Festive evening honoring the alumni of the Academic Welcome Program

This year’s Academic Welcome Program (AWP) festive opening event for the 2024 summer semester 2024, held on April 17, 2024, paid tribute to last year’s successful alumni, for whose undergraduate course admission AWP had paved the way. New participants were also welcomed at the festive event, and the cooperation and financing partners were thanked for their support.

Founded in 2015, AWP is a cooperation program between Goethe University Frankfurt’s Global Affairs Study Teaching [Studium Lehre Internationales, SLI] Department and the Center for International Studies [Internationales Studienzentrum, ISZ]. One of the program’s main benefits are free courses in academic German for young, highly qualified refugees, enabling them to either start or continue their academic careers – after all, most of them cannot be directly admitted to a degree program owing to their lack of German language skills. AWP embodies a cosmopolitan attitude, solidarity and educational opportunities. Participants generally spend three semesters on the program, which includes German courses, individual support and advice as well as degree orientation and preparation services, complete with a social integration program.

Speaking on behalf of Goethe University Frankfurt’s Executive Board, Marco Blasczyk, head of Student Advisory and Counselling Services at SLI, in his welcoming speech emphasized the program’s importance, especially in view of current geopolitical challenges and international conflicts. He highlighted the fact that in addition to opening up educational opportunities, by building bridges between people and cultures, AWP also gives highly qualified refugees the possibility of realizing their academic dreams.

AWP director Paul Scherer honored the graduates’ achievements in his speech, paying tribute to their perseverance and motivation. He reminded everyone that the path to a degree via AWP can prove challenging, and that the gathered alumni’s dedication and determination had proved that these challenges can be overcome. Scherer also stressed the importance of maintaining continuity and constancy in the program. Amid fluctuating resources, demand for AWP – which currently has around 90 participants – in 2024 is three times greater than the number of available places. The current participants come mostly from Ukraine (approx. 60%), Afghanistan (20%), Syria and Iran (approx. 6% each), with the majority seeking a Bachelor’s degree.

The start of the semester was not just an opportunity to celebrate the alumni’s achievements, it was also a great occasion to thank the AWP’s supporters and cooperation partners. The federal state of Hesse and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) were recognized for their many years of support for the program, whose continued existence and size also would not be possible without private supporters. Scherer and Blasczyk both stressed the important role played by the teaching staff at the ISZ and the staff of the AWP, without whom the program would not exist in its present form.

The semester kick-off was also special because it was the first event of this type following a long pause caused by the COVID pandemic. In addition to the honored alumni, the 94 attendees included the program’s current participants, their German teachers, cooperation partners and guests of honor such as Marco Kaus from the Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts (HMWK), and Thomas Cybulski from the United States Consulate General in Frankfurt.

One especially touching moment during the ceremony was an interview with two graduates, Ostap Stepchuk and Horia Momini. Stepchuk, an 18-year-old Ukrainian, underscored the importance of AWP’s accompanying social program that helped him not only to learn German but also to find friends who will accompany him as he makes the transition to his chosen degree course in economics at Goethe University Frankfurt. Momini, a 24-year-old Afghani who is preparing to take the admission test for the Studienkolleg (preparatory college) with the hope of studying medicine, delivered a moving speech, encouraging new course participants to fight for their dreams and never give up, even if learning German is not always easy.

The ceremony was a celebration of community and shared success, which paid tribute to the alumni’s achievements and simultaneously welcomed current participants into the university community – as an expression of Goethe University’s continued support for and solidarity with refugees who wish to study here.

Paul Scherer and Christopher Dick

Contact: Paul Scherer

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