Europaweit finden am 15., 16. und 17. Oktober 2020 die Erasmus+ Days statt. Diese werden heuer aufgrund der Corona-Krise nicht weniger, aber anders - vor allem "digital" - gefeiert. Auch wir als Fachhochschule mit zahlreichen Auslandsmobilitäten, haben einiges aus den letzten Monaten zu berichten. Im Folgenden teilen unsere Incomings und Outgoings sowie auch Lehrpersonal der FHWN ihre persönlichen Erlebnisse und Geschichten dieses ganz besonderen Jahres.

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Erasmus während Corona...ein Abenteuer!

Mein Sommersemester an der ESIC Business & Marketing School in Valencia

"Meine Zeit in Valencia war sehr herausfordernd und spannend. Trotz oder vielleicht gerade aufgrund der Corona-Pandemie und den damit verbundenen Umständen bleibt das halbe Jahr für mich eine unvergessliche Zeit, in der ich mich wieder auf das Wesentlichste besonnen habe - das Leben trotz aller Widrigkeiten zu genießen und dankbar zu sein für das was man hat.

Wie man sich vorstellen kann, sind nämlich der Großteil meiner ach so tollen Pläne, die ich mir für dieses Auslandssemester zurecht gelegt, habe schnell mal ins Wasser gefallen. Genau hier setzt aber ein weiteres Learning meines Erasmus-Aufenthalts an - das Beste aus der Situation zu machen. Mein italienischer Mitbewohner hat diesbezüglich gesagt "You gotta smile when it rains because if you don't, it will rain anyway" und so habe ich es geschafft, mich wieder mehr an den kleinen Dingen des Lebens zu erfreuen, wie etwa ein Lockdown-Osterfest oder die Möglichkeit, nach 2 Monaten Ausgangssperre wieder spazieren gehen zu können.

Abschließend kann ich jedem wärmstens empfehlen ein Auslandssemester zu machen, der daran interessiert ist aus seiner Komfortzone zu gehen und sich selbst besser kennenzulernen. Dabei würde ich raten, nicht zu viele Pläne zu machen sondern vielmehr die Zeit auf sich zukommen zu lassen und zu genießen. Für mich hat sich der berühmte Spruch von John Lennon einmal mehr bewahrheitet: '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."