The thirst for knowledge remains unbroken

Interview with Sebastian Zurfähr, Lufthansa employee and Mentor

An important building block of the help alliance cooperation with the education platform Kiron is the mentor programme for refugee students. Around a dozen employees from different companies in the Lufthansa Group answered help alliance’s call and agreed to assist students on their journey. Sebastian Zurfähr, BER CP/A, is one of these people. In an interview with ONE he explains his motivation, tells of his first encounters in the Study Center and of the students’ thirst for knowledge.

Mr Zurfähr, what motivated you to apply for the mentoring programme?

After the first overwhelming wave of help for the migrants arriving in Germany in 2015, I got the feeling over the last year that there was a certain tiredness creeping into the population about the situation. That is what motivated me to get in touch. For a long time, I wanted to get involved and was looking for a sustainable project that also fitted in with my professional and personal situation.

You chose a help alliance cooperation project.

On the one hand it is a kind of seal of quality if your company’s charitable organisation has reviewed a project and found it good. As a volunteer, that also gives you the feeling that this is something meaningful, it’s got substance and is trusted. On the other hand, my personal evaluation of the concept was also essential in my decision.

Was it the concept that convinced you?

Yes, it reminded me of my own time as a student. It is absolutely necessary that online courses are complemented by a study centre and a mentor programme. This is also common at German universities. The Study Center performs the function of a refectory or a library, a place where you not only go to study, but also to exchange ideas and meet friends.

Have you already met the students?

Initial meetings with the students have already taken place. Kiron is very careful to provide the mentors and students with comprehensive information and guidance. There are mentor training events planned which will prepare us for the special situation of dealing with refugee students. You do not feel alone. At the beginning, just getting to know them is important. This takes place via social events organised by Kiron.

How often do these social events take place?

At least every two weeks. Especially in the start-up phase, it’s important to know when it’s best to come to the Study Center ie. when the students are usually there. A very interesting aspect in this mentor programme is also the idea that there are no specific pairs who work together, but rather the mentors at the Study Center are a point of contact for all students. This makes absolute sense because many of the questions asked are the same. And why should the students only draw on the experience of one mentor?

What was your impression?

The students were very motivated, they had very specific questions, for example, about application procedures when applying to German companies etc. And I have to say that I was a little surprised. The commitment and the thirst for knowledge was palpable, it really impressed me. It is of course a general problem that highly motivated refugee students are in some instances unemployed for weeks, or that they do not have a suitable place where they can concentrate on learning the online content. This need is covered by the Study Center. It’s a brilliant project. I am looking forward to the exchange and the encounters I will have.

About Kiron Higher Education…