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Down Under on the Upper Rhine

Students from Adelaide examine living sustainability at the University of Freiburg

Freiburg, Mar 18, 2019

In February 2019, students from Australia went on a journey to Strasbourg and Freiburg. The two-week Winter School is part of the Comprehensive Partnership between the Universities of Freiburg and Adelaide and was designed for the joint partners in Eucor - The European Campus. One of the activities - exploring the Quartier Vauban.

The students set out to discover Freiburg’s model district.
Photo: Patrick Seeger

No-one was expecting spring temperatures in February: The mood is relaxed at Paula-Modersohn-Platz. School students stand around chatting in the midday sun and waiting for their buses and trams. The doors of the no. 3 open, and a group of people step out into the square in the Vauban district. The 20 students look around. Some of them take out their phones and writing materials. Freiburg environmental researcher Dr. Sabine Reinecke divides the students from the University of Adelaide into smaller groups. “You know what you have to do. Have fun on the excursion!” she tells them as they disperse in various directions.

In a few short hours they will seek to independently discover four important parts of Vauban and hold short talks on those places’ environmental and social significance. Then, as a group, they will reflect on their impressions. The excursion is intended to demonstrate to the participants how sustainability and social responsibility are put into practice in Freiburg. The exercise is part of a two-week Winter School organized with Freiburg’s key partners from Adelaide and Strasbourg. Under the motto “Adding New Perspectives” the students learn about European politics in lectures, workshops, and excursions in Strasbourg, and about sustainability in Freiburg.

The guests from Adelaide are finding out that environmental and social sustainability play a major role in Freiburg. Photo: Patrick Seeger

Comprehensive research cooperation, broad-based exchange programs in teaching and sustainable networking in administration: The University of Freiburg maintains Comprehensive Partnerships with the universities of Strasbourg, France, Pennsylvania, USA, Nagoya, Japan and Nanjing, China. Freiburg and Adelaide are just starting their cooperation. The Winter School is a project testing international teaching formats. And there are other things on offer. Students of Nursing Science at each of the universities have taken part in an exchange which is held alternately in Adelaide and in Freiburg. In a joint doctoral program in Medicine and Pharmacy, doctoral candidates can spend at least a year at the respective partner institution and complete a degree which is recognized by both universities.

“I could imagine growing up here”

Emma Guthberlet, a student of Law and International Relations, guides a group to the children’s adventure playground farm. She explains the educational concept behind the institution, places great emphasis on responsible treatment of the environment and on participation. The next stop is the self-organized independent residents’ initiative known as SUSI. Jessica McGuire, Arts and Sciences, explains the self-administering residential project, which was launched in the former barracks after the departure of French Army troops in 1993. There is discussion of the low rents here. “The community seems to take priority here. It seems inclusive and open to all. “I could imagine growing up here,” says Guthberlet.

Her fellow student Natalie Jong loved the Heliotrope: The prizewinning solar house can be turned to face the sun - and can produce more energy than it uses. Its composting toilets make the students grin. Then Qabas Al Humaidi takes the group to the Green City Hotel; he is enthusiastic about its focus on environmental awareness and social responsibility. Four years ago he emigrated from Oman to Australia to study Innovation and Entrepreneurship. When they arrive at Freiburg’s market square, Sabine Reinecke asks the students what they learned in Vauban. They remark on the sustainable approach and the inclusive, tolerant nature of the district. But Jessica McGuire is surprised that there are so many cars there. “In a ‘green’ suburb I wouldn’t have expected that.”

Out of the classroom and into the fresh air: The Winter School offers theoretical and practical approaches to sustainability. Photo: Patrick Seeger

Learning, discovering, networking

Sabine Reinecke of the University of Freiburg’s Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy was the program’s academic coordinator in Freiburg, and she organized it according to her core academic areas. She had organizational support from Kathleen Tribe from The Faculty of the Professions International Team. Environmental scientists Dr. Sabine Sané and Dr. Philipp Späth, the geographer Prof. Dr. Hartmut Fünfgeld and the environmental meteorologist Dr. Dirk Schindler all spoke to the group on sustainability over the course of the week. Reinecke challenged the students, getting them to discuss difficult topics. But they remained cheerful. “That shows how committed this group is,” she says.

The students were particularly enthusiastic about the teaching staff. “Our teachers here are real experts in their field. You can ask them anything and get a solid answer,” says Jessica McGuire. Kathleen Tribe says the Winter School has been successful: “This short program allows our students to explore the academic strengths of each institution taught from a uniquely European perspective. This is not something they would experience at Adelaide.”

A partnership for the future

This visit won’t be the last project that Strasbourg and Freiburg conduct for the joint partners in Eucor - The European Campus, says Katharina Aly, head of the University of Freiburg’s international office: “We are planning a Summer or Winter School with a strong academic focus for Bachelor students at the University of Freiburg and its partners – that will put another important tool into the toolbox of international teaching.“ The partnership strengthens the administration as well as research and teaching, she says. “Since 2017 we have been welcoming employees of the University of Adelaide as part of our international exchange.” Despite having a different focus, the partners have become close and have great development potential which will benefit the university as a whole, Aly explains.

Meanwhile in Vauban, the students are heading back to their hotel. When asked about her personal highlights, Jessica McGuire enthuses about the trip to the Schauinsland. “It was a great experience. Most of us saw snow for the first time.”

Patrick Siegert


Information on Key Partnerships

International Office