Warming up for a unique intercultural experience
April 2021 was an intense month of learning and cross-cultural interaction for students of the course Different Approaches to Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility in the US and the EU at the Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin (HWR Berlin). Students joined selected counterparts from the University at Albany in the US for a month-long interactive online course that placed international collaboration at its heart.
The joint online project was embedded in two existing courses taught at the HWR Berlin's Department of Legal Studies (FB4) and the University at Albany’s School of Criminal Justice. Participating students came together for four online sessions to explore the themes of Corporate Social Responsibility, corporate governance and the role of Black Wall Street in the United States. In parallel students worked in mixed groups to explore a range of case studies related to these themes online.
To kick-off this intercultural collaboration students took part in a range of icebreaker activities with the aim of warming students up for their teamwork and sensitising them to the different cultural contexts. Due to the virtual nature of the project icebreaking sessions were key to facilitating a smooth start to the student-led collaboration. Students reflected on their associations when it came to thinking about the cultural contexts of Berlin and New York. This activity started conversations between the students about their home cities and set them off down a road to intercultural discovery.
Students also produced passports introducing themselves to the group which also led to them exploring intercultural themes that went beyond the standard academic content of the class. As one HWR Berlin student put it, the icebreakers: "allowed us to warm up with the group members and we were no longer inhibited to exchange ideas."
Reflecting upon the month-long project, participating students highlighted both the challenges they faced in collaborating virtually across time zones, as well as the benefits of having exposure to a new culture, learning to work together in international teams and improving their English language abilities. The HWR Berlin students were interested in participating in similar projects in the future and some were now considering studying abroad for the first time and potentially visiting their counterparts in the US. One HWR Berlin student concluded:
"I think that the COIL-project is an interesting project for every student at the HWR Berlin who is interested in getting an impression of what it would be like to work with other people globally and extending their horizon."