Interview with Catherine Flynn from the BSBI – Berlin School of Business and Innovation

Our Staytoo Berlin has quite a few University-neighbours at walking distance from the property. One of them is the BSBI, the Berlin School of Business and Innovation, which is only some walking minutes away, so we started to cooperated some time ago. To celebrate this partnership we interviewed Catherine Flynn, who is a student services manager at the BSBI. Read on to find out what is unique about the BSBI and what drives their incoming students:

Catherine, tell us a bit about BSBI and your study offer.

BSBI is a new but rapidly expanding private higher education institute based in the heart of Berlin, Schöneberg. When we first began in May 2018, we started with 8 students and in under 2 years we have grown to over 800 international students! In partnership with the Università Telematica Internazionale UNINETTUNO, we offer Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Economics for those just getting started on their higher education path. Our postgraduate programmes include: MA Strategic Marketing, MA Finance and Investments, MA Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management, MSc International Healthcare Management and our most popular course, the Global MBA programme. We’re also delighted to have begun working with Concordia University Chicago in March 2020 to provide students with an additional two courses: an MBA programme and an MA in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. We aim to keep growing our student body and expanding our academic programmes in 2020, so watch this space!

How exactly does your curriculum differ from other higher education institutions and what makes it so unique? 

All of our UNINETTUNO courses offer students a blended learning method, meaning we use a mix of in-house lectures and workshops, online learning via our virtual classrooms and self-study. With this combination, students generally have two days on campus per week which allows them a lot more flexibility to work alongside their studies. It also appeals to those who find that traditional structures don’t really work for them. 

What does the BSBI offer international students and what do you do in order to help them adapt to a new country, learning environment, etc.?  

Moving to a new country, particularly where you don’t know anyone or speak the local language, can be very tough. Our Student Services team is on hand to help all our students with this transition by offering visa, accommodation and career services. We connect students with our accommodation partners, like Staytoo, who can help them find their new home here in the German capital. We also run regular workshops about German business culture, give tailored CV feedback for the local market, and guide students to find a job in Germany. In addition to all this, all international students are given the chance to take German classes for 3-6 hours a week, completely free of charge, to help them integrate into German culture and boost their chances of securing a good job after graduation.

What are some of the biggest challenges your students have to face? 

Many students have told us that the bureaucracy of initially moving to Germany can feel like a huge mountain to climb. They need to sign up for health insurance, open a German account and organise the release of funds from their blocked bank account. To round all this off they need to find long-term accommodation. The private housing market is notoriously competitive here and getting your registration papers (Anmeldung) makes life much easier. For this reason, we are focussing on supporting students get all these things in order as much as possible prior to their arrival in Germany.  

Do you have any advice for student housing operators in meeting their customers’ demands? 

Cost is probably the biggest factor most students consider. Students aren’t the richest demographic and when working with a fixed income from a blocked bank account, it is paramount they budget carefully. 

In our experience, the other thing that students appreciate most is flexibility from their housing operator. For example, being able to pay their deposit and first rental payment from a foreign bank account or in cash relieves the pressure of getting a bank account opened immediately. Alternatively, being provided with an English-language version of their contract in addition to the original German version can make them feel more secure with their decision. 

What are the main topics you currently have to deal with and where do you see the BSBI in 5 years? 

Because we are expanding at an amazing rate, ensuring that we have the space and personnel to maintain outstanding levels of customer service to our students is certainly a priority. The possibility of opening our own short-term student accommodation is currently being explored and I can see us having multiple campuses across the city which will house various faculties. Business studies will remain at the heart of all of these campuses. On a personal level, working with such an international team has been a joy for me and has definitely expanded my cultural horizons. I’m very excited to see how we grow as a team and the continued diversity that even more international students will bring to our community. 

Now, a personal question: If you could choose to live in a story/book, what book would you choose? 

I am a self-proclaimed bookworm so this question took me a long time to answer! I’ve opted for a little gem of a book I found while on holiday in Australia, it’s called The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama. This was the first book I had read that was set in Japan, or Asia in general, and it opened my eyes to an entirely different culture that I would love to explore. It is beautifully written and has really made me want to visit Japan. It also introduced me to mochi, a sweet doughy cake made with rice paste, which is now one of my favourite desserts! I don’t want to spoil the story, just in case anyone does go on to read it, but I would love to see the two main characters achieve their greatness in sumo wrestling and noh mask making respectively. I’d also like to stuff my face with mochi with their adorable and wise grandparents. 

At Staytoo, we look forward to working closely with Catherine and her team at BSBI to help their students find a home next to the campus!

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