The Erasmus+ Days will take place throughout Europe on the 15th, 16th and 17th of October. Due to the Corona crisis, these days will not be celebrated less but rather differently - especially "online". In the following, our incoming and outgoing students as well as our teaching staff share their personal experiences and stories of this very special year.

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Erasmus in Corona times...a big adventure!

My summer semester at the ESIC Business & Marketing School in Valencia

"My time in Valencia was very challenging and exciting. Despite or maybe even because of the Corona pandemic and the circumstances that came along with it, those months remain an unforgettable time for me. I was able to focus on the most essential things - enjoying life despite all adversities and being grateful for what I have. As you might imagine, the majority of my great plans for this semester abroad fell through completely. But this is exactly where the further learning of my Erasmus stay starts - to make the best out of the situation. My Italian roommate said "You gotta smile when it rains because if you don't, it will rain anyway" and so I managed to enjoy the little things in life more again, like a lockdown Easter or the possibility to go for a walk again after 2 months of a strict curfew. Finally, I can warmly recommend a semester abroad to anyone who is interested in getting out of their comfort zone and getting to know themselves better. I would advise not to make too many plans but to let the time come to you and enjoy it. For me, John Lennon's famous saying once again proved to be true: 'Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

From Madrid to Wiener Neustadt

All's well that ends well - how I finally started my exchange semester in Austria

"I’m Angello, exchange student from Spain, and I am going to tell you a bit about my journey to Austria. I have lived in Madrid for the past 12 years, this summer my family moved to Málaga, and I stayed the summer with them. I was honestly not too confident about making it to Austria in March/April, but summer came and the situation got a whole lot better. This experience for me was everything. I always wanted to study and live abroad, and this opportunity meant a lot to me. When I received the "incomings business" acceptance email, I couldn’t believe it, I started calling my entire family and it was very emotional. August came and the situation in Spain changed. Cases were rising up big time and we started to get prohibitions to travel to different countries. The hardest point was when in less than 3 days, Germany cancelled all Spain trips and Austria required a negative test. I was not too confident about myself. I’ve been locked in my house since the beginning of August and I knew nobody of us had high chances of being infected, but the possibility of not making it to Austria was there. One night I walked my dog in the park and I heard him saying: “And why don’t you go now? What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

And well… looking back at it now, it was a really good decision. I was going to arrive on a Saturday afternoon and had to make it to class on Monday with no shopping made and having to hurry. I came to Wiener Neustadt nine days before the official start of the semester. I was able to do some shopping, getting in contact with my basketball team, meeting the regular students, going to the gym, getting to know the city and practicing my German.

So, well. What can I say? This last-minute changes led me to 9 more days of getting ready and enjoying this beautiful country. So far so lovely, I can’t be happier with the university, the lecturers, the classmates… And this is just the beginning! There is so much more to discover and I’m not missing any trip.“

Teaching in the face of the pandemic

Always look for the silver lining

"The days leading up to the otherwise unheard of – LOCKDOWN – was certainly experienced differently by every individual. By the middle of March 2020, the yet unknown dimensions of the pandemic in Europe, and specifically Austria, coupled with news and devastating individual reports from around the world created a climate of serious uncertainty. At this time, the courses that I taught were either at the halfway mark or had not yet begun.

The clear direction provided by management of the University of Applied Sciences – Wiener Neustadt was, for me, an enabler. Tightly aligned with government mandates, the university’s communication to the lecturers was timely and explicit as to what the goals were and what that meant for us and our students.

Since the teaching schedules are always soundly planned and the goal was to stay course to finish the semester well, a transition to online teaching needed to take place immediately. To do so, a review of the individual course goals and a re-design of the materials, exercises, assignments, and assessments as well as video conferencing services were necessary – by the next class. The guidance and support that was provided by the university staff coupled with my IT background and experience working with international teams via modern technology made a fast and smooth transition possible.

One of the things I love about teaching at the University of Applied Sciences is our international student body. In each of the courses that I teach, the classes are made up of students from a wide variety of countries and cultures. My students seemed to transition as well as could be expected to the lockdown and when concerns about the pandemic were voiced we addressed them or made time to discuss. Time and time again, the students give me feedback about how the international aspects of our university added value to the overall learning experience.

Given the interactive nature of all the courses that I teach, I do enjoy teaching in-class and seeing my students in person. However, with the course re-designed for online teaching as a result of the pandemic precautions, I also see an added benefit for my students who are all studying business. Ultimately, they are being prepared to be effective and efficient in an online setting which is a relevant part of today’s and tomorrow’s global business world.

The courses that I now teach in the winter semester are well underway and I am proud to see my students apply themselves, actively participate in online breakout session exercises, perform well in their assessments, and provide positive feedback. What impressed me the most in the past six months is an even stronger sense of team spirit and mutual understanding at the university. There is always a silver lining – one just has to look for it."

Paris 2018 - Berlin 2020

Being on Exchange before and during Corona times

"During my undergraduate studies, I participated twice in the Erasmus+ student exchange programme. In 2018, I spent an exchange semester at the ISC Paris Business School in Paris, France. During these pre-corona times, we had several field-trips / excursions to various sites, namely: a visit to the Louis Vuitton factory (see picture) in Asnières-sur-Seine, the Fragonard Perfumery in Paris and a weekend in Bordeaux among others. As opposed to the corona era, we had the liberty to party without limits, travel and engage in some sight-seeing. Thanks to Erasmus, I was not only exposed to the French culture, rather I was able to leverage my inter-personal skills. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that this stay immensely contributed towards improving my linguistic abilities in the French.

Furthermore, in 2020, I completed my internship at PwC Berlin, Germany. During my training at PwC Berlin, I had the privilege to apply my theoretical business knowledge to the real business world. In addition, my stay in Germany advanced my knowledge in German to a proficiency level and exposed me to several etiquettes of the German society. Notwithstanding, the Covid-19 pandemic continue to indeed pose numerous challenges to our daily lives. At the peak of the outbreak, we were obliged to uphold social distancing rules and there was a restriction on the number of people that could be present in the office/auditor’s room. However, my internship was not significantly affected by the virus, as it continued as planned. Essentially, I continued working from our office / our clients’ office in the auditors room. Nevertheless, I worked virtually from home for a couple of weeks.

Overall, my participation in the Erasmus+ mobility programme was intellectually elevating and personally, it was an eye-opening experience. Besides being exposed to the culture of the host countries (France & Germany), the Erasmus+ student exchange initiative reaffirmed my subscription to core European values and principles; vis-à-vis understanding, respect and tolerance of others’ cultures, beliefs and world view."