07 Jun 2018

Graduate School Scholars Attend International Week at University of Hildesheim

by Shadrach Teryila UKUMA

The 14th to 19th of May, 2018, saw academics and administrators working or collaborating with the European Union Erasmus Programme converge on the Stiftung Universität Hildesheim for the 5th International Week as organised by the International Office of the University. The SDG Graduate School as hosted by the University of Hildesheim applied and got spaces for four of her African scholarship holders to participate fully at the Week. According to Ms. Marit Breede of the International Office, it was the first time the International Week will have participants from nearly all continents of the world. Twenty-Seven invited delegates besides resource persons and the organising team of the International Office were in attendance. The participating scholarship holders from the DAAD-funded SDG Graduate School were Naomi Albert Yusuf and Shadrach Teryila Ukuma of the University of Maiduguri, and Prisca Ama-Anima and Madinatu Bello of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

Across the various activities of the International Week, the obvious theme was Interculturality; this was no doubt deliberate as it would later unfold. From the various presentations and workshop sessions it was clear that universities across Europe are not just striving towards creating and sustaining internationalisation by simply opening up for international access, but there is also a consciousness to internationalise the curricula and equally create an enabling environment, the intercultural competence that is required to deliver holistic internationalisation. This much was clear from the carefully planned presentations such as “Internationalisation at the University of Hildesheim”, “Cultural and Linguistic Aspects in Intercultural Communication”, “Intercultural Communication and Competence”, “Intercultural Matters in Our Daily Work (with students)”, “Cross-Cultural Communication between Partner Universities” and “Global Citizenship: A Perspective on Internationalisation of Higher Education”. The idea exchanges during these presentations further delineated the sensitivities and critical peculiarities of various cultural givens and expectations; it was obvious that a lot was to be learnt and applied.

Interactional and relaxation activities at the Week were also planned to elicit intercultural exchanges from participants such that they became the immediate evidence of the results sought after. There was the International Lunch where participants brought food items from their respective localities and everyone was encouraged to taste something different from what they were already used to. This was quite revealing and exciting as it lent a great insight into the culinary experiences of various parts of the world. It indeed created a healthy atmosphere for intercultural appreciation. Participants also got the opportunity to learn a lot about German culture and history through the Hildesheim City Tour and Berlin City Tour. The Berlin City Tour was unique as it was preceded by a full seminar session about the city of Berlin and its multicultural status that can easily pass as the intercultural capital of the world. This seminar made it easier for participants to appreciate even more the sights and sounds of the city as experienced during the guided city tour.

Besides the unique intercultural perspectives the scholarship holders of the SDG Graduate School were constantly bringing to bear throughout the Week, especially as it was the first time African delegates will be in attendance, there was a well received presentation on Interculturality as experienced in the Graduate School which has a cultural mix drawn from Nigeria, Ghana, Germany, Cameroon and Niger Republic. This presentation highlighted the initial cultural tensions and the immediate adjustments that had to be made to create a healthy cultural admixture that could pass for ideal intercultural setting. There was particular mention of the role of participatory drama techniques which aided in breaking down barriers and creating new vistas for cultural appreciation amongst members. This experience was offered as a case for utilising “The Human Seriousness of Play” (Victor Turner, 1982) in the drive towards total internationalisation.

Indeed, participating at the 5th International Week of the University of Hildesheim was a rewarding experience as international perspectives to ideas and perceptions were developed just as international friendships were cultivated. It is an experience worth reliving.