With the hope that in the near future we can yet again travel, I urge everybody to reflect upon the importance of internationalisation in every field and at every stage of our lives. It is never too late to open up to diverse cultures and learning a new language.
I am a firm believer in the importance of internationalisation. At home, at school, for leisure or for professional purposes, being international is indeed empowering in numerous aspects.
I had the chance to kick off my very own international path when I was sixteen and I was offered to go to Paris for a five-week traineeship thanks to the Leonardo Programme. For a teenage girl coming from a small Italian town, those five weeks in the French capital were a breakthrough. I became a new me thanks to such experience. I boosted my French and acquired a decent pronunciation (you all know that Italians can have strong accents, so that was really something for a languages fanatic like me). I gained so much self-confidence and I felt much more connected to my European identity than ever before. And that was only the beginning.
When pursuing my first master’s degree I enrolled in an Erasmus Mundus Master, which brought me to Spain, Italy, and Morocco—most importantly this program provided me and my peers with lecturers and professionals from all over the world. We studied in three different countries, while in reality we became connected with the entire world, as our teachers came from many different corners of the planet. It has been a very inspiring opportunity, which surely helped me shape what I wanted to achieve professionally.
Both as a student then and as a professional working in higher education now, I never doubted that the cultural awareness and all the soft skills you acquired through international mobility experiences are the keys to being more competitive in the job market and to bridging any social gaps.
At the end of 2015, the United Nations made this clear when setting The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Education is stated under Goal 4 of the SDGs: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” In this regard, not only state actors, but also major private “non-state” actors and multinational companies are involved and active in global education. Furthermore, this SDG promotes international education through some other targets, one of which reads as follow:
“By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity, and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development” (Target 4.7)
Internationalisation is Essential
This clearly demonstrates how pivotal internationalisation must be. Children, teenagers, and all age students need to expand their horizons, learn about new cultures and diverse ways of life to become true global citizens and be able to promote a positive change in their own societies.
On a less idealistic tone, an international curriculum will boost their employability opportunities and will give them a real advantage, both in terms of access to better paid jobs and because they will be more open minded and ready to work in a multi-cultural environment. I trust this is true even for those that could not have an international education when young. There is such a wide pool of opportunities one can seize when wishing to become more globally connected or more culturally aware!
Making a Post-Corona Strategy
Surely the coronavirus pandemic has proven particularly challenging for globe trotters and we started the new year not as rested and refreshed as we would have hoped to be. However, as the beginning of a new year is usually a time of proposition, I think we could all try to spare a moment and think about our own internationalisation strategy. No matter our age, our background, and our current conditions. How can we improve our position as global citizens and how can we strengthen the bridges that connect us to other cultures? Covid-19 is asking us to re-imagine daily life habits but also our international position and role. It is a big task but with some creativity and imagination this can be a very fertile ground to foster a positive change in our societies! •