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Franco-German Student Exchange 2022/2023 - Make Peace, Not War (Part Two)

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After the staff exchange in April, it's now the turn of the students! From May 22 to 26, 2023, the second and final stage of the cultural exchange took place in Clermont-Ferrand under the motto "Make Peace, not War". In partnership with the Crous Clermont Auvergne, six German students met with their French counterparts to complete the artistic productions they began last year in Regensburg.

One year later, the theme is still relevant

The theme "Make Peace, not War" is unfortunately just as relevant today as it was a year ago, as the Russian attack on Ukrainian territory is still raging. In a world marked by conflict and violence, it is important that we work for peace and look for ways to resolve conflicts peacefully.
Germany and France have shown in the past that they can overcome their differences and work together for peace. This Franco-German exchange is another example of how we can contribute to peace through cooperation and dialogue.

A delightfully uncomplicated collaboration and an inspiring result

The students' work together proved one thing: despite the historical conflicts that have shaken our two countries, despite the cultural and linguistic differences, it is possible to work together. The participants got to know each other better and friendships were formed. In three days of intensive work, the three groups - theater, visual arts and music - did an excellent job.

The students, who came from a variety of backgrounds - some were art students, others had never been exposed to their group's artistic medium in their lives - took their productions from the previous year and refined, tinkered and adapted them to the new dynamic, replacing some members with others (mainly for study reasons).

So the music group recorded their song, an original composition titled "Change your Power", adding new instruments that were not present in the previous year. You can listen to the music piece in the review video.

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With two paintings, the art group wanted to show the impact of the war on people. Using newspapers, archival articles, and legal texts, the group created a powerful and emotional production that combined collages, photographs, and paintings to show the before and after of the war.

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The theater group, which had to be reorganized due to new members, performed their play "Heaven is a Place Somewhere," about the confrontation of three radical views in wartime. A soldier, Angel, expresses a sense of duty to his country that is beyond his control, while Heaven, his deeply pacifist sister, believes in the power of people and love; finally, an authority figure, Pip, shamelessly sinks into horror and invokes a form of destiny. The play was written and directed by Axel Potier. Although the play is on the side of peace, it highlights the complexity of situations by presenting characters with simplistic reasoning, whose worlds only meet in a conflicted or absurd space.

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The end of a program cycle

The week was marked by work sessions and rehearsals. However, the group was able to enjoy Clermont-Ferrand thanks to a guided tour of the city, from the cathedral to the Place de Jaude and the town hall, combining historical anecdotes about the construction of Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption, but also about the history of resistance of the regional newspaper La Montagne. The group visited the exhibition "#BALADEÀ3", organized by the Crous Clermont Auvergne, which presented artists from Clermont.

The groups concluded the exchange week with a performance in the "Salle des frères Lumières" of the Crous Clermont Auvergne in the residential complex Dollet.

Franco-German Employee Exchange 2023 - Sustainability

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The year 2023 marks the beginning of a new two-year cycle in the employee exchange between the Studentenwerk Niederbayern/Oberpfalz (STWNO) and the Crous Clermont Auvergne.

From 17 to 21 April 2023, the STWNO welcomed employees of the Crous Clermont Auvergne to network and exchange on the topic of sustainability and student engagement. The motto: Learning together and from each other - for more sustainability!

For one week, the Franco-German group consisting of 16 participants visited the different STWNO locations in Regensburg, Deggendorf, Landshut and Passau. The aim of the week was to exchange information about the different measures and processes that the STWNO and "its" students have taken in order to work towards a sustainable university life that is in line with the goals of the UN Agenda 2030 (more information here). A particular highlight: The participants of the exchange got a direct insight into the sustainability projects of student initiatives and institutions of the universities.

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Sustainability at the STWNO

The STWNO is also committed to integrating sustainability into its daily work. Here are some examples that were presented to our French colleagues from Crous during the week:

  • In addition to a large selection of fresh meals prepared on the same day with ingredients from organic farming and mainly regional producers (which is made possible largely through cooperation with labels such as Juradistl) the meals in the STWNO canteens are offered at reasonable prices for students thanks to financial subsidies from the Bavarian State.
  • In January 2023, there was a Veganuary action week, during which exclusively plant-based dishes were offered in the canteens under the title "Mensamorphose".
  • Every day there is at least one vegetarian and/or vegan option at very reasonable price in the STWNO canteens.
  • In 2020, a deposit system with Relevo reusable cups and containers was introduced. This allows the STWNO to offer both drinks and food to go in a sustainable and easy way.

Sustainability is also taken into account in the construction and renovation of canteen buildings: The programme of the exchange week therefore also included a tour of the canteen at Hochschule Landshut, which only opened in March 2022: the head chef there took the group behind the scenes of the facility. In his guided tour, he explained, among other things, the sustainable construction of the canteen with its green roof with photovoltaic systems. He also showed the guests the modern equipment, the necessary hygiene regulations and the use of leftover food, which is converted into biogas by a local Landshut company.

Sustainable actions naturally include conscious consumption and the conservation of resources, but social issues also play a major role here. For example, the STWNO meets the social aspect of sustainability with the work of social counselling and psychological counselling by providing a free infrastructure. And the free offer of cultural support enables students to freely develop their potential. For this reason, visits to the cultural spaces VOR DER GRIEB (Regensburg) and KulturSalon 2.0 (Passau) were also on the programme of the exchange week.

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Having housing with socially affordable rents for the period of their studies is a central aspect of students' lives. In order to meet this obligation, the STWNO offered in 2022 not less than 3,076 accommodation places at its locations, which averaged 276.50 € per month (including all utility costs). The student housing complex in Untere Himmelreichstraße in Deggendorf, which was visited as part of the staff exchange, is considered an example of sustainable construction, as sustainable aspects, such as the use of resource-saving building materials, played a role in its construction. In addition, the residential complex is mainly heated with pellets. Gas is only used as a backup in winter.



Sustainability initiatives and organisations at the universities

There are numerous sustainability projects on the campus of Universität Regensburg that were initiated by the Green Office: Greening of areas, provision of materials to promote bicycle use, participatory herb garden projects as well as a programme to control the pigeon population on campus, creation of habitat for kestrels and nesting and breeding sites for swifts. The two construction wagons from Netzwerk Nachhaltigkeit serve as a meeting point for the organisation of a variety of sustainability projects, such as the creation of a new raised bed, "Der grüne Faden" or "Das Reparat".

The Hochschulgruppe Nachhaltigkeit at Universität Passau provides a mobile app that can be used by visitors and residents as part of a city tour entitled "Nachhaltige Orte in Passau". The tour, in which the participants of the Franco-German group also took part, was led by two students fro Hochschulgruppe Nachhaltigkeit. They led the group through the city centre of Passau and introduced them to organic bakeries, alternative handicraft shops and fine food shops whose activities all correspond to the ideal of a sustainable and ecological city.

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Realisation of the exchange and future prospects

The interpreters employed (all students of Universität Regensburg) facilitated a smooth process and a lively exchange between the participants, be it during the meals, the visits or the coffee breaks. Their presence and their experience with student topics made it possible to put many of the points raised during the numerous visits into the right context and to answer questions.

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What's next? The second and last part of the two-year exchange will take place next year. The German employees will then travel to Clermont-Ferrand. The STWNO and its staff will have the opportunity to see for themselves the work of the Crous Clermont Auvergne and to meet their French colleagues again. This is a moment that all participants of the exchange are already looking forward to.

Finally, we would like to thank the Franco-German Youth Office (Deutsch-Französisches Jugendwerk), whose financial support made the exchange possible (for more information on the Franco-German Youth Office, click here).

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Credits for all photos of the employee exchange: © Yuliia Drahan