Sunday, 2 March 2008

Erasmus Mundus: The Experience of Experiences.

In the summer of 2007, my life changed dramatically. I was accepted to pursue a program, which was more diverse, more adventurous, and more incredible than I could ever have imagined. A few months before, I resigned from my job in order to gain more time to research and source universities for my post-graduate studies and thus, further my education. I would advise anyone that it is a long and difficult process. There are many forms requesting mundane information, application fees which need to be paid, and rejections that need to be faced; but in the end I assure you it is all worth the time and effort.

I was selected and offered an Erasmus Mundus scholarship of €42,000 [Euros] to study in France, Finland, and The Netherlands for 2 years to do an International Masters in Management and Information Technology [IMMIT], spending a semester in each country. An intercultural explosion of 21 people from 13 different nations [including Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, Serbia, Trinidad, Vietnam, Zimbabwe], we were assembled in the beautiful Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France for the first pilot semester. The core focus of the program was to enhance international relations and cultural appreciation and promote strong global networking so that we could work better in the growing world of globalization.

IMMIT: I must say they have succeeded in this mission, since the members of my program are now so well bonded in friendship and well versed in each others cultures that we sometimes refer to ourselves as the IMMIT Family. The Erasmus student life is definitely not strictly about study – it’s about cultural explorations, parties [promoting networking and socializing], traveling, friendship, love [as I experienced in France], and discovering yourself in dynamic and different environments.

Culture: Europe is quite different from Trinidad, the Caribbean and the rest of the world including the USA. Intertwined in its old architecture, arts and people are rich and extensive histories and cultures that eagerly wait to be unfolded by any Erasmus student. We have not only the opportunity to bask in each others traditions and lifestyles but also those of each of the countries we visit, thus equipping us with an ultimate Euro-global culture portfolio. Our diverse and exciting journey through French culinary delights, cheese, wines, language, people, warmth, laid-back lifestyle [much like the Caribbean], and sitting at outdoor cafés watching the world pass-by, brought us to fall deeply in love with the country and its people. My semester on the French Riviera also revealed to me the incredible extent to which the French culture and language is embedded in that of Trinidadians’.

Travel: The obvious accessibility to the other ‘Club-Med’ countries [Spain, Italy, and Portugal] from France was also a heavenly gift of travel adventure possibilities. It is easier for anyone to travel and explore the vast continent because of the breaking down of legal barriers of travel in Europe, the ease of access between countries and growing number of low cost airlines. As students, eager and young, we did not let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass us by.

Finland: At the end of the semester, however, we had to bid farewell to our beloved France and were immersed in the contrasting environment of the ‘North Pole’: Finland [for our second semester]. One of the coldest places on earth [or at least to me it is; where the temperature drops to -30 degrees Celsius in core winter, the sea freezes over and one may drive a car on it!] Finland: famous for Sauna [they invented the word], vodka, and Santa Claus. The Finnish culture is much more structured, direct and depressing than the French. It is not as bad as the rumours claim however. Although the sun is masked almost perpetually by grey clouds, and there is darkness [to the north the sun doesn’t rise sometimes for weeks] and cold, the facilities and services offered are to the utmost best. They utilize the highest technologies to deliver efficient services [we pay to do our laundry by cell phone text messaging]. Additionally, the student life is excellent, and well organized, with several cheap trips, parties and events, and an ingenious array of social programs [such as a language friend, a Finnish friend, and a tutor: to help you get settled in]. We are now nearing the end of this semester and are growing to like this Finnish lifestyle, hopefully in summer the affection will be amplified [by the sun].

Open the mind: This experience in fact opens the mind and expands the perspectives of any person. There becomes a growing international awareness, and concern is emergent for global issues that were once ignored. Take for instance the Serbia and Kosovo issue which affected our Serbian classmates deeply, and all of us were equally concerned. Most people in the western world may not even know where Serbia is. With regards to the course content, my point of view that a master’s degree required excessive studying was changed. The program is setup in such a way that no IMMIT student is forced to ‘cram’ for large exams. Conversely, group work is promoted, and the process is more about shaping the students mind, and changing their global thinking habits to that of an organizational and group-oriented manager. It is not about forcing ideas and theories into memory but about encouraging us to think differently and like managers. This thinking process will be embedded in us and allow us to make quicker managerial decisions in the future naturally.

Life Management: I believe that I have already matured significantly into a better person as a result of the entire experience and the first year is not even over yet. The Erasmus Mundus journey certainly builds the character, experience and abilities of any person. Not only regarding education, but also respecting life: living on your own, living with people, working with people, time management, travel management, event management [for parties], people management and conflict management. A student is offered comfort, leisure, friendships, love and high quality of life, and still emerges with an exceptional education. If all else fails, at least we have free accommodation offered by friends from all over the world.


LSeeram said...

hey! i loved your blog! i can also share the similar expereince with you, having been granted the same studentship in 2006 and also from Trinidad. I agree that the european expereince has too changed my life: it has been a tremendous joy, and maturing period, full of study, parties, travel and great freinds. Wish you all the best for your last year. I have just graduated ( I went to the UK and Portugal), and wish that more Trinidadian youths can expereince the wonders of this programme.

Jevin K. Ramjattan said...

hey thanks for the comment, how can i contact you?

Minh, Nguyen Tran Bao said...

Stamp: Maite arrival in 11days.... haha...