German firefighter studying in Venlo

During the Week of the International Student, which starts today and ends this Friday, Bron puts the spotlight on foreign students of Fontys. Why did they choose to study in The Netherlands and specifically at Fontys? Today’s story: Sara Wintersohle from Germany.

Sara Wintersohle has a special way of spending her spare time: she's a firefighter! At the voluntary fire department in her German place of residence Moers, some 40 kilometres from the Venlo-border, she now ranks as a Oberfeuerwehrfrau. "My brother joined the club for young firefighters. When I went there to take a look for myself, it fascinated me too", she says.

Ideal mix
Her study Mechatronics at Fontys University of applied science Technology and Logistics in Venlo really helps her out. "You learn quicker how the materials of a firefighter work. But when it’s broken, we don't have to repair it." She thinks mechatronics is an ideal mix. It contains computer science and software engineering, and also mechanical and electrical engineering. "I take courses that specialize in robotics."

Wintersohle learned she could also do this study in The Netherlands, when Fontys presented itself at her high school in Duisburg. She visited the open days in Venlo and got a good feeling about it. "At German universities you and 300 others in the classroom get to listen to what the professor has to tell you. He is almost an oracle. Here classes are much smaller and it's much easier to approach teachers."

Studying abroad was exciting at the beginning. There were not enough fellow countrymen to fill a completely German speaking mechatronics class. "So I had to learn Dutch. After a while I could understand and read it. And the advantage here is that every teacher speaks German.” Meanwhile Winthersohle is in fourth grade. She hopes to get her bachelor title in June 2018.

She doesn't live in Venlo, but commutes by car. That too is a remarkable story, she smiles: "My parents left the house for quite a while!" Her father got a job in Qatar, in 2013. "When I finished high school, my mother also moved there. I lived alone at home for about one and a half year. That's why I never got to live in Venlo." Wintersohle thinks she'll stay in Germany after she finishes school. But she certainly will take notice of interesting Dutch job offers.

Wintersohle is extremely positive about the Dutch. The way they speak their languages so easily, initially surprised her. "Germans try to speak German as long as possible, even with their hands and feet. If that doesn't work anymore, they switch to English." She also noticed though, that it's fairly normal in Holland to be late for five minutes. "Try to arrive five minutes earlier. That is polite." And she was shocked by the traffic tickets the police can hand out. "If you're parked wrong or speeding just a few kilometres, you'll get a 50 euro ticket at once. In Germany you only pay 10 euro!"

Fontys in one word? "Just great! Oops, that's two words." [Tim Durlinger]