International Mobility: a Chronicle of Experiential Learning

international mobility, exchange students, erasmus, free moving

International Mobility: a Chronicle of Experiential Learning

Erasmus and Free moving exchange programmes are one of design students’ most effective training tools.

The International Academic Exchange experience is one of the activities that arouse the most interest among students in many universities. Since 1987, when the so-called Erasmus programmes were launched in the European Union, the international exchange has become one of the academic challenges for students that all teachers recommend. The success of this type of programme lies in the possibility of enhancing students’ cognitive skills, cultural exchange and the promotion of language skills in most cases.

At ESDi, this activity is highly valued by our students in two ways: we receive students from European Union countries and from other parts of the world, mainly from Latin America and Israel. But our students also go to other latitudes in order to seek different educational values and habits.

In this sense, the third-year student of the Graphic Design curriculum at ESDi, Anna Rodriguez, highlights that her stay in Finland has allowed her to see that “the Erasmus experience is a great opportunity to grow personally and at the same time, learn and enrich from other cultures. Taking the step was easy for me, as I was also looking for a radical change, to force myself to be more independent and to practise my English a lot”.  Thus, Anna considers that staying away from home has allowed her to meet incredible people and enjoy the landscapes and nature of a country like Finland, in an experience that she describes as “enriching and transforming”.

However, there are not only mobility programmes in the context of the European Union. It is also possible to carry out international stays through bilateral agreements through the so-called free moving programmes. In this sense, ESDi, during the academic year 2021-2022, has welcomed 70 students from different European countries, Israel and Latin America.

One of them is Javiera Ormazábal, a student of Fashion Design, who says that in our school she has known another way of working differently from the one she followed in Chile. In this sense, she says that “ESDi has given me a lot of knowledge and the opportunity to interact with incredible teachers who have explained things to me as many times as necessary, who do it with apples and pears if I do not understand, and never leave me with doubts”. For Javiera this is one of the most important things that has happened to her during her exchange, but also the fact that she has made contact with other students that she considers her friends: “It enriches my soul to be able to say that I have not only made Erasmus friends, but also Spanish students who have given me many positive things and indisputable friendships”.

international mobility, exchange students, erasmus, free moving

Anna Rodríguez in Finland

international mobility, exchange students, erasmus, free moving

Javiera Ormazábal in Barcelona

From the other side of the classroom, teachers feel that having students like Javiera among our students is a breath of fresh air that helps to generate enriching discussions from a cultural perspective. The diversity of the class group helps us to create an interest and curiosity in other people’s way of life, which is a fundamental aspect of the training of Design students.

This is the reason that led Sara Pérez, a third-year student of the Interior Design curriculum at ESDi, to go to Finland. In this experience, she was looking to meet different and much more open-minded people. “That idea of getting out of the mental shell that we have only with our vision of life and the academy was my first impulse to decide to go on Erasmus”. At her destination, she discovered a country very different from ours “not only because of the temperature and the climate, which are so different. I was shocked by the pace of life. By that, I mean the pace of life. Finland is a very relaxed country, people love their peace and quiet and attach a lot of importance to it, both in their private and working lives”.

This academic year, ten ESDi students have taken part in the mobility programme. Among our students, the effects of the Pandemic and family reluctance to leave are still weighing heavily. However, for the next academic year 2022-2023, 35 places have been allocated between the Erasmus and free moving programmes. This attractiveness of ESDi is explained by Javiera when she tells us that “the school’s offer seemed very attractive to me because of the subjects that were shown in the curriculum that they had published on their website. But what interested me most was the testimony of other Erasmus students who talked about the experience they had had with ESDi. These testimonials helped me to have a better focus on what I could achieve here. It gave me a lot of confidence to see that everyone was very satisfied with how they were treated and also with what they learned at school.

For their part, our students seek to increase their knowledge within the design specialisations they are studying, as is the case of Anna, who assures us that she chose Finland, specifically Lahti, because it is a small city with great university culture. But at the same time, her decision was influenced by “the great love I feel for Nordic design”.

international mobility, exchange students, erasmus, free moving

Sara Pérez at Savonia University, Finland 

For Sara, going away to increase her skills in interior design was important. “I needed to see another way of doing things and I found it an eye-opening experience because I left wanting to see other things and I found myself rethinking myself. And that has been excellent. For her, it has been very interesting to see a different way of designing spaces, totally opposed to our idea of common areas, of privacy… “By talking to other people and seeing their ways of working, I think they have made me look at my work in a different way and take it down a different path”.

In this sense, Anna affirms that in Finland the work methodology is very different, but that at all times she was certain that the studies carried out at ESDi placed her at a level and knowledge at the same level as the other students. In addition, she says that “I felt very grateful to have such a solid creative base as the one ESDi gives us. Working on the conceptual aspects at the school has made it much easier for me to develop my projects in Finland”.

For her part, Sara highlights the training in 3D and plans provided by the teachers at the School, which has allowed her to be “very relaxed when working in another place. Also, the fact of doing a lot of group work has given me a lot of confidence when it comes to communicating my ideas and managing tasks”.

On the other hand, Javiera considers that she has been able to increase her level in some aspects thanks to “the dedication and knowledge of the teaching staff”. In this sense, she highlights the learning of the more technical part in which she has been able to acquire knowledge on “how to analyse the problems that arise in the design process and look for the most viable solution”.

With the arrival of summer, the personal and teaching experience in other universities for Anna and Sara, and in ESDi for Javiera, has come to an end. All three have been excellent students and have shown great adaptation skills. Next year they will be faced with the challenge of finishing their studies at ESDi and in Chile and deciding where their profession as graphic, interior and fashion designers will take them. But with the conviction that these months of international mobility have had a very important impact on their decision.

Article by Dr. Encarna Ruiz Molina, Director of the Department of Design Theory and Analysis at ESDi.