August 14, 2019
Andrea Koch experiences the host family program at Jacobs University as an enrichment to her life. At the invitation of her former host student Lalit Singh, the native of Bremen was in the Himalayan state.
Andrea Koch could hardly believe it: Was that really "her" Lalit, the back in the days rather reserved alumni of Jacobs University from Nepal? He stood confidently on the stage of Nami College in Kathmandu and moderated the "Everest Hackathon" – Nepal’s largest competition of programming specialists, which was initiated and organized by Lalit himself and led participants and sponsors from all over the world to Nepal. "He was outgoing, he was in his element – that was impressive to see," says Koch, who lives in Bremen-Nord, close to Jacobs University.
In late summer 2015, she met Lalit Singh through Jacobs University's host family program, in which families and individuals accompany a student as local friends during their time in Bremen. "Lalit didn’t speak English fluently at the time, he was rather quiet," recalls the 56-year-old. She organized games nights with her family, they cooked together or visited the grandparents of the Koch family. They formed a relationship of trust. "The idea for the hackathon has developed on our sofa," says Andrea Koch. Last year, Lalit received his bachelor's degree in computer science of Jacobs University and invited his host parents to visit him in his home country.
Andrea Koch and host father Christoph Paul spent two weeks in Nepal this summer. They traveled through the country, attended the hackathon and lived with the family one of Lalit’s friends. "The hospitality in Nepal is incredibly impressive. The people would give you the shirt off their back, even when they don't have much themselves," says Andrea Koch. She emphasizes that the trip was a wonderful experience.
Lalit is by no means the first Jacobs’ student Andrea Koch got to know better, the educator and mother of two has been a member of the host family program for ten years now. Back in the days she had read about the program at Jacobs University in the newspaper and was immediately interested. "I've always found it exciting to look beyond my own nose since I already know my immediate environment very well." She supported students from Romania, China, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan through their studies, they are spread all over the world. The contact has remained with all of them. "We have a close relationship with all of them. The program is a great enrichment to our lives.”
"The students at Jacobs University treat each other very respectfully. I've always been impressed by this, and they also convey this way of interacting with each other to the outside world," says Andrea Koch. "They want to pass on this attitude and what they have learned at Jacobs University. That was also the case with Lalit's hackathon. He wanted to bring what he had learned at Jacobs University to Nepal.”
It doesn't take much to be involved in the host family program: a little time, being able to speak English and open-mindedness towards young people from other cultures. "One should be open, put away any prejudices and if you are not fully ready to commit yet, you can take on a sponsorship for a student from a European country or for a visiting student who is only in Bremen for half a year," says Andrea Koch.
She has also corrected her own prejudices, for example against Pakistan. This has to do with Ahmed, who studied electrical engineering at Jacobs University and whom she accompanied with the host family program. His whole family attended his graduation ceremony in Bremen, and Andrea Koch has now been to Pakistan twice. "A great country, so very different from what is portrayed in the media." Next year she will travel to Pakistan again, to attend Ahmed's wedding. "It will be," she says, "a big celebration. I'm very much looking forward to it.”
Invitation to an information event about Jacobs University’s host family program
20. August 2019, 18:30 p.m.
Conrad Naber Lecture Hall, Jacobs University Bremen
Further information is available at https://www.jacobs-university.de/08202019-infoabend-host-family-program