Erfahrungsbericht: BEST Exchange Summer School 2021 (Englisch)
FAR AWAY, BUT SO CLOSE: A VIRTUAL EXCHANGE EXPERIENCE
By Daiana Santana Souza (student at the Instituto Ivoti, Brazil)
When I think about going to an exchange program in pandemic times, I get sad. We can’t travel anymore like before, without being afraid of people too close to you, not using masks. I remember when I was a backpacker, a thousand years ago, travelling on a
tight budget but absolutely curious and excited, learning a lot. Exchange programs
become a learning/teaching “on the road” experience, and what we have as school
supplies is our backpack. As teachers, we get to know people everywhere along the way.
But, if we can’t go abroad and are forbidden to barely touch people because of
Coronavirus, does it mean that an exchange program is now impossible to do?
Absolutely not! We are so capable of adapting, so able to transform whatever we
want to. And I had a very interesting experience recently, on a partnership between
Instituto Ivoti, Gottingen University and other international universities from Sweden,
Turkey and Estonia. The participants of the exchange program couldn’t travel to other
countries and meet presentially, so for the first time I could join a virtual exchange
program. Yes, even separated by continents, we were close to one another, and we worked
together as project partners, group work and coffee breaks.
The BEST Exchange Summer School Project, promoted by partnered universities,
happens once a year in Gottingen and offers lectures for future teachers. Participants
come from many different countries and courses, but all of them with one common goal:
be a great teacher in your own knowledge area. It’s been a week full of fun, learning and
making new friends. Between August 16th and 20th we met every day via Zoom, for video
conferences (German Time in Brazil), lectures and group work. We discussed how
virtual exchange works, how can we develop projects in this field and talked about
all the challenges from this virtual and complex universe. After all, how can we connect
students from all over the world focused on one main goal?
Being part of this experience dug up an emergency issue: we need to talk about a
global education, beyond classrooms. Learning process isn’t built any longer, only between
student-teacher relationship inside schools, but also between teachers and students from
other countries, different schools, between people who speak different languages.
Knowledge and teaching experiences need to be shared and can’t be influenced by
physical barriers. And being able to share my experiences with people from different and
international universities was amazing!
We go through tough times. We must be careful when we leave our homes and we
can’t be around many people, but nobody said anything about not learning and innovating. Is
it another “good” life lesson from the pandemics? Now we must hope for real investments in
Brazilian education, allowing more people to be part of virtual projects like BEST Summer
School. When some schools don’t even have a decent bathroom, it’s quite nonsense to think
about having high-tech tablets in the classrooms. But we can’t be hopeless, facing so many
problems. Every big change starts with one small step. Are you ready to make change
happen? So start right now: help a public school to have computer and internet access, pay a
water or light bill or promote projects gathering the school community. I didn’t travel, but I
didn’t give up on going to an exchange program, even via Zoom. What about you?