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‘International Campus’ – New initiatives for internationalization

3 Jun 2022

The Faculty of Medicine is creating new networking opportunities and platforms to promote global dialogue.

From their student quarters in Timișoara, Romania, and Valencia, Spain, Stefan Ionac and Renato Gutarra are talking over Zoom about the year of studies ahead of them at LMU. When he was still at school, Stefan spent ‘a year in Germany’ from his home in Romania. Renato comes from Peru, spent a year in Switzerland when he was 16 and is now studying at the Miguel Hernández University of Elche. Both are in the third year of studying medicine. And starting in fall 2022, both will spend two semesters in Munich.

Renato and Stefan got to know each other at the Faculty of Medicine’s ‘International Campus Day’ – an online event that gives students planning an exchange visit to LMU an initial insight into the University, but also the chance to meet and talk with each other informally. Renato was so excited about the initiative that, after the virtual meeting, he promptly set up a chat group to which almost every participant in the ‘International Campus Day’ signed up. “Since then, the prospective students have been helping each other with useful tips and tricks,” Stefan says. “Where do I want to live? Which of the working groups presented sound interesting? What courses do I want to take in the fall?”

The participants at the International Student Campus of the Faculty of Medicine

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New opportunities for networking and dialogue

On the virtual open day, LMU students introduce future fellow students from around the world to their University and their city. This event is part of a wide-ranging initiative launched by the Faculty of Medicine to create new networking opportunities on every level. Lisa Lechner, the person responsible for the Faculty of Medicine at LMU’s International Office, is one of the driving forces behind the idea of creating more opportunities for dialogue after two years of pandemic-related interruptions.

“It is so long since the students were actually here in the building,” she says. “The volume of questions we get has literally exploded. We often have students coming here from other countries who never even really got to know their campus at home, because they spent several semesters attending only virtual lectures. That makes informal communication between the students themselves all the more important.” Under the heading ‘International Campus’, student networking and information events are springing up alongside newly designed programs to promote student mobility, as well as international courses with LMU’s partner universities.

Innovative, international teaching formats

The illustration was designed by the students themselves

“At times, the pandemic made global dialogue very difficult. But at the same time, it opened up new possibilities,” says program leader Professor Orsolya Genzel-Boroviczény. After having to move many events onto the Internet during the lockdown, she had the idea of a virtual course on the subject of ‘History Taking’. That course is now being organized worldwide together with partner universities in Bari, Italy, and St. Louis, USA. The 24 participants at LMU can earn credit points for their attendance.

The course looks at specific ways to take down patients’ medical histories. In a simulation game, the students assume different roles to practice the exercise from the perspective of doctor, patient and translator. “It is difficult to teach physical examinations online,” Professor Genzel-Boroviczény admits. “But for budding doctors, communication is just as essential as technical skills in the operating theater. And we also benefit here from the international community.”

Intercultural communication in the operating theater

The course addresses standard questions that are important when diagnosing an illness, for example. But it also tackles the difficulties that must be overcome when asking about the patient’s history. Special characteristics of children and young people are explored, as are gender-specific questions and racist thought patterns that could hinder a correct diagnosis. The focus is also on intercultural communication: After all, how patients deal with different health-related topics and how they respond to sensitive questions varies all over the world. Innovative teaching formats such as the ‘History Taking’ course broaden the spectrum of offerings that cultivate dialogue between medical students. “Not everyone can go abroad during their studies,” Genzel-Boroviczény says. “So it is all the better that we now have opportunities for colleagues from around the world to still attend international courses.”

New programs to promote student mobility

At the same time, the people at the Faculty of Medicine are pleased to be able to resume proven programs to promote student mobility while also launching new initiatives. About six months ago, for instance, a cooperative venture between LMU and SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, was agreed under the patronage of Thomas Schulze, Professor of Psychiatric Phenomics and Genomics at LMU.

Meron Bayable Gebeyehu and Bulcha Lemma Tolosa from Ethiopia have already been at LMU for four weeks and are working their way through the surgical, gynecological, pediatric and orthopedic wards at the Grosshadern Campus of the University Hospital of Munich. They are part of a group of eight students completing a practical year as part of their studies at Jimma University in Addis Abeba, with which LMU’s Faculty of Medicine has for many years run an exchange program organized by students and led by Professor Matthias Siebeck.

The two clinical trainees from Ethiopia are happy that there are so many opportunities to share informally with their fellow students in Munich. “I feel really good here,” Meron Bayable tells us. “I spend a lot of time with the German exchange partners. Thanks to networking options such as the ‘Incoming Day’, you are already part of the LMU community when you arrive.” Bulcha Lemma is similarly delighted about Munich and the medical possibilities in Grosshadern. “The operating theaters are technically state of the art,” he enthuses. “In diagnostics, I have already learned a lot that I want to put into practice back home.”

Meron Bayable Gebeyehu and Bwicha Lemma Toiosa from Ethiopia have already been at LMU for four weeks and are working their way through the surgical, gynecological, pediatric and orthopedic wards at the Grosshadern Campus of the University Hospital of Munich.

© vzign

Students as international ambassadors

Anne Sophie Albertowski, currently doing her practical year and serving as a research assistant at the International Office, has spent part of the year in Krakow, Poland, and part in Ethiopia. Before that, she was already committed to using digital dialogue as a way to fill in for the Jimma exchange program during the pandemic. As part of Lisa Lechner’s team, she is now dedicated to ramping up the platforms for informal networking. “We are working on giving potential partner universities uncomplicated access to first-hand reports and contact with students and alumni,” she says. “That makes it easier to plan and prepare stays abroad during studies of medicine.”

Professor Thomas Schulze, who himself studied in Barcelona and the USA and today teaches and conducts research not only at LMU but also in Syracuse, sees these efforts as part of a wider project. “It is very important to me that we raise our global visibility with the high standard of medicine we have here at LMU,” he explains. “That begins with education. The medical expertise taught at LMU in Munich is an internationally recognized brand, and the students and professors who gain insights here and throughout the world are our ambassadors.”

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