Samuel, Janka, Timo, Adanna and 13 other young people shared their experiences abroad at the Treffpunkt Échanges event organised by Movetia alongside the Movetia Conference 2021. Aged between 18 and 28, the participants all chose to leave their comfort zone by going to live between 1 week and 1 year outside Switzerland (or in Switzerland for a student from Luxembourg). Whether studying, doing an internship or working, they have all had an impactful experience that will help shape their academic or professional lives. Motivated by new career prospects, the discovery of another culture or to break away from routine, these young people do not regret their adventure.
In each group, there were lively discussions about the importance of preparation and support before embarking on their mobility programme. For some, it was the first time abroad without their parents or friends. Finding accommodation can be difficult, especially if you do not speak the local language. Therefore, institutions have an important role to play in preparing their students or trainees to organise their exchange. For students who had the support of a network of international students, for example, it was much easier to integrate and find their bearings. It is essential to know who to turn to in case of difficulties and to find other people in mobility programmes in order to build a network of contacts. Meeting locals is always difficult if one does not work in a company. Thus, it can be interesting to integrate by joining sports clubs or cultural associations, for example. Choosing to stay with a host family also allows for a better integration into the new environment.
The groups were unanimous that spending time abroad teaches tolerance, independence and respect. They all developed their self-confidence and felt that they were more open to the world, and even became active citizens. At times, they experienced some challenges integrating, whether in the host family or on site, but this did not affect their overall impression. They returned with a sense of pride to their home environment. For many, their experience made them want to go back and continue to discover new horizons. For example, Jana, who spent a semester at the Swedish Lund University in 2019, will return there for a two-year Master's degree in 2021.
“It was by far the best experience of my life!” , Yann Yasser
“There is nothing to lose, but lots to gain”, Alessia
After the fruitful exchanges held in the morning, two participants agreed to speak live at the Movetia Conference in the afternoon. Yasmine, a fashion designer and former student of the University of Applied Arts in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and Jana, a former student of the University of Bern, shared their experiences in Brussels and Lund.
Watch their interview on YouTube.