The topic in the fourth session was “Boundaries and Belongings”.
We were split up in Zoom Break-Out-Groups and shared our experiences about our lives before and during the Corona pandemic. We all agreed that on the one hand we’ve spend a lot of the time online but on the other hand we also spend a lot of time outside in the nature, to go for a walk. To make things clearer about the effects of the Corona pandemic, we heard a presentation from Dr. Marcus Marktanner, a Professor of Economics, and International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University.
Here we were shown and explained various statistics from his own study for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Particularly noteworthy was that in America the unemployment figures rose more than in Germany due to the corona pandemic. The reason for this is on the one hand the gap between high paying and low paying jobs but also a weaker social system compared to Germany.
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The second speaker we listened to on the 9th of April was Norbert Fuhrmann. Mr. Fuhrmann is an Electronics instructor at the Felix-Fechenbach Berufs Kolleg in Detmold, Germany.
He tasked himself to stay in contact with many of the international students from his partner schools around the world, even when the pandemic affected travels. They found ways to work together virtually on projects. He showed us via video the projects he worked on together with his students and in addition he also explained how they realized these projects.
One of these, for example, was a special mechatronics machine, programmed by international students working together virtually, which opens a Nutella jar automatically.
Another project was producing 360-degree images of traditional looking houses from different areas where the students live, to give all of them information and facts about how they are constructed. These ideas were born during the pandemic to use all the creativity with staying in contact even in times like this.
„The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” ~ Socrates
With this quote the last speaker of the session, Dr. Victoria Seals, opened her presentation. She is president of the Atlanta Technical College which is a college for students who do not want to study at a regular 4-year college but instead want to study for technical or skilled trades. And a much less expensive option considering the high cost of university studies and still opens the field to well-paying jobs.
When comparing American schools or colleges to German schools or universities this is the closest thing to a German vocational school (Berufsschule, Berufskolleg).
Another interesting fact we learned about the Atlanta Tech is that the students can apply and train their knowledge on family, friends or neighbors who are invited to visit for this reason. They receive inexpensive haircuts and styling from the Barbering and Hairdressing students. Or to get esthetician treatments from the Cosmetology students.
Of course, due to the pandemic that currently is not possible. Dr. Seals assured us that she wanted to know that her students were doing alright during these challenging times. Thus, she made sure all the students would be equipped with laptops and received internet services, so they could continue to attend their classes online. She explained that she stayed in regular, virtual contact with the students, staff, and faculty, not only to make sure they are alright with their courses, and teaching, but also doing well overall. If anybody needed assistance with food or necessities, she made sure they helped and delivered these goods. This matters especially during these times when people tend to get lonely and feel left out.
This session showed us that because of the technical progress we had in the last years it is possible to build and stay in contact even though you could not meet in person. To sum it up, we would say that there are less boundaries than we thought and that, maybe, what these unusual times have taught us that we are not as far away from each other as we think.
Another highlight of this program is the chance to meet up and talk to our peer buddies. The buddies are students of KSU and volunteered to talk to us online regularly. This weekly appointment with fixed topics fastly developed itself into great and personal talks. From the differences in heaealthcare in both Germany and the US to our favorite snacks we covered all kinds of topics already. The whole group of German participants is very happy about it and we all hope that, sooner or later, we can meet our buddies in person.