The gain of working across cultures

In Erasmus+ project, organisations work together to develop and implement innovative practices. However, the projects do not solely concern the outcomes of the project. On an organisational level, the Erasmus+ projects are expected to have positive effects for the partners involved in the project.

In TEFFIC, the primary goal was to improve the alignment between educational institutes and the industrial demands. Nevertheless, the six partners from Denmark, Norway, Deutschland, Belgium, and Estonia have throughout the project learned how to collaborate with partners who are culturally different from themselves. Lasse Christiansen from UCN in Denmark and Tommy Edvardsen Hvidsten from Fagskolen Tinius Olsen in Norway both agree that working in culturally diverse project groups has advantages. Though Denmark and Norway are close distance-wise and may seem similar in their cultures, the partners confirm that there are differences between them and that they have learned from each other.

Diversity leads to new perspectives
Lasse and Tommy have different experiences and perspectives to the topics involved in TEFFIC. For instance, the educational approach in Danish and Norwegian institutes are quite different. Due to the long distance between cities in Norway, Fagskolen Tinius Olsen use blended learning to educate their students. This means that students who live far from campus can participate in most lectures online but have longer periods every 2-3 months where they have to attend physical lectures at campus. By doing this, Tommy has learned how to teach his students as much as possible in a short period of time without exhausting them. This way of structuring lectures is valuable for countries experiences similar issues. Lasse also acknowledges that even though Denmark does not have the same challenges with remote students, efficient ways of structuring one’s lectures are always useful for teachers like himself.

Accordingly, Erasmus+ projects provide possibilities to get first-hand insight into how things are done in other countries and cultures. Partners should, thus, not be afraid to ask questions and explore each other’s cultures and perspectives to relevant topics. The partners from Denmark and Norway agrees that when you talk about topics that may not be directly related to your project, new ideas occur which can lead to other possibilities for research collaborations.

From partners to multinational network
The differences between cultures can cause misunderstandings between partners during the project. For Lasse and Tommy, the collaboration has been rather smooth. They empathise that dialogue and finding common ground have been key elements in their relation. That is if problems arise, you need to talk about the problem and find a solution or a comprise. In addition, Lasse and Tommy could meet face-to-face to talk about the project and generate new ideas because of the small distance between Denmark and Norway. They both recommend partners in other Erasmus+ projects to meet physical if possible because these meetings can make for more open conversations.

Working on TEFFIC together for the last three years, Tommy and Lasse have had the chance to build a relation to each other and the other partners, and thereby, they have established a multinational network that they can draw on in the future. In other words, an Erasmus+ project can be a stepping-stone to further collaboration and sparring sessions on other projects or research. The relation between the partners in TEFFIC have already resulted in multiple new project: the Danish and Norwegian partners have, for example, started a new Erasmus+ project, DigiDemo, which builds on the topics from TEFFIC.