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Notre voyage au Danemark


Some thoughts from the project leader 
Réflexions de l'organisatrice du projet

Copenhagen's Danish Design Museum

An international educator's dream

As the ÉTS staff leader of the Denmark project, I must confess that this short-term study tour is an international educator's fantasy become reality. For many of our students, a full semester international exchange is not possible due to academic, financial or personal constraints. The four-year Bachelor of engineering degree at ÉTS requires each student to complete three twelve week internships and strict national accreditation regulations make finding course equivalencies internationally quite challenging. This ten day program is offered between the winter and summer sessions, making it highly accessible to all students.

Over the years, I have come across many research papers making the case for short term study abroad programs, debunking the myth that in terms of intercultural learning, longer is always better. Interculturalists agree that deep learning is brought about through preparation and reflection before, during and after the international experience. With this in mind, I am extremely hopeful that the program we have put together for the Denmark team will be transformational for each student, personally, academically and professionally.

Team selection: do you know how to pecha-kucha?

For its first edition, the project was launched only in one of our institution's classes, COM 115, Intercultural Communication. The course is taught by Professor Jules Richard, who participated in the trip. Eighteen students applied, and eleven were interviewed. Students were asked to prepare a Japanese-style Pecha-Kucha presentation about Danish innovation and culture, in English. The six minute, twenty seconds per slide presentation obliges students to be precise, original and knowledgeable about the topic. A more traditional interview followed the presentations. As previous international experience was not a selection criteria, the interview committee looked for academic, personal and professional motivation, previous research on the country, basic English Communication skills (native fluency not a requirement), maturity and autonomy, as well as overall personality type for fit with other team members.  One of our students, Maria, prepared her excellent Pecha-Kucha presentation on Prezi. 


The project and the engineering curriculum - one semester of hard work leading up to departure!

As the Intercultural Communication class COM 115 includes many group assignments, the Denmark group was able to write some of the assignments in relation to the project. For example, the group produced a video consisting of interviews with Danes living in Canada (including a visit to the Danish Club of Montreal) and Canadians living in Denmark, comparing perceptions about Denmark. This video was graded at ÉTS and was also shown to Danish students in Copenhagen, Aarhus and Aalborg to stimulate discussion.


Weekly meetings

We found a project meeting room for the team, where we held two work meetings per week. We talked about our group code of ethics, read and discussed books and articles on Danish culture and contrasted with Québec and Canada, planned all logistics, divided up the work and responsibilities. One of our meetings was held at Elefsen Scandinavian Café in Montreal, and another meeting was held at the Danish Club of Montreal.
ÉTS students and Danish Club hosts


Funding and other behind the scenes secrets

This project was fully funded by a non-reoccurring budget provided by the Québec Ministry of Education to encourage students to study abroad. Next year, participants will need to fundraise to cover a portion of expenses.

One of our professors, Jérémie Voix, has existing research collaborations with colleagues at Denmark Technical University in the field of acoustics, and his participation in the three first days of the study tour greatly enhanced our visits. Our visits to GM (Grafisk Maskinfabrik) and GN Resound were a result of Jérémie’s research activities.


Closing remarks

The trip has now ended and this short mobility program has far exceeded my expectations. It has been a tremendous amount of work for us all and I believe all participants are exhausted at this point. Would we do it again? Absolutely.

Our days started every morning at 7 am with a breakfast team meeting, going over the visits of the day, the questions to be asked to our hosts, dividing up the note-taking and blogging tasks. We ended most days with a group dinner and debriefing of the day. One of the greatest rewards for me has been seeing Denmark through the eyes of the students, and seeing them grow, open up and mature each day of the trip. They are now all speaking of doing further international internships or student exchanges. They seem so stimulated by what they have learned, and one sentence I kept hearing was ‘Wow, why didn’t we think of that in Québec!’. Future engineers who are finding inspiration in other innovative ways of thinking, of building, of developing and conceiving… GREAT! I was surprised to hear them reflecting back on some of the theoretical models they learned in intercultural communication, and saying that the visits in Denmark really brought them to life.

All of our hosts were incredibly generous with their time, and we were treated like Royalty everywhere we went. The students were deeply impressed by this generosity, and with the very professional yet laid-back and informal spaces that were created for us all to be at ease and have authentic conversations.


Final assessment 

I can conclude with certainty that this study tour has been a success on the following levels:

This trip is the beginning of further collaboration and partnerships with the universities and companies we visited in Denmark, and we very much look forward to sustaining these new relationships. 

The students are deeply affected by this
experience, which may alter their career or life choices. Having been exposed to the industrial collaborations of our Professor Jérémie Voix in Denmark (in the field of acoustics), some of the students are now curious about post-graduate studies and see how research can be applied to industry.

The evolution of students in such a short time has been remarkable on the following levels: self-confidence, English language skills, organisation, initiative, protocol, humility, group work, punctuality, dress code and politeness, oral presentation skills, openness to difference.

The students met Danish students who they had met over Skype in preparation for the trip. It was as though they were seeing old friends again, and from what they tell me, they will all stay in touch. Who knows where these new friendships may lead!

Thank you for reading, and do stay tuned for our next project in 2013! 

Annick Corbeil


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étudiant et de la coordination
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