"You'll never feel like an outsider" at Cologne Business School
Kevin Suaza Martínez, an international student from Colombia, shares his experience of studying at Cologne Business School in Germany.
Located in Cologne, Germany, the Cologne Business School (CBS) is home to 1,500 students who are pursuing Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees across an array of business fields.
SchoolApply interviewed Kevin Suaza Martínez, a Colombian international student currently studying at Cologne Business School, to find out what CBS offers international students.
COLOGNE BUSINESS SCHOOL
Location: Cologne, Germany
Student Name: Kevin Suaza Martínez
Graduation: June 2020
Three words to describe Cologne Business School: Career-oriented, Diverse, Open
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kevin Suaza Martínez and I am 20 years old. I have lived most of my life in Pereira, Colombia. I lived for two months in Quebec City, Canada due to a short student exchange program and I also lived in Odenthal, Germany for one year.
What is your academic background?
Prior to CBS, I completed my school studies at the Fundación Liceo Inglés, a bilingual school in my hometown of Pereira, Colombia. Roughly 50% of my classes were conducted in English and the rest in Spanish. We spent the whole day at school, from about 7:30am to 3:00 or 5:00pm if we had extracurricular activities. While I was in Canada, all of my classes were in English and I studied French as a language class.
How did you hear about Cologne Business School and what made you decide to study in Germany?
In many aspects, I believe that Germany is a role model as a country and I had always wanted to study abroad. There was also the benefit of being in a country that is part of the EU, which implies greater mobility and also having Frankfurt, a major financial city, nearby was another advantage. I completed the "Studienkolleg" which is required for university entrance for students from outside the EU or for students who do not fulfill the academic requirements. Also, having spent that one year in Germany, I felt very comfortable with the university and the city.
Did you have any problems adjusting to life in a new country and university?
No, I did not because the Prep4University team at CBS, which coordinates the aforementioned Studienkolleg, was very supportive to all the new student arrivals and helped with bureaucratic work as well as any questions that we had. The weather and the differences in customs and culture took some getting used to, but I would not call them problems.
What degree are you pursuing? What made you decide to study this?
My expected degree is a Bachelor of Arts in International Business with specialization in Financial Management. I was attracted to this degree because I have always been analytical and number-oriented.
What were your first few days at Cologne Business School like?
Initially, I did not know that almost everything is closed on Sundays or that it was so easy to get around with public transport or by simply walking, since everything is relatively close. The first time I saw the university I felt like it was exactly as I had seen in its photos online – nothing was exaggerated or deceiving.
Do you take part in any extracurricular activities?
There are several student initiatives at CBS and I currently participate in two of them, the Finance & Business Club and the CBSMUN. In the Finance & Business Club, we have the opportunity to listen to guest lectures and visit different companies as well as attend leisure activities as a group. The CBSMUN (CBS Model United Nations) was actually recently created by me and three friends. We all had prior experience in Model United Nations and decided it was missing as an important initiative at CBS. The group gives students the opportunity to practice and improve several skills such as debating, structuring ideas, and writing papers. We look forward to attending MUNs organized by other groups in other cities.
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What is your favorite school event and why?
University2Business is my favorite event. This three-day event includes several workshops as well as a career fair where students get to talk to company representatives. There is also a case-study competition where teams from different universities compete in solving a real-life case for an invited company.
Have you worked while studying?
Yes, I have had three jobs so far. Initially, I was a Student Advisor at CBS. During the introductory week at university, the school’s marketing team introduces the different initiatives available at the school. The marketing team is consistently on the road attending university trade fairs and students are encouraged to join the team part-time in a paid capacity to visit different cities and help the marketing team. As a Student Advisor, I was invited to go to my home country of Colombia to support the team just as I did in Germany. The main task was to talk to prospective students and parents, tell them about the different CBS programs and answer any questions they might have.
I later worked as a freelance consultant at Rise Technologies. I met the founder of this startup, Martin, thanks to a guest lecture he gave to the Finance & Business Club. During the lecture we learned about what the startup did and why it was created along with the founder's experience. After the lecture I approached Martin and asked him whether he had any available roles related to finance. At the time, Rise was not in need of interns or working students, nevertheless, Martin took me in for three months as a freelance consultant to work on a business project. During this time, we created the financial forecast for the startup, a very detailed projection that included everything from sales to human resources planning. This job helped me understand how startups work, especially in the technology sector.
I currently work in the Student Latin American Business Unit at Gen Re AG. I have been working here for 11 months and it has been a great experience. Gen Re is a reinsurance company and most of the work I do is quantitative, which is exactly the type of experience I wanted. At the office I get to speak Spanish, English, German, and sometimes even some French. My team is very understanding and I can always arrange my schedule depending on how my classes at CBS are arranged. This job has helped me to further develop my analytical skills and understand ratios and what certain statistics mean in different situations.
How has Cologne Business School prepared you for life after college?
CBS has given me important general knowledge in my first two semesters, from marketing to accounting, and then from the third semester onwards I will gain specialized knowledge in finance. Furthermore, the Career Services Office has continuously supported me with networking and application advice. My planned semester abroad will give me yet another opportunity to practice the language skills I have been learning at the university.
What has your experience been like as an international student at Cologne Business School?
Being an international student at CBS has been a wonderful experience. As far as I know, there are over 75 nationalities on campus, so you don't actually feel that different. Speaking German as an international student is a plus when getting to know the locals, but at CBS there are no problems if you are not able to speak German yet.
The CBS campus location is incredibly convenient – you can reach the university via three train lines that stop in front of the campus. Within minutes you can reach the Cologne University's Library, which gives you access to all kinds of resources, or you can get to the city center to grab a meal or a drink after class with your friends. CBS regularly organizes get-togethers after class which allow you to connect with students you normally would not have easily met.
What would you say to international students who are considering studying at Cologne Business School?
As an international student, you will never feel like an outsider. The students, as well as the university staff, are very open and friendly. In addition to this, the city is also very international and no matter where you are from, you will definitely find a restaurant, bar, or club that will feel a bit like home.
I would also like to once again highlight how supportive the international team is to overseas students. During my first year, I was in their office three days a week asking questions and they were always more than happy to help. I still go there with my queries and they never get tired of helping me out.
It is important to note that the vast majority of the professors have significant practical experience, some still work while they teach, giving students the opportunity to learn how different topics work in real life instead of just learning them as a theory from a book.
I would also want to tell international students from outside the EU that their residence permit allows them to work part-time during the academic semester and full-time during breaks. This is very beneficial as you can begin to earn your own money while studying, but even more importantly, you get to work and gather valuable work experience.
If you are interested in applying to Cologne Business School, click on its SchoolApply profile page and start your application now!