I would like to take you back to the island where I took you a month ago. Previously, I shared my experiences of an Erasmus Intensive Programme with you and we listened to students and organisers who had taken part in it. We have more material about the project “Borrowed Identities” on Achill Island for you today.
In our first category Egle, Dainora and Marijus from Lithuania tell us how important this experience was for their own self-development and that the fact that so many students from so many different countries worked and lived together for two weeks was a challenge in itself.
We hear that the international workshops organized themselves democratically and some students were tempted to try out new leadership roles. It seems that the beautiful landscape on Achill Island inspired students in different ways – many of them found out more about themselves and their strengths and weaknesses. With the help of the “ship-metaphor” the students analyzed how they actually worked together as a team and how they could change roles. Some students tried to be captains, others were up in the look-out making sure that the ship does not hit an iceberg and some others were reading the maps and pointing out to the captain which direction to take.
Many students reported that the experience had helped them develop the confidence that they needed to be successful and at the same time enjoy the international teamwork.
Maria Koenen tells us how she was encouraged to have experiences on two very different levels: to do the work in the workshop but at the same time look at her own behaviour and the group dynamics within that workshop.
The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955) says that when you look out of the window you have to decide whether you focus on the tree outside or on a little spot of dirt on the window pane. He says it is impossible to focus on both at the same time. However, this is exactly what we encouraged our students to do. On the one hand the students had to concentrate on the contents of their international teamwork and on the other they were encouraged to talk about their behaviours and their positions within the workgroup and even to play with different roles within the team. This change of focus and perspectives was perceived as stimulating but rather unusual. Reports from the students were that during the two weeks they were forced to work within constraints which come very close to those in international work places where the job may be defined by somebody else and the colleagues were already there when you started.
We listen to Sabine Rauh, who tells us that the other participants – like characters in a film – grew because of their self-development and the intercultural challenges they mastered during the seminar. She describes what it felt like at the beginning to find one’s place within this international team. Her job as student manager had put her in email contact with the other participants from Lithuania, England, Hungary and Germany but she admits that all this contact only felt real when she finally met the real students from the partner universities in the real train station in Dublin, Ireland.
One of the factors that allowed participants to develop and grow was the students’ close contact with the local population on Achill. During the initial welcome reception the students had invited local people into their workshops. Among them was Anton, a local reporter from the Mayo News, who tells us how he joined the group only to write an article about the project but then was integrated in the workshops as the students appreciated his advice for the media workshop. In fact you can find out how useful Anton’s tips were. The students learned from him how to make the headlines of their travelogue “snappy” and how to vary the formats of the reporting by introducing little poems or even personal email messages in their travelogue.
At the beginning of their international teamwork stereotypes about the Lithuanians, Germans, Hungarians and English really seemed to help because they seemed to make predictions about individuals’ behaviours possible. However, even during the first week these borders seemed to disappear and the way was free to look at personalities instead of nationalities.
In this show’s final category we hear how the group developed its own intercultural identity and turned into a kind of European family. Our 40 learners from 10 different nationalities on the Borrowed Identities Intensive Programme were able to get a much closer insight into what it means to work in European teams. They discovered that the diversity of cultural backgrounds produced a much richer team product than if the work had been done by learners from just one country.
The next show will be coming to you on 3 April from Anne Fox in Denmark.
So long…stay tuned!
The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Jan Warnecke