Moving To Germany? Your Alumni Network Can Help

[Germany Branch meeting in 2015]
Germany Branch meeting in 2015 in Heidelberg.

Packing your bags and moving to a foreign country can be tough but the Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) can make it a little easier. Steffonn Chan, Sc’07, knows this first hand.

When the mechanical engineering graduate moved to Germany six years ago to take a job with Bombardier, he didn’t know anyone so he decided to reach out to Elke Beecken, MEd'84, president of the Germany Branch of the QUAA.

“Elke introduced me to other local Queen’s alumni so it felt like I had a little bit of a family in Germany. I didn’t feel like a complete alien in a new country,” says Steffonn.

Whether you have just arrived in Berlin and are looking to make some new friends or are considering taking a job in Hamburg and want to get some advice, the Germany Branch of the QUAA is available to help fellow alumni.

The Germany Branch is different than other QUAA Branches such as New York and London where everyone is located in one city. “Get togethers” are geographically challenging because branch members are spread across the country, so unfortunately there are no monthly pub nights.

There is only one event a year – an annual weekend retreat that takes place every fall.

Steffonn is now the person making Queen’s alumni feel welcomed in Germany – he is organizing this year’s annual gathering in Berlin at the end of September. (Branch members take turns every year playing host.)

“People love to attend the event because it lets them reminisce about their past. They always love to talk about Queen’s and hear about what is going on and how the school has changed,” Steffonn says.

Elke, who is originally from Germany and came to Queen’s as a foreign student, says the branch started in the late 1980s out of Hamburg. A few gatherings were organized by Dennis Baker, Sc’60, MBA’63, (who was Canada's Consul General in Hamburg at the time), Peter Trutnau, Artsci’79, and his wife Wendy Trutnau, Arts’64.

“After a few pub meetings in Hamburg, somehow, the idea was to move around Germany with an annual meeting, so we could reach more alumni. It worked out quite well,” says Elke, who has been Branch president since 2007.

The first official annual reunion occurred in 1990 in Hamburg and always takes place on the last weekend of September.

Aside from the annual meeting, Elke fields questions from both Queen’s alumni and students about coming to Germany. She puts people in touch with other Germany Branch members who she thinks is the best person to help.

There are currently 172 Queen’s alumni in Germany according to Queen’s Alumni Relations records. The actual number is likely much higher because not every alumni in Germany updates their Queen’s contact information.   

Steffonn expects about to have about 20 people attend this fall’s annual meeting in Berlin. He enjoys being involved with the branch and giving back to his alma mater.

“It’s about giving back – Queen’s has done a lot for each of us and gotten us to where we are today. It’s about contributing and extending our community beyond Kingston, and beyond Canada. We need to develop satellite branches so that when alumni move into another city, there is someone there to let them know they are not alone,” says Steffonn.

Interested in this fall’s annual meeting in Berlin or have a questions about moving to Germany? Get in touch with Germany Branch president Elke Beecken by email.