It was a time when me and my friends from ANOSR and ASPR were instigating against the Romanian higher education system. It was bad and we wanted it to be better. We wanted our education to be relevant for our future, we wanted to learn, to develop and to be able to do what we like to do and what we’re good at. So we thought we fix it. We found the Bologna Process a good tool for that, so we took it. Since there was no higher education reform in Romania for the past 40 years, this couldn’t go wrong. We started at the bottom. I guess my friends who led the whole movement tried before from the top, but you can’t really change something where people think nothing’s wrong. Ministers, rectors, deans… they were happy. So we went to the others who were not or who soon learned that they were not. During the so called Bologna week we informed students and teachers about how it could be, we researched and presented solutions and scratches from an education model which seemed rather attractive. We knew quite much about student centered learning and we we based everything on that.
I’ve been just coming back from Ludwigsburg in Germany, where I’ve spent a semester studying abroad. It was then my last year of my bachelors studies and the year was going to be extraordinary… I know it now, but I learned soon enough that it will change my life. I’ve been traveling a lot all around Romania and abroad, learning and later teaching others about education, about their role and responsibility in their own education and about decision making, about things you like to do in your life and about passion (it’s just that at that time we did not really formulate it like this… but it was exactly that).
At some point, it was my turn. I did everything I could and I knew, I learned and I taught, I developed and helped others to develop. Working with these young enthusiastic people was amazing and I decided that higher education is what I am going to do.  I was aiming high but I knew I need to continue learning and the environment at that time could not offer me everything I needed to know… it was just not enough to keep my arguments up. So I started looking… where can I become more knowledgeable in the area of higher education? Google it! 
This was in spring 2007, when I googled for a Master in Higher Education. And guess what, among the first hits was the International Master Programme in Higher Education in Kassel
… and that’s how it all started.
I wrote my application:
(…) My future plans for my professional career are also in the area of higher education. I want to be teacher at one University in Europe, at the department for educational science, but in the same time I want to continue to do research in higher education and higher education reforms and to involve students as well in doing research during their bachelor studies. I would also like to work in the department for university development and improvement of educational policies and strategies. My course of educational policies during my studies, but also the research I started for my theses brought me much closer to this area, which makes me more curious about it. (…) I can say that this Master Programme is the possibility which opens the ways for my wishes and plans and helps me and the students and researchers I will work with to improve education in Romania and, why not, in Europe.” (Statement of objectives, 2007)
And yes, they took me!
I arrived in Kassel on October 1st 2007; my Persian tutor waited for me in front of my building in Ottostraße 1, opposite to the Police building, next to the National Employment Agency, where I was going to live with an Indonesian and a Vietnamese girl from my international masters programme. 
And here I was, starting my new life chapter in an international setting like I never experienced before. 

I need to tell you a story from my first day on campus: This international programme felt like something really special to me and somehow I had the impression that these students will be the only international students in Kassel. So on my first day on campus, the first student who came to me to ask me for directions was an international one, speaking only English. So what do I think… he studies higher education. And I ask him that. And of course he says he studies higher education, because for those who do not know the master programme, everybody studies higher education in a university. So when I stared chatting with him about home country, living area and reading materials, he tells me he studies something else and I am totally confused… hmmm, there are more like me? Later that day I visit the language center with my new flat mate. She wants to register for a German language course and I wait for her on the corridor. One student gets out of the registration office and she gets in. What do I do? “Are you studying higher education?” And he says yes. Luckily this time it was really a student of my master programme. We started talking about our countries – he was from Oman – about the masters programme and spent the whole day shopping and walking through Kassel. That way I had no chance to kidnap other students on Campus with my weird question “Do you study higher education?”, but according to my experience that day, I could have concluded that 50% of international students on Campus were from MAHE 🙂

Meanwhile I finished my masters (after 3 years and 3 months) and became one of the few qualified higher education researchers in Europe. I’ve been tutoring international students almost the whole time during my studies, which was probably one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done, after being a kindergarten teacher and instigating against the Romanian higher education system. I’ve been working in a world renown institute for higher education research for long time as a research assistant and later as a – guess what – higher education researcher. I’ve learned so much about research methodology that it often makes me feel like a nerd. Today I work as a higher education professional in the International Office of the university and coordinate, improve and develop the support services for international students. I love my work…it’s challenging, it’s new, it gives me the possibility to be flexible and creative, to develop new stuff, to help students to find their way. I have an amazing team and some really great colleagues. 
I made many very good friends… some of them still here, some others very far away, back to their home countries or elsewhere… but that’s the deal with making international friends, they are not gonna stay here forever, but you can always visit them in all parts of the world, like Almelo in The Netherlands, Brussels, Geneva, Barcelona, or even India. And when I don’t do that, I spend time with my Kasseler, Kasselaner and Kasseläner friends or with my imaginary friends. When I want to be spontaneous, I travel to Vienna to visit my brother and Alexandra (and Eusebiu, the imaginary dog) or my König-family in Nürnberg and Stuttgart, that when I don’t travel to Berlin, Bielefeld, Dresden, or my favorite city, Bonn. Meanwhile I became Godmother of my cousin, René, and recently Tante of little Peter Casimir, son of my very best roomie.

Long story short… I like it here, it has become my home (like the newly received gift for my fifth anniversary indicates) and when it gets complicated I eat an “Ausdauer”-candy (these Germans have everything… really)

Grüße aus Kassel 😉

Read also:
“Ce pot eu pentru asta?” (in Romanian)  

4.Y.i.K. (in English) 

2 Replies to “I came to Kassel for one year… five years ago”

  1. It was really exciting reading your article, this morning! For few moments I went back in time, re-enjoyed all that energy and desire for a chance.
    Thank you Carmen! Made my day!

  2. I'm glad about that. It was a pleasure to remember those times, especially because they mark some of the most exciting months of my life and of our life 🙂 We ruled that university! Remember that cold morning when we went out to spread the brochures, the letters for the professors and the stickers? And that we made those pictures who already made history 🙂
    Look at us: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/115493316324652251793/albums/5046311344063771873

    Are you still blogging? I'd love to read about you.

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