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20 Years of ‘Orbis Humboldtianus’

A diverse programme for international students at the HU

Student counseling at the International Club
Photo: Martin Ibold

Offering a home from home – every year, the International Club ‘Orbis Humboldtianus’ helps around two thousand international exchange students and regular international students to complete their full degree programme at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU). Orbis Humboldtianus is now celebrating its 20th anniversary at its new location near the Student Services Centre. The club officially opened its doors here in February.

The club began life in the 1990s with a limited range of events and has since developed an extensive programme to help international students make the ideal start to their studies in the German capital, thereby facilitating their optimal integration into university. The programme offered by the International Club encompasses introductory events, campus rallies, city tours and excursions as well as a visa service, mentoring and individual counselling for crisis situations. “Many international activities come together here,” explains Ulrike Spangenberg, project coordinator. “This includes the residence permit, language acquisition as well as how the German university is organised.” However, some of the problems also have a highly individual nature and are best tackled in personal consultations. “It never really gets boring,” adds Ulrike Spangenberg, with a smile.

Indeed, Ulrike Spangenberg understands the pitfalls that a placement abroad can entail from first-hand experience. The Romance philologist and Portuguese interpreter spent a semester during her own studies in Maputo, Mozambique. In the meantime, she has been advising international students at Humboldt University for around 25 years. “It can be a particularly difficult situation if you don’t understand the language or have trouble expressing yourself.” Many arrangements require a considerable amount of background knowledge, such as regarding employment and residence permits, and international students often lack this information. This is where the specialist mentoring programme ‘Famos Connect’ comes in; it provides the key basics at the beginning of studies in order to support international students start university successfully2. Networks and contact partners play an important role here.

“How should a student reach out to professors? What are open office hours? How important is punctuality in Germany? These are all things that have to be learned.” Answers to these questions are discussed, for example, during intercultural training sessions, which relate to the cultural backgrounds of participants. “Famos Connect is evaluated regularly, and we are able to point towards impressive success cases,” the advisor gladly continues. During the official opening of the new location, Prof. Dr-Ing. Dr Sabine Kunst, President of Humboldt-Universität, praised the diverse programme offered by the club and highlighted the great challenge in feeling at home away from home.

In this context, Orbis Humboldtianus is said to provide a shining example of a contact point for international students and now benefits from its improved visibility in the heart of the university. “We have no shortage of ideas for the future,” Ulrike Spangenberg affirms. “I particularly enjoy the direct contact with international students as well as the direct feedback we are able to receive.” The feeling of being able to help and really make a difference – she adds – makes her work the best job there is.

Author: Nora Lessing

Further Information


Ulrike Spangenberg
International Office
Humboldt University of Berlin

Phone: +49 30 2093-46712

Press Contact

Hans-Christoph Keller

Spokesperson of Humboldt University of Berlin
PR department head

Phone: +49 30 2093-2332