On 27th March, 2014 an international symposium was held at the University of Primorska, Faculty of Humanities in Koper, Slovenia. See here the event programme [in English] and fliers [in English, Slovenian, and Italian] The main goal of the symposium was to highlight the innovative aspects of the project IEREST, namely, the development and implementation of Intercultural Paths, meant to enhance the Erasmus students experience abroad.
The auspicious opening of the IEREST symposium with welcoming speeches by the Rector of UP, prof. dr. Dragan Marusic and the Dean of UP FHS, prof. dr. Irena Lazar, was followed by a chorus of international voices, thus introducing all the international partners of the IEREST project: University of Bologna, IT; Durham University, UK; University of Savoy, Chambéry , FR; University of Helsinki, FI; University of Primorska, SI; University of Leuven, BE; the Open University, UK, as well as the 3 associate partners: AEGEE-Europe, BE; AEDE-Hungary, HU; Thomas More Kempen, BE. The key-note talk was given by the project coordinators dr. Claudia Borghetti and dr. Ana Beaven from the University of Bologna. We were also honoured to have the contributions by our special guests, prof. Darla Deardorff from the Duke University, USA, and dr. Alenka Flander , the Director of CMEPIUS.
The participants to the symposium, representatives from International Offices of the University of Ljubljana, University of Pula, University of Bologna, University of Primorska, representatives of various local NGOs, the Italian Community in Slovene Istria, the Student Union at UP, as well as a number of future ERASMUS students from UP were introduced to IEREST project through an overview of project’s activities ad well as through hands-on activities.
The response to the teaching practices and approaches developed within the IEREST project was lively and full of enthusiasm, suggesting a great potential to adopt the Intercultural Paths as a method of preparing students for the ERASMUS exchange programme within UP and other HEIs, as well as beyond.
Feedback on the Koper seminar, collected from a questionnaire circulated to all the participants, was extremely encouraging, with a large majority (72% to 94%) saying that the sessions were useful or very useful. In their open comments, many respondents reported that they found the sessions “interesting”, and some were frankly enthusiastic: “inspiring”, “mind-expanding”.
Although most of the participants were students, the principal session which they found useful was the one devoted to “Teachers and officers’ points of view”, perhaps because, as one respondent commented, “It is nice to know that some views are the same as student views.”
Other aspects of the IEREST project that were singled out as being particularly interesting were the student questionnaire analysed by the Leuven team, and the presentation of activities and hands-on session in the afternoon (“It was fun, I wish we had more of this”).
A central question was raised by one respondent, who commented that students “are not supposed to be so well prepared; that’s the point of student mobility, to learn on their own.” This is actually in line with the philosophy of the IEREST project - providing students with tools while the learning is done through their own experiences – but it carries an important message about how the project is perceived.
Overall, a representative comment about the seminar and the IEREST project is this concluding remark from one of the student participants: “It was interesting to me that the IEREST project makes us aware of the assumptions we make with people on a daily basis, without even thinking about it.”
IEREST on RTV 4, a national Slovenian television in Italian language (see from minute 18): 27/03 TV news.