“We have to be the change that we want to see in the world.”
This statement has been found in one of the participants’ evaluations and confirms in a simple but stunning way, what the JECI-MIEC Study Session held in Cologne, Germany from the 17th to 22th of July was aiming at.
Under the heading “Bridging our World: Going beyond Borders” this great event addressed 40 young student trainers of our JECI-MIEC member movements from all over Europe to encounter a forum where issues of globalization, coexistence and forms of social conflict rising from cultural diversity were discussed.
At this Study Session students from 11 European countries were present, namely Malta, France, UK, Germany, Moldova, Romania, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, Spain and Italy. Although our call for participants addressed members of our member movements in the first place, participation also open for non-member movements. Moreover participants and facilitators from outside of Europe were accepted to provide the opportunity to realise intercultural learning by experiencing the realities of different movements all over the world and to offer a platform for fruitful dialogue.
Therefore, intercultural learning was the Study Session’s main topic. Starting from the students’ need for intercultural experiences and competences, the Study Session first of all offered informal possibilities of intercultural learning: Everyone had the chance to experience cultural diversity simply by personal exchange among each other. This resulted in the estimation of the overall atmosphere as “amazing” and “like a family”.
To implement the topics addressed our Study Session was divided into 15 thematic sessions. Its overall concept was a participant-based approach: This enabled our student trainers to take responsibility of single sessions, groups or activities. Taking this concept into account, concrete methodologies were chosen by the different facilitators in alliance with the topics and participants’ needs. The entire activity was process-oriented, so that the program was not fixed, but the participants’ learning process decisively influenced its development. A diversity of methodologies and means of visualization reflected their diversity.
The highlights of the Study Session were without doubt an Intercultural evening and a Creative Art Workshop with overwhelming results. During the entire Study Session also two participant-commissions worked on the documentation of the results and on drafting a final statement to be published.
Everyone regarded our Study Session to be relevant for the individual students and for the society and estimated the objectives to be reached throughout the activity. It was regarded as a means to lose stereotypes and prejudices hand in hand with the acceptance of different backgrounds, perspectives and individuals, which makes dialogue and communication fruitful. As a consequence, most of the participants expressed their will to have such kind of activity again in future, because it is an extraordinary opportunity to have exchange and to share experience with so many student trainers from different backgrounds. The participants furthermore expressed their will to have closer exchange with each other and each other’s national movements in future. This would be the best means to strengthen the collaboration among our member movements and to develop strong networks outside such joint activities.