| Campus
EARTHS Summer School

International summer school takes place despite the pandemic

Producing short films about global health challenges and making fried potatoes: How do they go together? These two ingredients are a recipe for success when they take place online simultaneously in 25 households with international students and instructors located across countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.

A total of 18 Master's and PhD scholarship holders from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Yemen, Indonesia and the Philippines are currently taking part in the EARTHS Summer School together with selected Bachelor's and Master's students from the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg (HAW Hamburg). A scholarship programme from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for outstanding students from developing countries has made this possible. Normally, the international DAAD scholarship recipients would attend in person at the summer school, which is hosted by the Department of Health Sciences in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

Due to the pandemic, however, the summer school is being held online for the second time. 'Most of the participating scholarship holders have never been to Europe and would have been thrilled to come to Germany for a month. They were really looking forward to it,' says Prof. Amena Ahmad, professor of public health at HAW Hamburg and the head of the summer school. 'The vivid experience of being in a place is irreplaceable, but to our own astonishment, intercultural exchange and building bonds is actually possible in an online format. Together we're making the best of it.'


To our own astonishment, intercultural exchange and building bonds is actually possible in an online format. Together we're making the best of it!

Prof. Amena Ahmad, Professor of Public Health at HAW Hamburg and head of the summer school

For five years now, the Department of Health Sciences has been organising the EARTHS Summer School in cooperation with the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (Department of Infectious Epidemology), with support from DAAD. The EARTHS acronym is short for 'Education- and research-oriented training in health sciences' and illustrates the summer school's health sciences focus. 'Our goal is to strengthen the research and teaching skills of these young researchers and to give them a glimpse of German culture,' says Prof. Ahmad.

Since mid-July 2021, students from eight countries have been attending workshops and seminars together with HAW Hamburg students from the Health Sciences BSc and Public Health MSc programmes on an almost daily basis. The online seminars cover topics such as evidence-based public health, scientific writing and biostatistics. Exploring traditional and innovative forms of scientific communication is another focus of this year's summer school. 'The interactive workshop on effective presentation skills is excellent! The students practice their presentation skills and get feedback from the trainer,' reports Prof. Ahmad. In the workshop 'Video storytelling to communicate science', participants work together in teams to produce short films on various global public health challenges such as obesity, diabetes or the early detection of breast cancer. These will be presented on 26 August as part of an online film festival. In a similar activity last year, interesting and worthwhile short films on topics such as mental health during the coronavirus pandemic were created.

The EARTHS Summer School is about much more than just gaining knowledge in the field of public health and learning new research skills. It is also about building bridges across cultures and religions. 'Food brings together cultures! So we decided to cook a German dish together with the participants – with potatoes of course. Under professional guidance we prepared Bratkartoffeln und Hühnergeschnezteltes (Fried potatoes and chicken in a mushroom and chicken sauce), with pancakes for dessert. Cooking together in 25 kitchens across the globe turned out to be a fun-filled event,' says Professor Ahmad. A virtual city tour through historic and modern Berlin was another highlight.

Although the online format cannot replace the real experience of being in Germany, the positive experience of the last weeks has shown that 'fostering academic excellence and intercultural exchange amongst DAAD scholarship holders and HAW students is possible online too,' says Prof. Ahmad.

The summer school runs until the end of August.


Amena Ahmad, MD, MPH
Professor of Public Health

Department of Health Sciences
Faculty of Life Sciences

amenaalmes.ahmad (at) haw-hamburg (dot) de