Developing the cultural capacity of Cardiff Metropolitan University students through internationalising the curriculum is a key theme in our learning and teaching strategy. As such, our Psychology Study Abroad Week went a long way toward achieving this. Dr Clare Glennan and Dr Tina Alwyn accompanied 11 Psychology students from Levels 4,5 and 6 to Athens during the Easter break. City University College (CUC) and our Cardiff Metropolitan students integrated very well and discussed the importance of culture and diversity within the discipline. CUC and Cardiff Metropolitan students developed relevant presentations and delivered these through joint symposiums. There was debate about internationalisation and what this meant for the students and how their future careers in Psychology would be influenced by these factors. The staff from both universities met and discussed how internationalisation could be facilitated through shared experiences, teaching and joint teaching. All in all this was an enriching and enjoyable experience for all involved.
I am a second year Cardiff Metropolitan Student, who was accepted to go on the Psychology Study Abroad week. This took place in City Unity College (CUC) Athens in April this year. It was an amazing experience, amongst the many highlights were the cultural historical sights and exploring the amazing city that it Athens; it helped that it was 24 degrees and bright sunshine!
At first when I was told we were going I was very excited but the thought of sitting in on lectures and contribute to a symposium was daunting and I even thought It might have been a bit boring. However I could not have been more wrong, the lecturers were fascinating, and we were particularly impressed by one who presented a lecture on forensic psychology. The symposium was also really great. It was interactive and offered such an eye opening experience in how both cultures view each other and themselves.
It was also an excellent opportunity to meet the Athenian students who are studying the same Psychology degree. They were all so welcoming and friendly and we had a real laugh with them and bonded really well. The trip gave me a real insight into how other cultures live, it was fascinating to see first-hand the everyday lives of people from another culture. I feel I have been able to apply this into my work; thinking critically about psychological research and its applicability to other cultures.
I was also really taken a back at how close all of the students that went on the trip became. It was an opportunity for Cardiff Metropolitan students from across all levels to come together and bond as a group. It was also lovely to meet the Athens student, some of whom I have stayed in contact with and will probably remain my friends for life.
If I could recommend you do one thing this year it would be to apply for the Athens trip!
This year I was able to attend the Psychology study abroad week, it was amazing experience and I thought I would share with you!
Firstly, I really enjoyed the lectures, considering psychology from a different perspective was so interesting. During our visit we were able to present at an Internationalisation Symposium. In preparation our lecturer split us into groups and each group were assigned a task. The focus for my group was looking at the impact of child poverty in Wales and illustrating from a psychological perspective, how poverty can impacts upon the individual. The symposium and the visit in general highlighted the importance of culture to me especially after the internationalisation discussion and this has helped me so much with my academic understanding of culture, especially when considering social psychology.
The Greek students and lecturers made us feel so welcome at the CUC and it was really nice talking to them about their psychological interests and ideas. This really helped spark some ideas from my dissertation for next year!
Finally, the group of Cardiff Met students we went with were amazing, we all got on so well and we have all stayed in contact, speaking almost every day! The trip was a great way to meet people in higher and lower years as I was able to give advice to the L4 students but also seek advice for module and dissertation ideas from the L6 students.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to attend, I really enjoyed it and found it such a valuable experience!
Dr Dan Heggs, Programme Director for Psychology, says “It’s great to see that out staff and students have once again visited CUC in Athens. As we build the links between the two programmes it is clear that we can all learn from one another, and that the opportunities given to the students from both colleges to come together enables them to think about how psychology can be applied in broader cultural contexts.” Dr Amie-Louise Prior, Moderator for the BSc Psychology Programme at CUC, says “This trip provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain experience of teaching and learning within a different cultural setting. Symposium and discussion sessions encourage students to discuss and share their ideas relating to the topic of Psychology and develop presentation and networking skills.”
We look forward to further trips to build the relationship with Athens and to allow more students to experience psychology in Athens!
One of our final year students, Stef Slack, is on an Erasmus exchange with one of our partners, in Turkey. She has written a brief blog about her experience so far for us.
Can you tell me what prompted your interest in the Erasmus programme?
Two years ago I worked as a summer camp counselor in the USA. When I returned I knew that all I wanted to do was see the world! The following year I worked in an orphanage for deaf and disabled children in India, which was a massive culture shock. But it inspired me to learn more about new and different cultures, and to have lots more exciting adventures. After returning to university I saw an Erasmus advertisement and I knew this would allow me to do all of these things and more, so of course I applied straight away!
Have you learnt any Turkish? How have you found it so far?
I’ve learnt a few words, but Turkish is so different from any language I’ve been taught before. It’s hard! They are offering elementary Turkish classes at the university though so maybe I’ll get better!
Merhaba – Hello
Teşekkürler – Thank you
Su – Water
Güle güle – Goodbye
Do you speak any other languages?
Unfortunately no. I’ve met so many people here from all over the world, some who can speak three languages! So this has inspired me! I feel so lazy.
How have you prepared for your visit?
I made sure to start my dissertation before I left. I completed my ethics forms for Isik and Cardiff Met, did my interview schedule, consent forms and started my proposal. I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall behind, as I thought it might be difficult to keep on top of everything whilst also trying to adjust to Turkish life.
How familiar are you with Turkey and Turkish life? Have you been before?
I visited Bodrum in the south of Turkey about 4 years ago. It was beautiful but very different from Istanbul! It was full of English holidaymakers, whereas Istanbul is very culturally diverse.
How are you feeling about attending lectures and writing assignments in a Turkish university?
I’ve been nervous about the style of teaching, as this is my final year and I really want to get a good grade. I’ve had a few classes so far though and all of the lecturers speak good English. I know that some of my friends have teachers who don’t speak any English (even though it is meant to be an English class) so I think I’m lucky! I’ve made lots of Turkish friends in class too. They have been so friendly and welcoming to Erasmus students!
What are you most looking forward to about the visit?
I am most looking forward to seeing more of Turkey and spending more time with the people I have met. I have met people from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Mexico, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Turkey of course! We have all become so close in just a few weeks, and are already planning trips to see each other again. I know I’ve made friends for life. We’ve travelled to some amazing places in Turkey – staying in the centre of Istanbul, spending the weekend on the Prince’s Islands, and road tripping down to Izmir. Last weekend we visited Pamukkale, which are natural thermal pools. It was beautiful!
Also, how are you finding it so far?
I am having so much fun I don’t want to go home! I would recommend Erasmus to any one. I feel so lucky that I have been given the chance to experience all of this.
Evidently, there are lots of great opportunities in the Erasmus programme to see more of the world, and have a great time while completing your studies. The Erasmus programme is a great way to study abroad. If you are interested in finding out more about opportunities within the Psychology Department come and speak to our Erasmus co-ordinator Clare Glennan
Rosie Harris left us for a year to study at the Universidad de Jaen in Spain. Following a year away, Rosie has returned and reflects on her Erasmus experience.
Can you summarise what you have been up to for the past year?
I have been studying psychology in a Spanish university through the medium of Spanish.
What was the highlight of your Erasmus visit?
It’s very hard to pick out a single thing! Having an opportunity that combined all of the things I love: travelling, learning new languages, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures; and having been able to experience all these things whilst continuing my degree has been fantastic! One of the main highlights for me was getting to know Spain and its culture and to experience that through the local people. Spain has a lot of culture and to experience the fiestas, Holy Week and to the see the processions amongst tapas, olives and flamenco has been amazing.
What was the most challenging aspect?
The most challenging aspect for me was definitely the language barrier at the beginning and writing exams and coursework in Spanish. I had had an intensive Spanish course in Barcelona in the summer before beginning my Erasmus however the accents and slang used in Andalucía are completely different to that of Barcelona and it felt like I took a giant backwards step when I first arrived!
The ‘what ifs’ before leaving would closely follow the language difficulty. It’s almost enough to put you off going entirely! Will I find somewhere to live? With nice people? Will I learn the language? Will I understand what the lecturer is saying? It was an intense 2 weeks before leaving however once I arrived these worries disappeared almost instantly.
What do you feel you have gained from your experiences in Spain?
I have definitely become more confident in myself, especially in relation to travelling to a different country on my own and finding accommodation and interacting with the local people and so on. Now I won’t rule out things that other people perceive as challenging, as I know that ultimately, it is all a matter of perspective and ‘challenging’ to one person is ‘easy’ to another.
I have gained invaluable friendships with people from all over the word. The Erasmus scheme definitely brings people much closer together and you end up considering everyone as your extended family!
Lastly, I have gained Spanish! This has given me numerous opportunities if I would like to travel and work abroad in the future, which is looking quite likely!
What advice would you give to other students who are considering taking part in the Erasmus programme?
If you are worried about the language I would definitely advise going to the country the summer before, for as long as you can, to immerse yourself in the language before you begin your Erasmus. As then you will start picking things up, or simply get an ear for the accents, and you won’t be bombard as much once you begin your course.
Another other piece of advice would be; only speak in the language that you will be communicating in (i.e. No English!). I was very lucky in that Jaen is not very touristy and not many of the locals spoke English. So my English ended up reserved for Skype calls to my parents! Looking back I find this helped enormously and there were a lot of people at the end of the year who had stuck in little groups, of people from their country, who wished that they’d made themselves more approachable by speaking in the host language, also in aiding with learning the language.
Finally, explore the country as much as you’re able and immerse yourself in the country’s traditions and festivities. The year will go by so fast!
The Department of Applied Psychology has the pleasure of working with students from various countries under the ERASMUS programme (a scheme which allows individuals to complete part of their degree in a university in a different country). Typically they study with us for either one or two terms. Having to study in a second language is challenging, and can involve adapting to different methods of teaching and assessment too.
This year we have welcomed students from Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey. Below is a photo of Juan Jose Macias Moron (University of Almeria, Spain) and Marta Blazejewska (University of Wroclaw, Poland) receiving their certificates from Dr. Jenny Mercer (Psychology ERASMUS co-ordinator).
Jenny asked this year’s cohort to reflect on their year by answering a few questions about studying and living in Cardiff. What follows is selection of their responses.
How have you found Cardiff as a place to live?
“Cardiff is a nice city. I liked its size as it is neither to small (and boring) nor to big (and stressing). The atmosphere in Cardiff is great with very friendly people. However it is not really a ‘typical Welsh’ city but rather a metropolitan one.” Lisan, Germany
“Cardiff is a lively student city, a real melting pot where you can meet people from basically all parts of the world. What I particularly like about the city is its multiculturalism – as I come from a country that is still quite homogeneous it was really cool to experience all of this diversity on a daily basis. As a place to live, Cardiff has a lot to offer – apart from the bustling city centre (and its ‘inglorious’ night life) there are plenty of quiet, leafy areas where you can chill out if you’re tired of “student life” . Also, I think that it’s quite a good base for exploring other areas of Wales and more, with good (and cheap) bus connections to Bristol and London for example.” Marta, Poland
“After more than 9 months spent in this city I perceive Cardiff as very friendly and interesting city. It is not too small and not too big, so I am (happily, I will spent three more months here working and doing internship) able to get everywhere on bicycle, which is my favourite method of transportation.” Arek, Poland
How have you found studying in the Department of Applied Psychology at Cardiff Met
“I have learned many new skills. Because the theory in Spain is quite different. So far I have undoubtedly enriched my knowledge as complementary. Psychology in Cardiff Met is more scientific character and continues the tradition American. Our training is applied and we focus in the intervention or treatment and clinical psychology. I had never written an essay, the evaluation method is exams in my country and I learned a lot of new things with the essays because you have to read a lot of information and papers, and the topics are very interesting. The point of view of making essays is very useful, at the beginning was hard to do in a different language but finally you want to write more. It provides a critical thinking which is very important in the life, and lots of variety of knowledge and references that you can use for your future.” Juan, Spain
“ There is a difference both in topic areas and the way of teaching. There is more theoretical subjects (like logic, philosophy, sociology, genetics etc.) in Poland, whereas there is more applied subjects at Cardiff Met. Also in UK there is a big emphasis on current issues in Psychology, whereas in Poland there is a little bit more studying historical issues.” Piotr, Poland
A final word from Jenny
As these extracts highlight, studying in a different country offers not only the opportunity to widen you horizons academically but socially and culturally too. I would like the final word to go to Juan whose quote captures the wide reaching impact ERASMUS can have on individuals:
“Today many of us are inseparable and we have created a group for life. This does not have words. We have enriched each other. Moreover, each had a different perspective of psychology and we have talked during hours between us. The difference between: Poland, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Italy, rather than differentiate it has brought us closer as a family and we all brought something new between us. We have organized several international dinners, where each of us has cooked something typical of their country, I recommend it to everyone. You know a new culture, new language knowledge in psychology and you get another lifelong friends. It’s wonderful.”
The Department has had a successful Erasmus programme for several years now, however 2012/2013 will see our first Cardiff Metropolitan Student visiting a continental university. Rosie Harris has recently completed her second year of the BSc Programme and will be spending the next academic year studying at the The University of Jaén. We will be keeping in contact with Rosie throughout this period and interviewed her before she set off for her Spanish adventure!
Can you tell me what prompted your interest in the Erasmus programme?
I have always been interested in other cultures and enjoy travelling and meeting different kinds of people. When I was a teenager I lived with my family in a residential college for people with special needs, where young people from around the world came to live and work as volunteers. I found I really enjoyed mixing with people from different countries and finding out about their cultures.
Also, in my first year and second years at university I met students who were participating in Erasmus years at Cardiff Met and I decided it was something I would really like to do. The overseas Erasmus students all recommended it as a great thing to do too and encouraged everyone to take part.
How long have you been learning Spanish? How have you found it so far?
I started learning Spanish formally around a year ago, when I decided I would like to take part in the Erasmus programme. Before then, on my gap year, I’d been living with some Colombian students for a year so I was familiar with the sound of the language and had learnt some basic sentences and phrases. To begin with I felt I picked up the language quite quickly, though the grammar and verb formations have taken longer to get used to! I have found the biggest challenge has been balancing learning Spanish around work and university. I find I need to do something in Spanish almost everyday to keep me progressing and I have found it hard to do this when I have deadlines at the same time, a few days away on holiday or exams.
Do you speak any other languages?
I can speak Welsh fluently.
How are you preparing for your visit?
I have invested in private Spanish lessons for the last year and have bought Spanish self-teach CD’s and books. I’m aware that I haven’t been speaking Spanish very long so it will definitely be a challenge! I’m trying to immerse myself with Spanish as best as I can; speaking with Spanish friends, listening to Spanish radio or even just writing shopping lists in Spanish! I have also signed up to a language school for 2 months over the summer in Spain (Don Quijote Language School).
What are your plans for the summer before you start at the University of Jaén in September?
This summer I’ve saved up to do an intensive language course in Spain (as mentioned previously). I will be living with a Spanish host family in Barcelona for one month then another host family in Valencia for a month and I am hoping to WWOOF (volunteer on an organic farm) in Spain for the remainder of the summer.
How familiar are you with Spain and Spanish life? Have you been before?
I have been to Spain once before on holiday with my family to Mallorca. However this is a largely tourist area so I don’t feel it was a very good reflection of traditional Spanish life! I hope that from living in Spain over the summer I will be able to gain a more accurate insight.
How are you feeling about attending lectures and writing assignments in a language other than English?
I think of all the factors this will be the hardest part. I think it will be very difficult at first, not only due to communicating in a different language but also to the different teaching and learning styles. However I hope that I will be able to adjust and do the best I can.
What are you most looking forward to about the visit?
The most exciting part for me will be living in a different culture and experiencing things that I wouldn’t get to experience simply by being in Spain on a holiday. I would like to widen my perspectives and look forward to learning psychology from within a different culture. I hope that this experience will be beneficial to me as I would like to travel to Latin America in the future, hopefully to work within the field of psychology.