Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Building Connections through Study Abroad - Mobility in Europe

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Building Connections through Study Abroad - Mobility in Europe

Article excerpt

Abstract

By investing in the program "Lifelong Learning" the European Union is emphasizing the importance of the acquisition of academic competences and language skills in an intercultural context. In this viewpoint article, the author recounts personal experiences from working with the "Erasmus Programme" and examines the impact of program policies on mobility projects and possibilities in the European Union.

"The European Commission has integrated its various educational and training initiatives under a single umbrella, the 'Lifelong Learning Programme' with a significant budget of nearly euro 7 billion for 2007 to 2013; the new program replaces previous education, vocational training and e-Learning programs, which ended in 2006" (European Commission - Education & Training, 2009, Kl). One important action within this new program is the Erasmus Programme (European Commission - Education & Training, 2009a) supporting the exchange of students and teaching staff between universities in the European Union. The economical and administrative support of this exchange within higher education - generally addressed as "mobility" - is an important and distinct contribution to the development of human capital in the European Union. Through scholarships, the European Union helps equip individuals to participate in and benefit from the program, and contributes to an increased understanding for the aims of the European Union.

Mobility and Intercultural Understanding - Impact on Personal Experiences

Maria, Spanish (studied in Sweden)

"This experience might be a bit scary, but for sure needs to be done by every university student. Especially from those faculties (like Economy) after which one will participate in the global market, where the languages are extremely important. "

Davide, Italian (studied in England)

"Because this is a spectacular experience that enriches you, that opens you mind, that changes you. Everyone should do it! Do not think twice, but leave! " (Erasmus Student Network, 2007, 15-6)

These statements, from two students who studied abroad for approximately four month periods, support the argument that "there are four main traits of those who passed some time at the university abroad: they are culturally competent, many speak foreign languages and possess good communication skills, they are mobile and, finally, they develop their personality" (Erasmus Student Network, 2007, ¶2).

Studies abroad are often recognized by employers as an added value in a curriculum vitae as well as an asset when entering a competitive job market. The Erasmus Programme (named after Desiderius Erasmus Rotterdamus, a 15th-century Dutch humanist and theologian thought to be one of the most brilliant students of the time) and similar programs were not heard of when I was a young student. Fortunately, however, I was sent abroad by my parents for language studies every summer during high school. Had this not been the case, I believe my own life would certainly have turned out differently and not likely for the better. Living with families in Germany, France and England, sharing their way of life, and studying at universities in these countries all contributed to my increased understanding of these countries, their history and culture, as well as to improving my language skills. These experiences - difficult if not impossible to learn through books - have had an important impact on my career throughout the years. Indeed, following these formative years, I became a language teacher and was soon after involved in the development of the internationalization of education in Sweden.

My international study experiences help demonstrate that a period spent abroad not only enriches a student in the academic field but also contributes to the acquisition of intercultural skills and self-reliance. Staff exchanges have similar beneficial effects, for those participating in the program as well as for the hosting institutions. …

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