Intercultural Counseling Center
The Intercultural Counseling Center was founded in 2008. Through it, the LMU shows its high regard for its international students who comprise 15% of the total student body—a figure well above average in comparison with other German universities. The LMU seeks to make itself more internationally attractive which is why having an intercultural counseling center that responds to foreign students' needs is particularly important and meaningful. Although more and more students choose universities farther from home and academic institutions strive to internationalize their student bodies, this kind of counseling center is seldom provided at German universities. The Center's strong connection to the Institute for Intercultural Communication guarantees its high level of professionalism; moreover, it is a privilege for the LMU to be able to draw on its own academic resources.
The Intercultural Counseling Center provides students with support regarding culturally related issues in their academic program that may be challenging to their success or having a negative impact on their general well being. Empirical evidence has shown that international students usually encounter difficulties in the following areas:
- interacting with German students,
- interacting with faculty and staff,
- conduct in office hours,
- participation in class,
- preparing papers and homework,
- preparing and giving presentations,
- grading criteria,
- building friendships and social interaction with German students.
According to reports from the Deutsches Studentenwerk (the German institution in charge of student lodging), the media, experiences from within university settings and other sources, international students need special, culturally sensitive support: most international students at German universities experience difficulties in successfully navigating the academic system and establishing contacts. Many, for example, are unused to and unfamiliar with the requirements of independent work, how to interact with faculty and staff, with the need to independently compile their own individual study programs or with grading and evaluation criteria. Furthermore, most only have weak social ties to their German surroundings. These factors are thought to be responsible not only for international students' low, academic performance and high dropout rate but also for a general feeling of discomfort. Since many of these issues have cultural reasons, professional, intercultural counseling is a way to effectively address and manage them.
In addition to face-to-face counseling, we provide three further means of intercultural support: intercultural workshops, discussion series and the international Stammtisch. These formats address different aspects of the students' experiences, namely communication, information and emotion. The goal is to offer a holistic approach which enables international students to better handle the academic and social challenges of their new cultural environment and which also enhances their general welfare.