History of the Munich Alumni Local Chapter
I moved to Munich in 2005, the same year I graduated from Jacobs (it was still IUB at that time). As far as I recall, I was one of two alumni in the city back then. I had my reservations at first about that strange Bavarian capital at the other end of Germany. People talk and dress in a funny way there. But eventually, I came to like it quite a lot, started to call it ‘my city’. Gradually, more alumni started coming in, maybe finding Munich as likeable as I did. Initially, people came to get their Master’s degrees here as that was a logical next step after the Bachelor’s. For the first two years, it was quite straightforward to get in touch with them, because the newcomers were all people I had shared time with on campus.
They would call in before they moved here, asking what living in this city was like. Some would come to spend a couple of nights on my couch while searching for flats. I remember one day counting, saying to myself “Awesome, we are seven now!”. We felt connected, having stranded in Munich. We were meeting each other on a regular or irregular basis, linked through campus friendship. Framing our meetings as local chapter meetings on top of that was completely unnecessary.
As I was busy with other stuff, years quickly passed. And automatically, there were fewer and fewer people graduating in Bremen who I had still personally met there. So to me, it felt like no one was coming to Munich any longer. When, in fact, quite the opposite was happening. Class sizes grew, sending more graduates out into the world. Eventually, someone had founded a Facebook group for the Munich Jacobs alumni. That must have been around 2010. Since the group prominently features the number of members, it became obvious that many more had found their way into ‘my city’. It must have been around 30 members in 2010.
That year, fellow alumna Nika was celebrating her birthday in a local bar. The party turned out to be quite a Jacobs event – unintentionally. People enjoyed it and someone eventually had the brilliant idea to put the Facebook group to use and specifically invite all 31 alumni to a riverside BBQ. I wasn’t immediately excited. I had never heard of most of the names attending. Why would I want to meet these guys? I didn’t have time on the night of the BBQ and missed out.
It took two years before the next meeting happened. Had we all been too busy in the meantime? Maybe critical mass wasn’t reached to have enough people actually show up? Maybe it was just that nobody took the initiative? Whichever it was, in September 2012, 52 were invited to join on the ice skating rink with exactly four showing up. Bummer. Nika, who had invited, was quite disappointed about the low turnout. Again, I wasn’t one of the four either. But somehow, I had come to like the idea of alumni meetings in Munich.
I guess it must have had to do with my personal development. By 2012, I had finished my Master’s, had tried an industry position for a year, and was in the middle of my PhD. I had learned that one builds up many social circles in a lifetime. Friends from high school, the first uni, the second uni, the third uni, the first job, the second job, that hobby number one, that other hobby, and so on. You get the point. And with building those connections and then moving on, I had learned that they take effort to maintain when people are no longer in front of you. Not a lot of effort, but just a little, every once in a while. Also, meeting all those other (non-Jacobs) people through all those jobs and unis and hobbies, I realised the tremendous quality of people who studied at Jacobs. Jacobs alumni are a really fine breed. It was well worth staying in touch. Well, in conclusion, although I had not been at any of the previous meetups, I took upon myself the mission to establish a recurring Jacobs Munich local chapter meeting, which we call ‘Stammtisch’ here (that’s the German word for “regular’s table”). A Doodle revealed the suitable weekday for most people and off we went into 2013, the year of the Stammtisches.
In 2013, we had five Stammtisches with 84 to 130 people invited to each. They all took place in bars, rotating through unknown locations so we would get to know the city while we were at it. The largest one must have been around twenty people attending. We do not have any topics set up beforehand. Since usually the ratio is 50/50 between regulars and Stammtisch-Newbies, there is never enough time between catching up with the old crowd and introducing and welcoming the new.
In 2014, there was only one Stammtisch so far. All it takes is someone initiating it, setting up a Facebook event and reserving a table. But all the old organisers were busy or absent and nobody jumped in. So it is definitely time for another one. For me, the Stammtisches make a huge difference on how connected I feel with Jacobs, nine years after my graduation. I have met and become friends with so many awesome people who graduated long after me. It is amazing to see that some people travel for hours to join the Stammtisch or schedule their visits accordingly. I remember when I started to study and old people used to say how important “the network” would later be. Back then, I did not understand, but now I am here and I have this network in front of me. It is so important. And it takes so little effort to build it. The Stammtisches allow us to catch up with people who we haven’t met in a long time, make new friends, help and get help (usually flat searches), offer and receive advice (How is working at company XY? — at my company we were three Jacobs alumni at one point — What is the best yoga studio in town?) and generally have a good time. I think there will even be a wedding of a Jacobs couple coming up next year who started dating after meeting at one of our Stammtisches!
My advice to all alumni: Get in touch! Don’t overthink it. And don’t be disappointed if only few people show up the first couple of times. A local chapter identity takes time to build. But it is totally worth it.
Do you have a local chapter where you live? What are your experiences with it? Leave your comments below.
Hauke has finished studying for now. But he will always keep approaching life with the attitude of a student. Currently, he finds Munich a really good place to live in.
Image credits: Hauke Holtkamp