In 2020, the project FHWS 3IN was created as a partner project of the 3IN Alliance that consists of five more partner universities. Together with this Alliance, the project FHWS 3IN fights for inclusion, integration and involvement. The main subject of the project is to strengthen international relations and to encourage international exchange as well as to further nurture the idea of a European University. The cooperation between the partner universities promotes mobilities/stays abroad and was implemented to facilitate these international experiences. In doing so, the universities plan to establish new possibilities for their professors, students and staff members.
Now, after 18 months of hard work, it is time for an interim conclusion.
Kick-off in 2020
Already when looking at the starting date of the project, it becomes evident which factor had a huge impact on the project: the Corona pandemic. Especially for international projects, such as FHWS 3IN and the 3IN Alliance, it was hard to keep everything going throughout the pandemic. Nevertheless, all project partners were motivated to make the best out of the situation, discovered new possibilities of digital teaching and made big steps forward in terms of digitalisation.
Once the project had received funding of DAAD, the FHWS 3IN project team dived into their work and prepared everything for promoting the internationalisation of FHWS according to the ideas of the 3IN Alliance. The team planned exchange opportunities and international events for all members of FHWS.
But then a big shock: a virus in China was spreading fast and after a few weeks, Corona had also arrived in Germany. Travel restrictions, lockdown and newly implemented rules and laws seemed to bring an early end to the project. It was a tough situation for a project as young as FHWS 3IN that had just started working enthusiastically towards their goals. The project team had to cancel events and mobilities, such as the “International Teaching Week” with guest lecturers from partner universities of FHWS or their planned stay in Málaga
If you can dream it, you can do it
However, it was clear to all the partners that this would not be the end of the 3IN Alliance. They all believed in the words of Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can do it” and started to find new ways to reach the set targets. Everyone had to get creative and had to implement new ways of thinking. After a while, the first ideas and alternatives popped up and partners seemed to find ways to encourage international cooperation between the universities without having to travel. Events were planned that would happen online instead of in person, but it all came down to the realisation that international exchange has a new (temporary) platform: online meeting tools.
Instead of hosting the International Teaching Week, the 3IN team of FHWS initiated two online lectures where the classroom was replaced by Zoom so that guest lecturers of all partner universities still got the chance to speak. The first lecture was about the Corona situation in different European countries and how the respective governments and higher education institutions tackled the arising challenges. As all speakers came from different European countries, the event left plenty of room for an international discussion about the measures taken. The participants as well as lecturers were invited to join into this conversation.
In November, FHWS 3IN held second online lecture on the topic of “Social inclusion – concepts of inclusion of disadvantaged groups to education”. Again, speakers from 3IN partner universities virtually joined the lecture to talk about local programmes and experiences. During the two-day-event, all participants benefitted from transnational exchange and fruitful discussions.
The “International Teaching Week 2021” at the FHWS took place with online events this year. The team of FHWS 3IN was once again involved an eagerly organised a Astudy abroad event at the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences Sciences to inform students about all aspects of a semester abroad. Further FHWS 3IN organised the so-called „staff days“; two daylong workshops in which representatives of all 3IN alliance universities got together to work on the topics “Intercultural Competences” and “Social Media Connection.
During the Human Rights Week of the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences, 3IN prepared an online lecture, which contributed to the internationality of the week. Especially when talking about Human Rights, it was valuable to get insights on other countries and cultures and their current Human Rights situation. Speakers from 3IN partner universities joined the lecture and helped to add international perspectives on this topic.
In April 2021, the FHWS 3IN project team organised an international Workshop for all students of the 3IN Alliance. Intercultural Competence Coach Anna Lassonczyk taught the students the most important tips and tricks when it comes to international and intercultural communication. In this case, the online format of the workshop was perfect, as students from all over Europe were able to join the meeting. As a result, it was not only an intercultural topic but also an intercultural audience that learned a lot from the coach as well as from each other.
Creation of sustainable structures
In addition to the lectures and events mentioned above, FHWS 3IN also implemented structures that are set to encourage intercultural exchange sustainably. DIAK University in Finland just launched an offer of online courses that are also available to students of 3IN partner universities. The same approach was taken by FHWS 3IN and now, FHWS is also offering online courses open to 3IN Alliance members.
Furthermore, a pilot for a so-called "Joint Online Course" is in the process of being launched, in which 3IN students from different partner universities can work together on a module and receive credit points for it at their own university. This type of cooperation proofs how valuable a European university could be for students and how much they could benefit from it.
One long-term project of FHWS 3IN are Online-German courses for students of 3IN Alliance partners. The first course took place in the winter term of 2020 and over 160 students from all over Europe signed up for it. Unfortunately, the capacity of the course did not allow this many participants. However, this was not a problem for FHWS 3IN as they quickly decided to offer another beginner course in the next semester. Participants of the first beginner course were eager to learn more about the German culture and language so that FHWS 3IN decided to offer an A2 course as well!
Another project is the newly launched podcast „Terminal eINs“ that promotes the international potential of FHWS and explains the structures, goals and topics the 3IN Alliance incorporates.
In addition, there is also a lot happening behind the scenes of FHWS 3IN: Representatives of partner universities hold regular meetings about how to implement more sustainable structures. One product of these meetings is the idea of a virtual online course that is taught by professors from different 3IN partner universities. Other meetings are held by communication experts who are working towards a joined marketing and a connection of all social media channels of the universities. In doing so, they want to combine the expertise of all 3IN partners so that new long-term initiatives can be implemented. The project coordinators also meet up regularly so that they can discuss joined projects, plan and coordinate project proposals to the Alliance and encourage international research projects. They also try to lead the way towards the overall goals of the Alliance and are open to improvement suggestions.
It is evident that the project faced a lot of unexpected challenges during its first 18 months of existence.
All partners were looking forward to welcome European guests at their universities and to travel to new destinations. As virtual meetings cannot replace physical meetings, the project team of FHWS 3IN is now even more looking forward to traveling and the post-Corona-era. The team is eager to experience intercultural exchange on-site and not just in front of computer screens at home. However, the pandemic has also had a positive effect on the project: without the need to find new ways of international exchange, the steps taken towards digitalisation would not have been taken yet. For this reason, FHWS 3IN is planning to keep these newly implemented structures and integrate the international exchange through digital devices into future events. In doing so, the project can also reach and include people that are not able to complete physical mobilities.
The fact that all members had to get more creative than usual made the first half of the project more challenging than it was supposed to be. However, FHWS 3IN sees these experiences as newly acquired strength and the project still has a long way to go. There are another 18 months left that will hopefully be filled with lots of international exchange on-site and on a personal level.