Despite facing challenging circumstances, online welcoming sessions were a great success during the last two years. So, on March 3, 2022, the OeAD welcomed all current scholarship holders for the new summer term in an online event. About 100 scholarship holders staying all over Austria or still in their home country met up together and got to know each other.
After a short hello from Katharina Engel, Gerhard Volz, Head of the Department for International Cooperation in Higher Education, said a few welcoming words and expressed OeAD’s solidarity and standing with Ukraine. The OeAD has a longstanding partnership with Ukraine and is sending teachers regularly, who needed to be saved before the outbreak of the war. Right now, OeAD is doing its best to support students from Ukraine and Russia who are struggling in Austria and is also extending a helping hand to Ukrainian students who are fleeing to Austria. Following this, Andreas Szelegowitz from the Regional Office in Linz gave relevant information for new incoming scholarship holders and the services offered by the OeAD Regional Offices.
To find out more about each other and connect with people with similar research and study interests, the group divided into six breakout-groups according to each study fields. Everybody could present themselves and describe their study or research interests and get to know each other.
Then, Leah and Jacky, two very likeable PhD students from Tanzania and Rwanda currently staying in Vienna, shared their personal experience. They stressed that as a scholarship holder, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, recognizing your emotional and social needs and developing a sense of humour is very important. Leah also talked about her responsibility as a scholarship holder and the importance of maintaining existing relations and being open to new relations. Additionally, Jacky mentioned another significant part, which is caring about your own mental wellbeing in order to have a successful scholarship stay.
All in all, their presentation was greatly enjoyable, as they also introduced certain quirks about Austrian culture and differences to their countries. Most importantly, one should stay curious and happy and try to enjoy all experiences. We are sure that their survival tips were useful to everybody.
In a second breakout session, where rooms were divided according to cities in Austria, students shared possible leisure activities and suggestions for incoming scholars. One student from Burkina Faso even proposed to organize a talent show next time, as he enjoys dancing. Several Whatsapp groups were established spontaneously and participants could add their tips directly on a new Social wall – our life in Austria.
We very much hope that the online event helped participants to find other scholarship holders to meet in the future and share hobbies and interests with. Those who really got inspired by this event and who will meet up in person for any (leisure) activity together shall send us a nice article to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first three articles will win a prize.
Participating scholars were thankful that our OeAD organized the event so that they could meet and find new friends. One student said: “I am very thankful for your organizing online conference for the new scholars. It was really interesting and useful. I could find new friends. Many thanks to you, dear staff!!!“
As recent opening measures taken by the Austrian government are promising a semester like before the pandemic, we hope that in-person meetings are possible soon. In the meantime, the OeAD hopes that this online event strengthened the feeling of belonging together.