lot of people easily. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. I especially want to mention the International Office that did a great job making us feel like we were part of a group rather than just knowing a couple of people and sticking with them. The quality of the education at Bucerius is really high and our teachers were leaders in their field - that might be the reason why Bucerius is ranked first among law schools in Germany. To sum it up, the program itself felt practical and the atmosphere at Bucerius is just amazing. I am so thankful for this experience. I have made friends of a lifetime.

Jess: Hamburg is an incredible city full of history, culture and wonderful people. I am so lucky to say that it has become my second home. There are many things I love about the city and will miss dearly - walks around the Alster, trying to improve my hugely inadequate language skills, and exploring different neighborhoods on the weekends. But most of all I think I will miss being a student at Bucerius. The exchange program is wonderfully organized. The lecturers, being leaders in their respective fields, emphasized a realistic and pragmatic approach to the course content. The Certificate in Management and Leadership for Lawyers courses equipped us with practical skills that we will, without doubt, use beyond the classroom. Coming from a university with more than 50,000 students I really valued the small and close-knit community at Bucerius. The familiarity and welcoming nature of Bucerius students and the International Office meant that I felt so supported in everything I did - from completing visa forms to finding a good place to place for brunch after class. It was impossible to walk across campus without stopping for a conversation with someone. I have made lifelong friends during my time in Hamburg and will cherish the memories.

You both have been serving as student representatives for the international exchange students group for the last months. What were the most important and / or surprising issues you had to deal with?  

Diljá: Being a student representative has been an honor and I saw it as great opportunity to make more of my international experience. I would say our main role was to gather views from other students regarding various aspects of the program and to communicate those to the International Office. Our common goal was to improve the experience of students beyond the program. We also hosted a couple of events like our trivia night, meet & greet dinners, day trips and coordinated a Secret Santa game. Our work not only required a high level of independence and initiative, but also showed how organized we were.  

Jess: Diljá and I were privileged to serve as student representatives. The opportunity allowed us to really get to know everyone in the program and International Office. Diljá and I handled issues ranging from lecturer feedback and areas for program enhancement, to extra-curricular excursions, to the amount of cheese pretzels available at student events. Personally, the most challenging aspect of this role was ensuring that the wide range of student views were represented and to focus our attention on constructive feedback. Our role was also thoroughly enjoyable - as student representatives we arranged day trips to nearby towns including Mölln and Stade, hosted dinners and other social gatherings, organized an International Trivia Night, and coordinated an International Secret Santa.

In November, you organized an International Trivia Night for the exchange and German students. Tell us more about this idea!

Jess and Diljá: We actually came up with the idea to host a pub quiz/trivia night during one of our many between-class coffee breaks in the Bucerius Coffee Lounge. We had been talking about hosting an event for both International and German students. Trivia came up because we liked the fact it can be international and multicultural yet also encourages friendly competition. So, with the help of the German Student Representatives, we were able to host the event for more than seventy students. Although there were some heated moments (law students are competitive!) the night was a huge success. We were also really happy to see that the winning team was the most diverse. Feedback for the event included comments that it was one of the best events of the program and that the German students might continue the ‘tradition’ next year.  

Interview: Kasia Kwietniewska