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uni'alumni 2013_ENG

What began as an experiment is now more often than not a regular part of a course of study: a study abroad in another member state of the European Union (EU). Initiated by the EU on 15 June 1987, the Erasmus Program enables students to broaden their hori- zons and helps Europe’s universities to grow together. The program is named after the 15th century scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam. The polymath studied and taught in France, England, Italy, Switzerland – and Freiburg, where he resided for several years. “When we set about establishing the program in Freiburg 25 years ago, we had to begin by convincing the deans,” says Klaus-Dieter Düformantel, head of the EU Office of the University of Freiburg and responsible for Erasmus from the start. Düformantel and his team organized exchanges with other universities with help from the faculties, and in the first year Freiburg was able to send four students to three coun- tries. A basic principle of the program from the outset was for all partner uni- versities to grant participants exemp- tions from tuition and recognize credits from their home universities in order to create a common higher education area. “In the beginning we had to make students aware of the program by word of mouth – now everyone knows about it,” says Düformantel. Since every Erasmus student is required to write a report on their experience abroad, a great wealth of tips and know-how has been collected over the years. The EU Office also provides information and is available to answer questions, offer advice, and help out in difficult situations. A perpetual problem is housing shortages. When a univer- sity building was vacant for several years before its scheduled demolition at the end of the 1990s, the team set it up to serve as a dormitory. Düforman- tel borrowed a refrigerator from his mother and beds and furniture from a hotel in Bad Krozingen that had gone out of business. Although he wasn’t able to profit from Erasmus as a student himself, he identifies whole- heartedly with the ideals of the program and feels right at home in a united Europe. Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup “I don’t go out in just any kind of weather anymore,” says Otti Wilmanns, since 1996 professor emeritus of the University of Freiburg. Still, the ardent hiker managed to participate in close to 80 excursions in the year 2012. In addi- tion, an abundance of recent publica- tions testifies to her unbroken passion for research and curiosity. The 84-year- old enjoys being able to research with- out obligations, chart new realms, and breathe new life into scientific discus- sions – bringing all of her experience to bear in the process. “I’ve always been interested in historical language sources,” says the vegetation ecologist. Backing Up Linguistic Evidence with Scientific Facts Wilmanns challenges several archae- ologists and philologists who believe that no Gallo-Romans settled in the valleys of the Kinzig and Elz rivers because they supposedly considered the dark and forbidding forest too inhos- pitable. During her quest for the Gallo- Romance roots of place names in the area, she found a large amount of linguistic evidence from pre-Germanic times – for instance the word “Baschk,” derived from the Gallo-Romance “pas- cuum” for pasture. She backed up these finds in a 2009 publication with facts from landscape ecology and geobotany, demonstrating that the climate, geology, and vegetation of the area indicate that it would have been an especially favor- able location for settlements. “In combi- nation with new archaeological finds, that clarified the historical situation.” Eva Opitz Good on her feet: Otti Wilmanns participated in close to 80 excursions in 2012. THE ERASMUS PROGRAM The Erasmus Program is part of the European Union’s “Lifelong Learning Program.” Currently, around 230,000 students receive Erasmus funding each year. The scholarships are worth between 150 and 200 euros per month. In winter semester 2012/13, the Univer- sity of Freiburg admitted approximate- ly 420 students and sent around 650 into other countries. The program also en- ables teaching faculty and administrative em- ployees to visit partner universities. » Helping Europe Grow Together A LOOK BACK: ERASMUS TURNS 25 Klaus-Dieter Düformantel has coordinated the Erasmus Program in Freiburg for 25 years. Photo: Feldwisch-Drentrup PROFESSORS OF THE PAST Geobotanist with an Interest in Linguistics uni'alumni 2013 University News 25