Author: Marco Bianco
From November 13 to December 10, the University of Würzburg welcomed some of us Mentors in a virtual exchange project (TEP Erasmus+) called “Exploring Intercultural Perspectives”. This three-week-long training, involving students from the Universities of Würzburg, Caen, and Padua, consisted in three synchronous online meetings and in a series of asynchronous activities – we shared materials, discussed and shared our stories in forums, we used padlets – related to the issues we discussed during our synchronous meetings. We were divided in two groups of about ten people each, and were guided by a facilitator – Rianne and Philipp – who opened and stimulated the dialogue.
From the very beginning, this training turned out to be atypical in some way. There was no ready-made available knowledge. The training aimed to create meaning through active participation, shared reflections, stories, and personal experiences. We thus managed to create a space of dialogue and positive exchange, where each one of us felt free to share his/her personal experiences without fearing to be judged. Practically no one among us knew each other. It was thus a meeting among strangers, who shared a real interest and curiosity towards otherness, and who were ready to get involved and to rethink themselves and their convictions. Therefore, this group of strangers soon became a group of friends. We talked about culture, diversity, integration, intercultural communication, stereotypes, prejudices, and many other things. We shared our own experiences – sometimes they were similar, sometimes very different – and our viewpoints, we shared tips and opinions about how to effectively do our jobs as tutors. And we had a lot of fun too!
It was a short – and engaging – path. But it was very stimulating. I feel I can say this experience made us more aware and self-aware. It was an experience to be repeated. And to be proposed again in the next years. This training proved that, with the right spirit and under the right conditions, you can really do things in a different way. It also proved that, step by step, it is possible to break every barrier.