ENGAGE.EU Online Exchange Initiative - Robin Julian Crispin Kolby
Robin Julian Crispin Kolby is a bachelor student at WU and participated in an online course at Tilburg University as part of the ENGAGE.EU Online Exchange Initiative. With us, he shares the insights and experiences he gained during the virtual exchange.
How did you learn about the ENGAGE.EU Online Exchange Initiative and why did you decide to participate?
The first time I heard about the ENGAGE.EU Online Exchange Initiative was when WU announced its cooperation with other universities. I got interested by the idea that several European universities work together and researched what ENGAGE.EU is planning to do. Then, I saw that they also organized an Online Course Initiative. It was a great chance to gain international and intercultural experience despite the ongoing measures regarding the coronavirus! Of course, with all the measures and travel restrictions, our students' lives have changed and so have opportunities to get international experience. That is why I was especially happy that I could participate in this online exchange initiative to add some internationality to my studies.
"I took my course at Tilburg University: The course was named International Organization. In this course, we learned about various supranational institutions and about wicked problems linked to global governance. It provided a great oversight of the many challenges our world is facing right now and we examined different organizations dealing with these issues."
Which experiences did you make with your course? What was the course format like? How was the workload?
Obviously, taking part in a course of a different university is connected with some organisational work: a student´s account has to be created, enrollment certificates have to be assigned, one has to register for courses, etc. But thankfully, the partner university provided sufficient help to support us with this coordination tasks. They sent us detailed step-by-step guides how to get a student account and how to register for courses.
The access to the learning platform was pretty simple and most of the provided material worked fine after adopting a VPN access on the computer, so that one could even use all resources from the university's library. In my view, a downside was that it was obligatory to buy a book, which could have been handled in another way.
Regarding the course structure: There were lectures with all participating students which were voluntary and smaller working group sessions which were mandatory. In order to be able to participate actively in the interactive parts of the course, we had to prepare a small assignment for every working group. The working groups were interesting, since we collaborated in small groups (via breakout rooms on Zoom), that encouraged all participants to take part in the lecture actively. For the grade, not only assignments were counted, but also a group presentation about a topic from the course and an individual paper. In my opinion, there should have been points for participation, since a lot of lectures were scheduled and they were really time-intense. Moreover, I think that the lectureres should have paid closer attention to the backgrounds of the students when grading. Since some students did not have the same background in terms of studies, it is obvious that they cannot have the same basic knowledge about the respective topic as their fellow students.
Did you have the opportunity to get to know other international students or students from the partner university?
During the preparation for the presentation and the group sessions, interactivity among students was high because we were required to work together and find solutions. I really enjoyed these sessions, since it was an international group and it felt great to collaborate with colleagues from all over the world. Surely, it was not possible to build relationships like on campus, but still it was great to see that even at such a challenging time we could gain valuable experiences.
What do you take from this experience from a cultural perspective? What was it like to study at a partner university “from home”? Do you think you were able to gain international experience?
It really showed me how working together in an international framework can look like. It may not always be as straightforward as with your peers - especially in terms of communication or collaboration styles - however, when we learn to accept differences and focus on a joint effort instead, I think that multicultural teams with diverse perceptions can score huge successes.
Would you recommend other students to apply for the ENGAGE.EU Online Exchange Initiative? Why?
Personally, I will look back on this program with a sad and a happy eye: sad, because the exchange was only for one course and I would have enjoyed taking more courses at the exchange university but still happy, that I even had the honour to participate in this program. I think that every student can profit from such an experience, as it will strengthen your personality and broaden your horizon. Especially for students of International Business Administration, who currently face hard times regarding international exchange, it is a good alternative. This is why, I can strongly recommend other students to participate in this program!