European semester for the students at the Institute of Foreign Languages Story 5: Bruges (Belgium)

The fifth story from the cycle of stories about the Institute of Foreign Languages students’ academic mobility ​​in the spring semester of 2021/22 is very special – it concerns international cooperation not only of the Institute but of the university as a whole. It is about cooperation with Belgian educational institutions, which has been so fruitful in recent years in the field of natural and social sciences. In particular, scientific and educational exchanges with VIVES University of Applied Sciences are widely covered on the Internet.

Iryna Kozar (AN-41B), a student at the English department, was lucky enough to spend the whole semester in Belgium along with other students of our alma mater. And she wants to share her impressions by answering several questions.

Under what program did you study in Belgium?

I studied in the city of Bruges under the Erasmus+ program. I should say that this is already my second experience under this academic mobility program having previously been a student at the University of Rzeszów (Poland). Now I discovered a new country for myself, the heart of the European Union – Belgium. The program is called V.I.C.K.I.E. – VIVES INTERNATIONAL CLASSROOM KEYS IN EDUCATION. It really helped me to develop professional pedagogical skills. The aim of the program was to improve speech and intercultural competences, which ensures personal growth and international knowledge related to education.

Is it difficult to study abroad?

If you improve your knowledge of a foreign language throughout the years of study, then you will feel comfortable in a foreign language environment. Learning itself is interesting. In Belgium, teamwork is valued, so they prepare you for teamwork. To tell the truth, I prefer our approach to learning with the focus on individual tasks. After all, I can express myself as a person doing individual tasks; otherwise you feel you are part of a mechanism. So, when going on an exchange study, be prepared to constantly perform tasks with students and learn to work in a team.

What subjects did you study?

In Belgium, I had different subjects to study, like Global issues and focus on Flanders and Europe, A broad view on education in Europe and Flanders, Diversity in/and education, the Dutch language. Each time we had different interesting projects. I participated in the project on the correct use of water, conducted an experiment on myself for two weeks and even developed a useful habit. We also developed a project of an ideal school with foreign students and taught the Dutch language. We visited a school in Kortrijk and could see how children’s education is organized in Belgium. In addition, I participated in the project on global problems “Reduce marine pollution” and prepared the research paper “Language based diversity”. Teaching was conducted in English. The teachers were always ready to help.

Did the program include pedagogical practice at school?

Yes, I had a school internship. Probably, this is the most interesting part in the whole study. After all, I was able to apply knowledge in practice. We also had practice with Ukrainian children, which can be called volunteering. Together with other students, we adapted the children to a foreign environment, taught them a foreign language, namely Dutch. Every lesson was interesting. Our main goal was to help parents to adapt their children to a foreign language environment, to help in finding the right solutions and ways of children’s development. I think it is very important to learn how to influence a child’s thinking. The teacher’s role is to teach to understand the process and rules of life; namely, to understand and look for answers in the future.

What about leisure time?

We had enough time to travel. The university organized a trip to Ghent, where we had a great time. With the students, we visited the capital of Belgium, Brussels. Also, during this period, I managed to discover such new countries as Ireland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria. For me, it became a great experience with memories for a lifetime.

In short, I would like to note: thanks to the Erasmus+ program, I improved my knowledge of the English language and acquired new competencies. But the most important thing is that I found wonderful friends who became my family during my studies.