What students learn by going abroad


Initiated in the eighteenth century by young aristocrats, the training trip to Europe has been democratized in recent years thanks to university mobility programs. At the top of the countries participating in Erasmus exchanges, France for example saw its number of outgoing students increase by 37% between 2010 and 2015 ( Campus France, 2017 ).

Despite the popularity of these intercultural experiences, the skills they can acquire are not yet valued as much as they should in the job market. A semester of study or an internship abroad is not only an opportunity to progress in the languages ​​of Shakespeare, Goethe or Cervantes. They are also stepping stones to new forms of savoir-être.

Learn to adapt

Showing curiosity, knowing one’s strengths and limitations, learning to embrace change, and building relationships with others are some of the cross-cutting skills young people aged 18 to 30 experience when traveling, according to ‘ AKI European Project .

These standards, resulting from a European project funded by the Erasmus + Youth Agency, group them into five broad areas: open-mindedness, adaptation to change, sense of interpersonal relationships, sense of responsibility, self-confidence

The learning fields highlighted by AKI (Acquired for International Mobility) cut across the skills needed to “enter, stay and progress in the world of work,” identified by the Conference Board of Canada . These fall into three categories: basic skills, personal management skills and skills for teamwork.

It focuses on skills related to life skills and lifelong learning. These include communicating, thinking and solving problems, demonstrating positive attitudes and behaviors, being responsible, being flexible, learning constantly, working with others, participating in projects and tasks, etc.

Self discovery

Be careful not to make a mistake: the acquisition of skills and their transfer from one context to another is a complex process. To have studied abroad does not mean that these capacities to communicate are acquired definitively.

On the other hand, mobility favors the progression of the student in some of them, especially transversal skills. The fact of having a university exchange can thus reveal to the recruiter the ability of a young person to adapt to a new work environment.

The transition from university to business materializes, on another scale, the transition from one culture to another. In the end, international mobility should allow young people to positively consider their initial employability, but they must be able to value it in the eyes of recruiters.

By choosing to go to study or an internship abroad, the student engages in a process of personal discovery, which will bring him through confrontation to a different culture to better analyze his own and get to know each other better ( Pleyers & Guillaume, 2008 ). Nevertheless, the reflexive practice that this process induces is not spontaneous. She supposes

“A distancing and a critical look at one’s own functioning, but also an individual and collective analysis of the actions and decisions taken in the course of action” ( Lafortune, 2011 ).

Skills to value

In order for students to be able to identify the progress they have made, then to value them on their CVs, we must help them to develop this reflexive attitude.

However, most often, the follow-up offered to students remains limited: the information available to them mainly concerns the practical aspects of mobility. For example, they can find out from their institution’s international relations department, the Youth Information and Documentation Center (CIDJ), each Regional Council or non-formal education structures.

To help students become aware of what is happening in these intercultural immersions and to make use of it in the face of recruiters, it is necessary to establish a long-term dialogue around these experiences. This is what the Prepamobie project is doing , which we are deploying from the start of the 2019 academic year at Clermont Auvergne University.

Funded by the Learn’In Auvergne program as part of the I-Site Clermont, the device is based on an online course, which compares among other things the educational cultures, in order to better understand the diversity of the functioning of the courts in Europe. . Prepamobie covers the three stages of mobility: preparation, daily life in the university or the host company, but also return, an equally important step for the consolidation of skills.

Author Bio: Cécilia Brassier-Rodrigues is a Lecturer in Information and Communication Sciences, Director of Information and Communication Department at Clermont Auvergne University