How do I get a real BPO project
Ms. Cooper, you came to Pforzheim to get to know Germany and university operations - and you started in the middle of the pandemic. How did you experience that?
Cooper: In fact, I didn't think it was bad because I experienced the same situation in France. At the end of my studies there was a lockdown and I had to take the exams online. Here in Germany I think it's a shame that I can't make so many contacts with the students, but that's not the only reason I am. There are work colleagues, online meetings and people live in my dormitory. Sure, it's not always easy, but I still don't feel isolated.
Why did you choose Pforzheim?
Cooper: I had applied for a position as a volunteer in the university sector - and Pforzheim got in touch first. I found the position here simply great because I have many different fields of activity here thanks to my work both in the language center and in International Business.
What do you like about Pforzheim besides the university?
Cooper: The city has the advantage of being close to the French border, which makes the region very interesting from an intercultural perspective. I like that the city is located near the forest and that it is rather small compared to Nantes, where my family lives, and Strasbourg, where I studied interculturality and the languages German, Dutch and Swedish.
What is your everyday life like here?
Cooper: During the week I work at the university, most of the evenings I currently spend in the student dormitory. Otherwise I take a look at the city or hike in the Black Forest. I will be in Pforzheim until the end of June and I very much hope that by then I may be able to discover more of the cultural life here.
What are your tasks here at the university?
Cooper: For the language center, I lead the two language courses “French for employees”. I also support Ms. de Lange with the French courses by correcting or transcribing. In the language center, I am helping to set up the eTandem. The idea is that the students who learn French in Pforzheim come into contact with students from the French partner universities.
de Lange: The eTandem project is new and should start in the summer semester. First for French, later also for English and Spanish. On the registration form, you select the desired tandem language and level. And then we try to match the partners in question. There is also a Moodle course with didactic material to support the participants didactically. In this way, students can not only develop their language, but also get to know the country or prepare for their own stay abroad.
Goehlich: But that's not all. Geneviève is also fluent in English and is an exceptionally well qualified volunteer. As a result, she has now - and this is the first time that I can do this with a volunteer - scientifically collaborated on my research project on the subject of “Culture of German-French Married Couples”. That is a special feature and it gave her the opportunity to gain an insight into the world of research.
Cooper: That is an absolute plus, the position gives me the chance to get an insight into different areas of the university. The research aspect is particularly interesting because, as a student, I only had a theoretical idea of what you do in research. Now I was able to read the interviews from Professor Dr. Goehlich read, discuss it with her and try to get something out of the material by using different methods.
How many French are studying in Pforzheim - and how many students at Pforzheim University go to France?
Goehlich: The tendency is definitely upwards, in the past few years there have been more and more. Because of Corona, long-distance travel has become immensely difficult, which is why students tend to stay in the EU. In addition, France is offering more and more courses in English, which means that it is not necessary for students to master French in the semester abroad or those with a double degree. Because just studying in French is no longer enough, especially in the business sector. The French have to improve their English if they want to work internationally later on.
Does it even make sense to learn French?
Goehlich: With the pandemic in particular, we are noticing that globalization has certain disadvantages and I believe that there are considerations around the world to approach things more locally again. Local for us here in Germany also includes France. The Franco-German motor is important for the EU, so I think that interest in Franco-German cooperation will flare up again. In this regard, I see the pandemic as a great opportunity for the EU, which now absolutely has to establish itself as a global force vis-à-vis the USA and China. And if you want to work more closely with people, then it is always advantageous if you can speak the language of the contact person. You can do a lot in English, but it will never have the same intensity as when you speak the other's mother tongue.
de Lange: And a lot of culture is lost, as is also the case in French comedies, for example. With the dubbed version I don't have to laugh, without the original language a lot is lost, which I find regrettable. That is why it is absolutely important that more students are motivated to learn French in school again. English alone does not reveal the whole world. If you want to get to know people properly, you have to speak their language.
Goehlich: Personally, before I came to university, I worked as a manager in German companies for a long time, and that's when I realized how important it is to be able to speak German. As a manager, you will only be accepted to a certain extent if you do not speak the local language. But when it comes to crisis management in particular, it is important to speak the language of the local people. And that's what we try to convey to our students. In addition, you have to be very clear: if you only speak English in business these days, you have nothing special to show, everyone can do that. So you have to have additional qualifications, for example a second foreign language.
And how do volunteers like Ms. Cooper help?
de Lange: In the times before the corona pandemic, I took our volunteers with me and introduced them to our students as a contact person. She was also with me in class and got involved in certain didactic settings - that was a win for everyone. For IB students in particular, it is good to know that there is a native speaker at the university who they can turn to if they have any questions.
How great is the interest of the students in Franco-German relations?
Goehlich: On the part of the French, the interest is definitely higher, they are still very interested in working in Germany. And that is a plus for Pforzheim. The attraction lies in the proximity to large companies such as Daimler, Porsche or Bosch. The students know very well that in this way they may be able to gain access to a large German company. I have many IB students who go to France for a double degree or a semester abroad, but apart from those who fall in love and get married there - and there are always some - all German students actually come back. That probably has to do with the fact that the French companies are still very French in terms of hierarchies and corporate culture with a few exceptions.
So the business location Baden-Württemberg is still on the move?
Goehlich: In any case. And Pforzheim University benefits from this. For one thing, we have a good reputation. The French pay a lot of attention to rankings, that's the most important thing for them. Pforzheim University is always at the top of the rankings. On the other hand, they benefit from the proximity to potential top employers and still remain close to France.
So that means that the French era at Pforzheim University is not over yet?
Goehlich: No way, I even think we have a chance that it will be even more. A while ago there was a big trend to go to Asia and now there is a real interest again in staying in the EU. Perhaps this has to do with the increased environmental awareness of young people who take sustainability more seriously. I think that's up and coming, and I'm happy about it, because it is a real opportunity for the EU.
de Lange: Now all that remains is for the schools to work to make French more interesting for the students again. Then there might be more interest in joint projects with our partner France.
Ms. Cooper, you are now halfway through your time here. What is your interim balance?
Cooper: It's a great first professional experience because I can work a lot independently and in different areas, but still get good support. A plus of this special time is that I can develop my digital skills at Pforzheim University because I have to do a lot online, for example the language courses. I can definitely recommend this volunteer year.
Does the experience at Pforzheim University have an impact on your future plans?
Cooper: I already knew that I was interested in international exchanges and the communication of culture, but the year here in Pforzheim has contributed to the fact that I am now really sure that I would like to go in this direction later. The only question is which Master’s course it should be exactly.
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