Maganga Moussavou Yoan, 23, from Gabon in west Africa is one of just two students who are currently at the University of Münster on the basis of the "Erasmus with Partner Countries" programme. A student of German, he is due to return to his home country in August. Brigitte Heeke spoke to him about his interest in the German language and about the special features of the online semester.
At Münster University, there are a lot of students studying German. Is it normal, or rather unusual, to study German in Gabon?
German is offered as a subject at school - and I learned it at high school - but overall there’s not much interest in learning German. There’s the impression that Germans are strict, and people are still a bit afraid because of Germany’s role in two world wars. Perhaps that’s also the reason why schoolchildren show so little interest in German language and culture. The German companies that used to be in Gabon have all left the country. Of the 5,000 students at our university, only about 100 are enrolled to study German.
And why did you opt for precisely this course of study?
Because I can study English and German at our Department of German Studies. This isn’t possible in other departments - not even in the English Department. Also, I’m interested in literary studies. After I graduate I’d like to work as a translator for French, English and German - with an international organization, for example, such as UNICEF, which is always looking for translators.
How would you assess the partnership between Omar Bongo University in Libreville and the University of Münster?
To begin with, our Department of German Studies had a cooperation with Augsburg and one with the Saarland, but at the moment the cooperation with Münster is the only one we have. Every two years, alternately, two students from Gabon and two from Germany travel to the other country. We’re here as Erasmus students, and the German students are working as interns in Libreville, giving workshops for us, for example. It’s always useful to be able to talk to native speakers, because apart from discussions with our lecturers, we don’t normally have much opportunity to do so. In short, both sides benefit from this good partnership.
And that’s exactly why you’re taking part in this Erasmus programme?
Right, and above all I want to improve my language skills. Sometimes at the weekend we drive from the capital Libreville to Lambaréné, which is about four hours away by car. There are trainee doctors from Germany working regularly there in the hospital which Albert Schweitzer founded. For us, that’s a good opportunity to talk with native speakers. Not many people in Gabon go abroad and, if they do, they tend to go to France. According to our embassy, there are only fifty Gabonese living in Germany.
Because of the Corona pandemic, your semester in Münster went differently from what you had planned, I’m sure...
Unfortunately, due to the restrictions, we haven’t been able to visit the University. It’s a great pity, but understandable of course. Nevertheless, I’ve learnt a lot - online! The courses were good and easy to understand, and attending seminars via Zoom was simple and practical. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve improved my language skills. So despite all the restrictions I’ve gained a lot from the semester. And you can look at it this way: before the borders were closed in my country because of the Corona pandemic, we caught the last flight to Europe. So we were lucky, and we used the time well.
The "Erasmus with Partner Countries" programme
The "Erasmus with Partner Countries" programme, set up by the European Union in 2014, enables universities to maintain partnerships with universities outside the EU. The University of Münster has been engaged in the programme since 2016 - initially with two established partnerships entered into by the Institute of German Studies. Today, there are more than 20 cooperation partners in nine countries , including the University of California in Berkeley (smartNetwork), the Georgian University of Tiflis (Law), Omar Bongo University in Gabon (German Studies) and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance (Faculty of Music).
Students, academics and university staff can all take part in the programme. Anyone interested should contact Sandra Wiegand in the International Office (firstname.lastname@example.org).