Elen: University of Exeter Sustainability Summer Programme (July 2021)

In July, I had the opportunity to attend the two week Summer Sustainability Programme, hosted online by the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Exeter.

The first week of the programme, which focused on sustainability, combined the knowledge of experts across a range of disciplines, covering topics including climate change, renewable energy systems and sustainable city design. Each day, we would attend a combination of live plenary talks and workshops, which were supplemented by a range of pre-recorded content and resources. The plenary talks were both engaging and exciting, and the opportunity to listen to world-leading experts discuss their research was invaluable.

I particularly enjoyed the workshop sessions, where we got to work on group activities with students located all around the world. Under the guidance of experts within departments including Mathematics, Physics and Engineering, we were then able to apply our knowledge in order to complete a group project. The project that I worked on, which looked at the optimisation of Renewable Energy systems, really highlighted the value of sustainability as an interdisciplinary endeavor.

The second week of the programme focussed on Urban Analytics, and followed a similar structure to the first week. Each day we would attend a plenary talk and a live session. Throughout the week we worked towards completing a project using the skills we learned in the module sessions, and had the option to attend daily drop-in sessions for guidance. Again, the second week of the programme really highlighted the value of listening to experts discuss their research first-hand, and the keynote speakers were excellent. Overall, I found that the second week of the programme gave me an increased awareness of emerging forms of data, as well as how to begin to utilise data to achieve sustainable outcomes.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to participate in the Exeter Summer Sustainability Programme, and have an ‘abroad’ experience in a time where overseas travel is extremely difficult. The University of Exeter was an excellent host, and created a friendly and welcoming environment even online. I believe I have gained a better understanding of many practical tools, as well as how they can be utilised in sustainable endeavors. Above all I enjoyed learning about emerging research across a broad range of disciplines, and have discovered many new areas of interest and future study. I am very thankful to 360 International for this experience, and I would highly encourage other students to seek out virtual opportunities while they are available.

Deklin: AFS NZ Global Competence Certificate (July 2021)

Upon beginning my course journey, I had little idea of what it meant to be a “global citizen” and what this would encompass. It seems like a monumental task, especially when we are already trying to be a citizen of New Zealand. Still, the world is so big, and there is so much out there that we need to develop the skills necessary to be holistic and competent citizens.

This journey gives you a chance to see where you fit in the world and the importance you play in it, which is reasonable considering there are 7 billion people here, right? The biggest skill you learn is how to evaluate yourself, from the type of listener to the kind of communicator you are. It makes you aware of the physical society you live in, from the vibrant K-road to the corporate Britomart, using the cultural symbols we miss in our day to day lives! Personally, the most enhanced skill I’m taking revolves around power and privilege. This specific skill is to remember the marginalised communities in our society and how our decisions affect them. This is important and incredibly relevant, so I will be adding to this in my daily life, within my studies and personal life, by using my voice to enable success for communities that society marginalises.

The program is held very similarly to how university classes function in the sense that we have one 3-hour online zoom session per week and complete a series of modules before the online course. But the best thing about these sessions is that they are facilitated discussions, and interactive breakout rooms make the time go much quicker.

The biggest takeaway from this course is that we already have these skills. Therefore, once you finish the course, it leaves you feeling as if the world is in your hands because you can see cultural symbols, understand cultural differences and use your self-evaluation to aid in conflict. This course is designed to make you a global citizen, but I feel like if we want to be, we are already halfway there, so it’s about enhancing our skills and then finally putting them to use. Finally, my advice is short, but the course will exceed your expectations if you dive deep into it, interact with the breakout rooms, and try and connect with others doing the course.

Global Competence Certificate (GCC) | AFS Intercultural Programs

Honor: HEX Great Global Challenge (July 2021)

The HEX Great Global Challenge was a week-long virtual program that involved creating a business model which would address “human rights in a post-truth world”. We had seminars and workshops throughout the week and checkpoints to ensure we were on track to completing our business project plans. The program gave us the opportunity and resources to network with peers and experts in selected fields.

We had workshops on a range of entrepreneurial skills, including business model planning, market research, UX interface design, prototyping, pitching and public speaking. We also had a range of motivational seminars from experts on their business, advice and journey so far. The program gave me the chance to collaborate with peers worldwide and develop my entrepreneurship/ innovations skills. I enjoyed the social and community awareness aspect of the program and seeing what issues young people around the world thought were important and ignored.

The most challenging part of the program was the time zones. It was a continuous schedule, so some activities happened while you were sleeping and the northern hemisphere students were awake. Trying to organise a time to meet, which aligned well in all 3-4 time zones, was difficult at times but helped enhance my communication and organisational skills. I learned and tried many new practical skills, which I would not have been exposed to in my degree, especially in marketing and UX interface design. We were taught not only how to use a range of new technology but were also coached on our presenting and persuasion skills. Both of which will be extremely helpful in any future career.

The most important thing I took away from this program was to ensure I extend my options and continue learning new skills that aren’t necessarily connected to my degree. I hadn’t realised how much I would enjoy UX interface design and prototyping, so I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience it and will be more open to developing that skill in the future. This was an exciting experience that allowed me to push myself outside my comfort zone. It’s a great way to make friends or network with people from overseas. Everyone had very different backgrounds, not just business or design. I enjoyed talking to people about their degrees and how that overlapped with their passion for entrepreneurship. The staff were extremely supportive and friendly. They took time to learn our names and passions and made sure to check up on us consistently.

The program gave us access to mentors, who offered assistance with career and LinkedIn questions as well as the project. The speakers also took time to answer questions not relating to the course. The access to experienced industry professional and the opportunity to network meant this course would be brilliant for someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur. As someone who wasn’t interested in entrepreneurship initially, this was a great way to learn about entrepreneurship and see if it’s something I might go into in the future. Even if I don’t become an entrepreneur, I learned a lot of new transferable skills around industry technology, managing a team in different time zones, and starting a business. All of which can be applicable and helpful in a future career. This program made me aware of new opportunities and gave me the confidence to try new experiences that are out of my comfort zone or current skill set/knowledge

Great Global Challenge — HEX

Amelia: AFS Global Competence Certificate (July 2021)

Monday evenings spent getting to know other motivated learners became a part of my routine. The AFS NZ Global Competence Certificate consisted of engaging 2-hour zooms supplemented by fun, Kurzgesagt-style videos about cultural competency.

The programme helped me put into words everything we took for granted. Each video on the platform was engaging and bite-sized, with little ability to get lost or bored. They discussed things like the emotionally restrained-expressive cultural scale, how polarisation can snowball in real life and why businesses may look for critical thinking than diligence; all of which were concepts that are hugely beneficial for our future.

The programme was hugely introspective too. I figured out my learning style (I’m a “common sense” learner), the many facets of my identity and how I could prepare myself for the 21st century job market. While everything taught were concepts that I already knew, the zoom sessions put these skills and knowledge into practice. I enjoyed the accessibility of this virtual programme. I finished work every Monday at the time the zoom sessions started, but I could easily hop onto the call on my phone as I took the bus home. I would not have been able to do so, or meet the wonderful people outside of the Auckland region with an in-person programme!

My favourite module of the course was learning about the DIVE method. Standing for describe, interpret, verify and evaluate, the method is to prevent ourselves from rushing to judgement when we encounter a new situation. I’ve always tried to be open-minded and come to fair judgement, but this method streamlined what I was already trying to practice. What the programme does well is making the implicit obvious. With the world becoming smaller, it is important to continue practicing cultural competency. Cultural competency must be practiced regularly and the AFS Global Competence Certificate has provided me an overarching framework to continue growing my social awareness. I highly recommend this programme to all learners who’d like to better themselves, and to prepare themselves for a global career.

Global Competence Certificate (GCC) | AFS Intercultural Programs

Molly: Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate (June 2021)

The Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate (GILC) is a nine-week online course covering concepts such as leadership and identity theory, cultural humility, critical race theory, intercultural communication, perspective shifting and emotional agility. Having never taken a leadership course I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a very worthwhile experience and I would recommend it.

The course has nine modules of self-paced learning, with a new module opening each week. Course content is a mix of theory, case studies and personal reflections guided by questions. I was a little surprised at how much thought and time the personal reflection part of the course took, but it was rewarding and gave me personal insights I would not have come to without the course. The workload was reasonable – around 4-6 hours per week, with variation from week to week. The flexible nature of the module learning was beneficial to balance with university work and allowed for time to reflect properly on the course content too. There are a few submissions during the course – a two-page critical incident reflection, a perspective shifting exercise, some video reflections and a final project. These reinforced the course content well.

I found the perspective shifting exercise and surrounding teaching on empathy and emotional agility to be particularly useful. Perspective shifting and empathy are not concepts that are explicitly taught in many courses. If mentioned, they usually come in the form of buzzwords. The concrete skills and methods GILC introduced were not something I had come across before, and were useful not only in a career context but also as life skills.

One of the best things about the course was the three zoom sessions with a relatively small cohort of 12-15 people from around the world. Meeting people from many different countries with different perspectives and experiences was thought provoking and enjoyable. The course has strong organisation and support systems – the course coordinator, Lizzy, was happy to help with questions. The University of Auckland 360 team were also supportive – they checked in throughout the course, which I really appreciated.

While a leadership course could hypothetically be quite intimidating, the GILC team make no assumptions about whether you define yourself as a ‘leader’ already or not. It is more focussed on teaching students the skills to be critical thinkers, and empathetic, intercultural communicators – ultimately giving students the tools to progress towards inclusive, confident and competent leadership. I’m very grateful to have been given this opportunity, and I will use the knowledge and skills I have learned with me throughout my tertiary education and in my career.

Fiza: Diversity Abroad Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate – The 360  International Blog

Kelly: AFS Global Competence Certificate (July 2021)

大家好, kia ora koutou and hello! Earlier this semester, I had the amazing opportunity to complete the AFS Global Competence Certificate (GCC) virtual programme, which across 4 weeks explored a range of intercultural theories and models designed to equip us with the knowledge, skills, and understanding to interact effectively in a global and cross-cultural environment.

In an increasingly diverse and fast-changing world, I think it is incredibly important to understand and embrace the differences in our society in all their forms and develop global competencies to help us navigate them. A great aspect of the AFS GCC was how tailored the educational material was to help us explore the tools to engage in open and appropriate and effective day-to-day interactions with people from different cultures. The programme comprised of self-paced modules, forum discussions and four live sessions with the qualified facilitator and students from all over Aotearoa as well as some from overseas. Due to its flexible nature, I really appreciated how I could complete the modules at my own pace while also studying my courses at university.

In this Global Competence Certificate program journey, I was able to develop greater self-awareness to better understand my own identity. I loved getting exposed to so many new concepts such as the Kolb’s experimental learning cycle, empathy, cultural value dimesnsions, Hammer’s intercultural conflict styles, privilege, and many more. The content included a series of examples and case studies that broadened my perspective on how others may experience certain events differently than I do, and how to use practical strategies and methods to connect with people from other cultures and backgrounds. With the new information freshly in our minds, I really enjoyed the engaging korero about diversity, inclusivity, and leadership which challenged us to think about how we could transfer this newfound knowledge into real life. 🌏

From growing my self awareness, awareness of others, emotional intelligence, and building bridges to others, the modules guided me to understand the impact of differences within my team or communities. In particular, getting to know the concept of privilege and how it shapes our access to opportunities and the barriers we face in life, has widen my perspectives in examining glocal intercultural issues. The AFS GCC has really complemented my studies at the University of Auckland and personal aspirations of creating more equity in our society through collective social actions.

Overall, the programme has helped me to not only expand my network with other students from different parts of the world, but to really embrace our differences as our greatest strength and seek understanding as our greatest gift. Through mutual listening and sharing of our ideas, reflections and learning, I was able to become a more confident individual with a real sense of whanaungatanga (kinship) in the global commmunity. Having witnessed how empowered and passionate everyone was by the end of our last live session, I truly encourage more students to seize the opportunity to partake in such a programme, meet like-minded and inspiring friends to become global citizens together!

Global Competence Certificate (GCC) | AFS Intercultural Programs

Sue: ISEP Service Learning Program in Barcelona (June 2021)

In volunteering for ISEP’s virtual learning service program, I was lucky enough to work with Creart, a non-profit organisation focused on utilising the therapeutic and cathartic powers of art to help improve the quality of life of marginalized groups, such as those that endured human rights violations, extreme poverty, and natural disasters, to name a few.

Creart predominantly works with children and women and aims to use art within a framework of transformative education as a tool to face past traumas and conflicts in a positive and productive manner. Additionally, Creart also hosts teaching workshops with local teachers and educators to ensure that the community as a whole is able to be benefited. Through its work, Creart’s positive influence is seen on a global scale throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. For example, with the extreme poverty present in Senegal, Creart partnered local and international organizations and worked to protect and support children living with disabilities against the prejudice and systematic disadvantage they may face. This resulted in creating a safe support center and provided resources that elevated their living conditions.

My main tasks in this program were to edit and proofread Spanish to English translated documents and ensure that it was coherent and accurate to native English speaking audience, particularly as Creart looked to expand its brand awareness globally. The translations included a master document of all the content on its website and internal documents. Additionally, my meetings with my supervisor became sessions for me to experience the transformational education while my supervisor practiced her English speaking ability.

Through this program, I was able to expand my cultural knowledge through not only learning about the Spanish culture, but also how the global society co-exists through the differences and similarities between subcultures, thus improving on my cross-cultural competences. I also gained awareness of the different communication styles that appear through cultural influences and was able to grow my understanding of my own communication style. By being aware of how communication differs across borders and cultures, it has allowed me to become more flexible in the way I interact with different people as I am able to adjust how I communicate to then produce better and more valuable interactions in the future.

Additionally, in participating in this program, I was able to experience working remotely, which I found to be very different from studying remotely. With relationships formed completely digitally, I was able to strengthen my interpersonal skills with how I can form a relationship and nurture it even in the face of technological barriers. The best part of this experience was meeting my supervisor at Creart, Maria. I really enjoyed the meetings we had where we were able to share stories of our lives in the countries that we lived in. I found it really interesting to listen to how different life is in Spain and the different experiences Maria has had travelling not only within Spain but also beyond to the numerous other countries she had been to for work and for leisure. From hearing her stories, she has inspired me to be mindful of the different ways I could weave travelling the world into my life and career.

While this program was exceptionally enjoyable, I did find managing my time challenging, particularly during the exam season. To overcome this, my advice would be to physically schedule everything out and block out different times of the day with generous leeway to avoid feeling pressured and overwhelmed by how tight time seems. Once a routine is set, it would then become more natural to delegate time to tasks and managing all the responsibilities.

University of Auckland – ISEP Study Abroad

Grace: WUN Online Summer School (July 2021)

Over the inter-semester break, I completed the Worldwide Universities Network’s virtual course: The World’s Biggest Problems and How to Influence the Solutions, facilitated by the University of York. Participants were selected from the collection of universities that belong to the network. This meant that I collaborated with students from Uganda, Taiwan, Canada, Ireland, the United States, and Auckland.

Although the programme is typically run in-person, COVID restrictions meant we were zoom-bound. In this case, being online was a good thing because, as well as working with international students, I got to hear from academics from around the world, not just the University of York. The first of my three highlights from the programme was the quality of the academics and speakers who gave keynote lectures and masterclasses on the different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forward by the United Nations in 2015. All of those who presented had a vast array of experience in their respective fields, not only conducting research but serving as expert advisers to the UN, government and holding positions on various boards.

One of the speakers, for example, was Professor Kate Pickett. As a Health Sciences student, it was thrilling to hear her lecture on ‘Reducing Inequality’ and ask her questions in a live Q&A. We also had talks on involving business and government in the SDGs and on leadership and communication styles. Identifying and engaging various stakeholders is essential to mobilising action, so it was advantageous the programme gave us some tools to do just that in the ‘real world.’

The second highlight of the programme for me was the live seminar sessions. After the days’ talks, which were asynchronous, the participants came together on zoom to discuss what we had learned and to challenge each other with questions. Not only were these seminars intellectually stimulating, but they were also a great way to hear the perspectives of students from different countries which have unique political systems and social values that might help or hinder SDG-related action.

My third highlight of the programme was the group project. For the assignment, two other students from Taiwan and Uganda and I had to prepare and present a three-minute pitch on SDG 3 – good health and well-being. Within the pitch, we had to give a brief overview of the goal, including its targets and indicators and offer suggestions to help achieve the goal. We had invaluable help from an academic mentor who, with their expertise, helped us to shape our presentation and its content. While managing our different time zones was challenging, we quickly established a routine and produced a high-quality piece of work in two weeks. It was fascinating to reflect on our communication styles and how our different cultures influenced the way we worked together.

Overall, completing the virtual programme was a great way to spend two weeks of my break. I appreciated that it reminded me of the bigger picture and made my day to day problems seem trivial. It satisfied my desire to apply what I have learned throughout my degree to real-world problems – not just assignments. The programme also enabled me to make international connections with like-minded people

WUN Online Summer School at the University of York: Registration Open - WUN

Jianhuan: APRU VSE China Discovery International Summer School (July 2021)

The Summer School provided by HIT contains a format of classes and online activities that are engaging. This virtual exchange program really helped me to better understand Chinese technology, media, and culture. Although I am Chinese, the curriculum allowed me to get to know my own country on a deeper level. This project provided me with interesting and valuable information about China.

By taking the program, I became aware that China has developed various high-tech, such as big data, robots and high-speed rail. These inventions enable people’s lives to become more convenient. What impressed me the most was Professor Guo’s lecture on space exploration. He mentioned the difference between satellites and rockets. This was a field that I had never touched before, but I found it very interesting to learn.

Meanwhile, Chinese digital payment is ubiquitous. People usually just carry to carry their phones, and they can go everywhere without their wallets. Virtual shopping is convenient for people who want to stay home and still desire the experience of shopping in a mall. The technology enables people to see everything that exists in the shop through virtual tech; people may feel like they are wandering in the vast mall.

In addition, by taking the traditional Chinese festivals course, I have a deeper understanding of the activities of each festival. For example, eating “Tangyuan” during Spring Festival means reunion, and sweeping the dust represents sweeping away the bad things of the past year in order to pray for a peaceful and happy New Year.

Teacher Zhang’s ecological course and manual courses attracted me. She patiently taught us how to cook Chinese cuisine step by step. I also learned how to make window grilles from her. Moreover, the teachers and lecturers were kind and knowledgeable. It was a great and valuable experience for me.

Overall, this was an excellent summer program, and I am going to spread what I learnt, to my friends. For students who want to take this program in the future, I suggest you have some basic overview and knowledge about China as some of the classes in the program delve deeper into Chinese culture. If you have some fundamental knowledge, it will be helpful for you to understand this information more deeply.

APRU VSE Summer Semester 2021 Courses – APRU Virtual Student Exchange

Jenni: ISEP Masaryk University International Relations and Threats to Global Security Course (July 2021)

Overall, this Masaryk International Relations and Threats to Global Security course was an interesting and unique experience. It allowed me to dramatically improve my knowledge of global security using Europe as a case study to go in-depth on the intricacies of this complex concept. This opportunity helped me to become better at learning and interacting with teachers and students virtually, which I expect to be highly beneficial in a post-covid world. In this course, we explored a number of topics within security studies, such as cybersecurity, terrorism, conflict, humanitarian crises, and more. This course was a nice change from the standard university experience, as it was very self-driven and I was able to focus exclusively on these topics rather than dividing my time into several different papers. I feel it allowed me to gain a deeper and more well-rounded understanding of what I was learning.

The content was engaging, and a mixture of lectures and readings meant there was a diverse range of sources to gather different perspectives from. There would be a lecture most weekdays, and on the days without one, we would hear from a speaker from organisations such as the UN, the OSCE, Radio Europe and more. This balance between theory and real-world contexts was very informative. Before each lecture, we would be briefly quizzed on the readings for that day, which was challenging but also helped me genuinely engage with the textbooks. All of the teachers and course coordinators were knowledgeable, helpful, and open to any questions. With such vastly different backgrounds, hearing from so many different lecturers helped to enrich this experience.

There were two main assignments we needed to complete – the first being a group presentation and the second an essay. The group presentation was challenging, particularly working virtually, but forced us to strategically divide the work and think critically about how to best complete the task. The presentation was also pre-recorded, which meant that the lecture time itself could be used to discuss our work as a group rather than passively watching each group present. I liked that the essay topic was very broad, as it meant I could research something I was particularly interested in.

The most challenging part of this course was its online format, mainly due to the differing time zones which meant that lectures would be in the evening. Regardless, I became used to this very quickly, and it allowed me to expand what I considered normal learning conditions. The course was quite intensive with long readings, but the consistency, clarity and predictability of when we were expected to complete tasks meant it was easy to fall into a routine and plan my time. Beyond this, I was able to credit this course to my Auckland University degree as equivalent to a full semester course and completed it in just over 3 weeks. Overall, I would recommend this course to someone who is looking to challenge themselves and expand their knowledge and skillset. It was incredibly rewarding and has helped me gain further clarity of possible career paths I want to take.

University of Auckland – ISEP Study Abroad