A profession like a world tour

May 11, 2017

She calls her time at Jacobs University her personal world tour. For 15 years, Sigrid Jürgens provided support to students from around the world in organizing events – and experienced many adventures with them. Now she is retiring – and not without a touch of wistfulness.

Anyone who visited her in her office could see that her work at Jacobs University was more for Sigrid Jürgens than just a job: On the wall was a large picture of the university’s J-Cappella choir, which she supported in the organization of numerous events. A thank-you “to our dearest Sigrid,” signed by all the members of the choir. In the shelves and on the walls were numerous photos of events that she organized with students. And there was a large, yellow cardboard sun behind her desk, with symbolic character. “On my trip from Berlin to Bremen for the application interview at the university, it rained the whole time. But when I got out, the sun started to shine. For me that was a sign,” recalls Sigrid Jürgens. From that time on, she has closed her emails to students with the phrase “With sunny greetings,” when everything went right. “When there were problems, of course, I wrote ‘Best regards’ instead,” she recalls with a laugh.

When she started her work at Jacobs University on April 1, 2002, the number of students was still small. 120 people had begun their course of study the previous fall. The university was still being built up on the site of the old Roland Barracks. Many places for leisure activities that students enjoy today had not yet been set up, such as club rooms or a bar. Sigrid Jürgens and students worked together to set up a workshop. She still recalls well the weekend painting parties and how she and a group of students laid tiles for a terrace behind the bar.

And on top of that, the organization of conferences, talent competitions, concerts, and sports tournaments. Students at Jacobs University organize such events themselves, but they can also rely on the support of experienced university employees like Sigrid Jürgens. “It was arduous work, but we always had a lot of fun,” she remembers. With many a high flier, who later had an international career, she folded up beer benches after many an event. “It is great to see what became of many of the young people I met here as students at the university,” she says joyfully.

As a nine-year-old, Sigrid Jürgens, who grew up in East Berlin, saw the Wall being built. Her family experienced how their freedoms shrank. Back then she never dreamt that 40 years later she would be working at one of the most international universities in Germany.

Anyone who walks across the campus with her today sees how much she is connected to this place. She has a story to tell about every building. But more important to her than the place are the people: “I always had the feeling of working here in a big family,” she says. Above all, I got to know people from an unbelievable number of cultures at this university. That was enormously thrilling for me.”

And it makes her farewell all the more difficult. But she knows: There is life after Jacobs University. The 65-year-old wants to return to her home city of Berlin. 15 years ago, she left the city after her three children had already left home. Professionally and privately, Bremen was a new start for the graduate in electrical technology. In the meantime, she is the grandmother of five grandchildren ranging in age from two to eleven, all of whom live in Berlin and environs. “I am looking forward very much to having more time again to play and do crafts with my grandchildren.” But she still does not want to lose contact with Jacobs University. She will be there at graduation as a guest. And she has also already made a note on her calendar for the tenth anniversary concert of the J-Cappella choir this fall.