Karin Settele

Managing Director at HELP (NGO)

Karin Settele studied Geography with minors in Land Use Planning and Sociology at the Ruhr-Universität between 1984 and 1991.

After her graduation she spent several years in Africa to participate in various aid projects. She is currently the Managing Director of the aid organisation “HELP – Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe e.V.” (HELP – Help for Self Help).In the last few years her activities were mainly focussed on the regions of the Balkans and Iran. During the Tsunami catastrophe she organised the first disaster operation for HELP. Besides, she is spokesperson of the project group of the alliance "Aktion Deutschland Hilft" (Action Germany Helps).

Education is a very valuable good
that no one can take away!

RUB Alumni: Why did you decide to study in Bochum?

Settele: The reason is quite simple: my boyfriend at the time was studying in Bochum and so I came too. I’m sorry to say that I can’t offer any intellectual reason.

RUB Alumni: But you are not from Bochum are you?

Settele: No. Originally I’m from Ulm. I came to Bochum via Stuttgart where I had spent a year doing voluntary social work after finishing school.

RUB Alumni: If you could choose where to study again, would you still choose Bochum?

Settele: Yes! When I first came to the Ruhr region I found it horrible and confusing. The mere size of the cities and the industrial complexes. I still remember how I went out one afternoon and photographed mines and factories. It took me two to three years to feel at home in Bochum and at the university. But then I was really happy to be here. I must say I have fond memories of my Bochum days and I miss events like Bochum Total.

RUB Alumni: Do you have a nice anecdote or story that reminds you of your student days?

Settele: The lectures by Prof. Liedke, I think it was “The Foundations of Geomorphology”. He would use his slightly rounding middle and his braces to demonstrate the movement of ice. These are images that one doesn’t easily forget and makes one smile even after twenty years. The field trip in 1987 to Scandinavia with Dr. Bronny and Dr. Duckwitz also left fond memories. It was the first, and to this day the only, time that I saw the polar lights.

RUB Alumni: Could you describe your studies in a few words?

Settele: Bewildering, interesting, exciting, effective!

RUB Alumni: You just used said “bewildering”. How long it did it take you to know your way around the university buildings?

Settele: Moving around the buildings was no problem. My problem was the location of the buildings. If I remember rightly, the room numbers were a problem.

RUB Alumni: Which problems did you have with the buildings?

Settele: Actually the layout is very logical. But getting to grips with this logical structure was difficult.

RUB Alumni: Do you still have anything left over from you student days?

Settele: My compass and quite a few books. I think I still have my academic transcript. My books are still useful for me today, particularly those on the foundations of Geography or regional planning. I still browse these occasionally. I worked a lot on the Balkans which is known for its karst and I have fond memories of Prof. Liedtke who did a lot of work on Balkan karsts as well. I read his work as bedtime reading to refresh my knowledge.

RUB Alumni: If you were chancellor or rector of the Ruhr-Universität what would you change or introduce? What would you suggest if your suggestion had to be able to cover its costs?

Settele: I would try to strengthen a programme of general studies. I’ll give you an example. When I was studying I took a course in rhetoric because I was so afraid of giving presentations. I still benefit from this course when I sometimes have to give a talk or hold a seminar. One of our tasks in this course was to interview the person sitting next to you and then to give him or her a brief introduction to the course. This was all recorded on video. I remember that this made me so weak in the knees that I could hardly get up. But when I saw the video I was entirely surprised: what I saw was a very sovereign person. These are things that one should learn during one’s studies.

RUB Alumni: When you think back to your student days is there something that you miss?

Settele: Being able to organize my time myself.

RUB Alumni: Do you still have contacts to Bochum and the university in particular?

Settele: Not really! I left long ago. After I completed my degree I was in Africa for quite a while and then landed in Bonn for professional reasons. I also spend quite a lot of time out of the country. I have even less of a connection to the university. What connects me to Bochum and the university are the good memories.

RUB Alumni: Is there a connection between what you studies and your current professional activities?

Settele: Once or twice a year I hold a three hour session for students – including Bochum students. Its not quite a seminar, but I enjoy it. I am simply someone who is bound to the world of praxis and like to pass on my experiences. The students usually find it quite exciting.

RUB Alumni:… is there any other connection to what you do? You just mentioned Balkan karst!

Settele: There is no real connection between what I studied and what I do now! But my study gave me a very general knowledge that always helped me in my career. That is what I value most about my university degree: the possibility of a broad study. This has always helped me.

RUB Alumni: Would you still choose to study geography?

Settele: Yes I would, and even more broadly! I would add journalism to it. At the time I did not see the sense of it.

RUB Alumni: Why journalism?

Settele: Because in my area of work I have a lot of publicity work to do and am frequently in contact with journalists. Its also an advantage if you know how to write.

RUB Alumni: What advice would you give to students today?

Settele: Education is a very valuable good that no one can take away! But one also learns skills such as being able to set targets and these are very important in my career!

RUB Alumni: Many thanks for your time.

Settele: A pleasure!