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The European

Jessica Winter is a committed European. Her interest was piqued thanks to her work as part of the Young Universities for the Future of Europe Alliance. A portrait in the Campus Stories series

Campus Life

The 25-year-old Jessica Winter changed her degree at the University of Bremen in order to work more intensely on European topics. Her interest was piqued thanks to her work as part of the YUFE Alliance (Young Universities for the Future of Europe).

“I was born in the 90s,” says the young woman. “I am lucky to be part of a generation that grew up in a united Europe.” The open borders made many trips and international meetings possible for her at an early age. Jessica Winter already had contact to other European countries when she was at school. “I went to the Halepaghen-Schule school in Buxtehude, Lower Saxony, which was part of the Comenius Program. That is basically Erasmus for school children.” For example, she can remember a big international meeting with several schools as part of the program. “The multicultural atmosphere and communicating with so many people was great,” she explains. Jessica Winter also took part in an exchange and went to Newcastle in her youth. Exchange pupils from Great Britain and Spain visited her home. “My time at school was influenced greatly by Europe.”

Politically Active During Her Studies

After completing her high school qualifications, Jessica Winter initially decided to read math and computer science at the University of Bremen. The student soon became politically active. She was part of her faculty student body (StugA) and the student council. She first became aware of YUFE via an appeal to all student bodies. As part of the network, the University of Bremen, nine academic partners, and four non-academic partners are creating one of the first European universities. The EU Commission is funding the alliance. Student contributions are explicitly desired and anchored within the concept. Jessica Winter is impressed by the idea that ten young universities can grow together to become a European University and want to overcome borders together for this purpose. “That is what characterizes Europe for me: We work together on challenges in order to create a better future.”

Several meetings with the YUFE partner universities took place prior to the outbreak of the corona pandemic in Germany. University management, staff, and students came together to discuss a European University of the future and to take first steps. The student travelled to Essex (UK), Nicosia (Cyprus), and Maastricht (Netherlands) for project meetings. She got to know many people who are active as part of the project in different European countries. “I found this exchange extremely rewarding,” she states. “There are many visionaries at our YUFE Partner Universities. They have interesting ideas regarding how we can shape the future of European university education together.”

Student Forum President

Jessica Winter’s interest in YUFE became so present that she switched from her degree in math and computer science to a degree in Integrated European Studies. Within YUFE, she has now taken on responsibility on a management level and is at the forefront of creating the European University Alliance: In August 2020, the Bremen student became the President of the Student Forum – the student representative body of the European University Alliance – and will remain in office for one year. This also means that she is a member of the Strategy Board – the highest YUFE body. “Are students taken seriously in the committees?”, is something that she is asked often. “Entirely,” she answers. “We discuss and help to shape YUFE at eye level.”

Students in YUFE Network Are Closely Connected

Of course, Jessica Winter is not the only University of Bremen student who is active within YUFE. Alongside her, Lea Elena Fischer and Jana Sievers also represent the University of Bremen in the Student Forum. They are in close contact with all their fellow European students in the YUFE network. Since the pandemic struck, the meetings have only taken place digitally, but the close work has not stopped. Jessica Winter is pleased that she had the opportunity to get to know all the partners in person. “Now we face the challenge of winning over new students in a digital time.” Despite all the advantages that online meetings bring, such a European project does thrive off physical meetings. Drinking a coffee together and getting to know a new town and university together – those are some of the things that are not possible. Yet Jessica Winter is working on connecting students with each other even now. “It is very important to me,” she emphasizes.

Not only Jessica Winter (right) is an active University of Bremen student within the YUFE network. Alongside her, Lea Elena Fischer (center) and Jana Sievers (left) currently represent the University of Bremen in the Student Forum.
© Matej Meza / Universität Bremen

Successful First Run of YUFE Classes

YUFE is currently in the development phase. For around half a year now, first classes have been tested. With the so-called Introduction Offer, it is possible for students to take classes at other YUFE Universities – obviously only online at the moment. Jessica Winter took a class at Maastricht University in the winter semester, for example. The class was called The Idea of Europe. “It was very rewarding for my studies,” she says amazed. The class broadened her view of Europe and its history. For example, it was interesting to see how a Dutch university looks back on the times of National Socialism in comparison to a German one. Moreover, the student took a digital Polish language class at the Nikolaus Kopernikus University in Toruń, Poland. “The pandemic pushed the many virtual YUFE classes on offer forward in a massive way. I would have never been able to take classes in Maastricht, Poland, and Bremen at the same time in person,” she laughs.

“European University Alliances train Europeans.”

“We Are Important Ambassadors for Europe”

She is looking forward to the coming summer semester, as the first cohort of so-called YUFE Diploma Supplement Tracks will start then. It is a pilot project with 100 students from all the YUFE Universities for the first 2-year study program. Jessica Winter’s application was successful. The student sees YUFE as an important element for a stable Europe: “European University Alliances train Europeans,” she says. “And we YUFE members and later alumnus are important ambassadors. This will enable us to fight against the nationalistic tendencies, such as Brexit and anti-democratic developments, with confidence.”

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