In Europe of walls and cultural crisis, we need to rethink our common identity of European citizens. This means both looking back and looking ahead. The Erasmus+ programme certainly helps us in this demanding task. Going out of our national borders for a study period abroad means getting in touch with the dimension of European similarities and European differences.
I am studying Teacher Education at the Università degli Studi Milano Bicocca (Italy). I had the honour to go on an Erasmus to the Pädagogische Hochschule Steiermark for one semester in the winter 2015- 2016.
As I came back, my Erasmus coordinator and university Professor Lilia Teruggi asked Margherita and me, as former exchange students, to be her guests and hold a didactics lesson! There were more than two hundred students on the 4th of May at 8.45 a.m., as Professor Franca Zuccoli, from a parallel didactics, joined in the class with her students as well!
Professor Teruggi, I, Margherita and Professor Zuccoli
Professor Teruggi introduced us saying that as an Argentinian, she wanted to make her students realize that the world is a wider place than we might think in everyday life. That means also reconsidering what we give for granted. For example, every pupil in Argentina now wears a school uniform and no one reflects on the meaning of this choice, which has turned to a habit.
It would hardly be fish who discovered the existence of water.
So wrote the anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn at the half of the past century. I find it a good way to express the idea that getting in touch with the “other” helps us become aware of our own culture.
The Professor thanked us for being there, but I think that we guests and the university students from the University of Milano Bicocca should also be grateful to Professor Teruggi for giving value and visibility to the Erasmus Programme. Erasmus means considering travel and intercultural settings as a means of knowledge building. The learning is not just a transmission of contents anymore but gets social, active and “mobile”.
Margherita reported on her Erasmus experience in a kindergarten in the wood in Hamburg. She told the audience about the different way of dealing with time, weather and open-air life, safety in Italy and in Germany… It’ s funny and sad to see our lifestyle and ourselves through the eyes of an outsider: people in Milan seem to always be in a hurry, willing to go outside just in summer and always alert about dangers hiding around the corner!
I talked about my experience in Graz both at the university and in the school placement in the Volksschule Hirten (primary school Hirten).
At the PHSt I had the opportunity to make a wider and more meaningful use of technologies applied to the field of education and teacher education.
In the internship I was stricken by the importance of routines in a school day in Austria. The Jause is in Milan no more than a few minutes break for every child to devour (the right verb would be the German fressen) a prepackaged snack brought from home, while in Austria it’s a didactically and socially dense moment.
The desire to get to know the “other” and to understand his conceptions and practices is certainly more useful than trying to rank different educational systems from our particular and always partial point of view. “Variety” is the keyword. We should therefore make an effort and try to conceive all the ideas and behaviours as embedded in a particular cultural and social context.
The magic effect of meaningful travels consists for me in awaking the reflection, and I hope my short article was also a kind of a travel for you readers.
I thank all my friends in Graz, especially the ones from the International Office, and all the people that work every day to make the Erasmus+ Programme real.
Arianna Cavaliere 8th May, 2016