"Practise International Solidarity!" That was the motto at the Annual Meeting 2015 of the scholarship holders and alumni of the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM.
250 guests got together in the historical Konzil in Konstanz to find out specifically how "Practise International Solidarity!" can be put into practice. The joint examination of worldwide events just a few days before the terror attack in Paris, numerous intercultural, interreligious and international meetings and the very personal exchange of ideas were the central elements of the event. A varied programme with a GPS City Rally and workshops made it easier for people to get to know each other.
"The lively discussions amongst the scholarship holders is an important aspect of the annual meeting in Konstanz," commented Mr Christoph Dahl, Managing Director of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung. The event began with the GPS tour through Konstanz in the pouring rain and gusting wind, with those involved called upon to solve tricky and creative tasks. The tremendous motivation of the people taking part turned this event into a complete success for the participating teams despite the adverse weather conditions. In the afternoon the guests had the opportunity to attend one of four workshops. All the results were presented in the course of the official evening programme. The ball was set rolling by the Rhythm Workshop, which was headed by Dr. Dirk Zeiser from the University of Music Trossingen. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when everyone in the hall clapped, hummed or sang in time: "international solidarity".
This put the audience in a special mood, and Dr. Andreas Weber then heartily welcomed the guests on behalf of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung. "Our current and former scholarship holders are the best proof of how important a functioning, mutual understanding is in the current time to obtain skills in dealing with other cultures, countries and people," said Dr. Weber. The decision of the Supervisory Board of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung to continue the programme in 2016 consequently gained all the more importance. The focus here was on a pleasing development for all future scholarship holders: From scholarship year 2016/2017 the minimum monthly scholarship will increase to 500 euros. In the subsequent discussion with Prof. Dr. Carsten Manz, President of Konstanz University of Applied Sciences, and Prof. Dr. Nicole Dehé, Prorector for the International Office and Equal Opportunity at Konstanz University, valuable information was provided about how the integration of foreign students at universities can succeed and what the students themselves can contribute to this process. As a best-practice example of international solidarity, the Baden-Württemberg scholarship holder Juliane Hoss reported from Pretoria, South Africa, via Skype about the work with young people on site through the association "Bridging Gaps e.V." (www.bridginggaps-sa.com) which she herself founded. Juliane explained her motivation for her commitment in South Africa as follows: "More than 20 years after the official end of apartheid in South Africa it is shocking and sad to see that many young people have no access to certain social resources or institutions. A lot of inequalities in South African society are still the result of historical and current racist social structures. The social background of a person must not be allowed to dictate what chances they have." Juliane is convinced that full use can be made of the entire potential only when a large number of young people begin to work together to overcome the inequalities in society. At wind force 9 the artists at the Painting Workshop, on the other hand, struggled to create individual graffiti with chalk spray. The Head of the Workshop, Emin Hasirci, a graduate of Konstanz University of Applied Sciences, was clearly impressed by the quick intellectual grasp and skill of the participants.
How important an international network is was emphasised by Prof. Bernd Enger, Rector of the University of Tübingen and Chairman of the Board of the Association of Scholarship Holders and Friends of the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM, and Henrike Schön, Deputy Chair and Head of the International Office at Heidelberg University of Education. For the first time two active coordinators of the Regional Chapters, Sebastian Wehner and Boyan Vramchev, were honoured for their voluntary work. Both winners were pleased to receive the award worth 100 euros. Boyan had travelled to the annual meeting straight from Sofia to receive the prize. Baden-Württemberg's Minister for the Federal Council, Europe and International Affairs, Peter Friedrich, welcomed the scholarship holders of the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM with a video message and motivated young people all over the world to dedicate their knowledge and abilities as effectively as possible to the good of their country, Europe and the international community. The results of the Exchange Workshop were also impressive. Stephan Bruckmeier, board member of the Kenya Art Project Asscociation took charge of this workshop with the support of actors from the "Nairobi Hope Theater". The two young men from Eritrea reported on their own very personal experiences as refugees, enabling the guests to sense their fears and feelings as boat people. Seven people had to fit into a tiny space, and you could almost feel how tight it was, how difficult to breathe, how impossible to move because you were squeezed in between strangers. An incredible number of people occupy a few square metres. Actually far too many for the little boat, with nothing but water to the left and right. There is no way out, but the only way forward is the route to the goal: a life in safety. Although our scholarship holders where safe on dry land, they were nevertheless affected by a feeling of claustrophobia and constriction. The thought of being subjected to such conditions at sea for several days, without food and with just a little water, meant that many were able to relate to the anxieties of the refugees.
The Video Workshop team, under the guidance of alumna Julia Kovalenko from the Baden-Württemberg Film Academy, was able to gain initial experience in handling a video camera. All the guests were able to enjoy the result of the workshop in the evening: The completed film of the event enabled everyone to look back at the day.
At the end of the day all were unanimous in the opinion that the essential requirement to "Practise International Solidarity!" is understanding for other cultures, other ways of thinking and other points of view. Understanding leads to communication and solidarity. These values and skills have been supported and promoted by the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM from the outset. For 2016 it is precisely these characteristics of our scholarship holders which will stimulate the upcoming annual programme when the motto is "Shaping the world of tomorrow!".