Teaching abroad: Reflection on Erasmus in Indonesia

It’s not just students that are eligible to spend an exchange semester abroad with grants like Erasmus+, faculty members like Milda Zilinskaite from the English Business Communication department at WU Vienna have this opportunity as well. Zilinskaite took the chance to leave her comfort zone and spent some time in Indonesia.

The opportunity for me to travel to Yogyakarta (or Yogya, as locals call it) and hold lectures at the Universitas Gadjah Mada Faculty of Economics and Business through the Erasmus+ mobility program surfaced unexpectedly. I did not have a contact at the UGM. The person responsible for organizing the visit, Dr. Rangga Almahendra, on the other hand, was more than familiar with our university. He had completed his Ph.D. at the WU back in 2010 and has since been a bridge-builder between the two institutions. His ideas for the core theme of this exchange were focused around Leadership Communication, which is a field I am especially interested in. Thus, when I received a call for interest from Ms. Marlene Wahlmüller from the WU’s International Office, I did not hesitate to apply.

Think outside the box

Due to the differences in academic calendars, I was only able to spend five days in Yogyakarta (April 10-15, 2017). Nonetheless, it was an incredibly eventful and rewarding week. My teaching responsibilities at the UGM included two three-hour long lectures on Diversity and Intercultural Communication, with different foci for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, I gave a research talk to Ph.D. students and faculty, followed by a Q/A session. What started as a series of questions regarding a research project I presented, ended as an hour long discussion on how to identify gaps in existing literature, how to question and challenge established theories and to not be afraid of “thinking outside the box”. Later on that day, I was approached by two doctoral students who asked for informal advice on their dissertations. After my return to Vienna, we have continued these conversations through email.

Apart from the lectures and the talk, I had the pleasure to participate in the screening of the movie 99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa, following which, Dr. Almahendra and I held a joint Q/A session on cross-cultural and religious differences, or, better put in this case, similarities and potential syntheses. I cannot emphasize enough how much I learned that day from students’ questions and participation in our discussion. Same as with above mentioned lectures and the talk, I found myself to be a co-learner. We all know that meaningful learning is the type of learning that sticks and continues long after one leaves the classroom. In that regard, I have acquired meaningful experiences that continue shaping my research and teaching today, here, back at the WU.

Besides the participation in academic activities, Dr. Almahendra and Ms. Hani Mufidak (a tireless assistant!) organized several off-campus trips, all off the tourist routes (!), including an unforgettable sunrise bike-ride near Mount Murapi, getting one’s feet muddy in the rice fields, and tasting unbeatable local cuisine.

It goes without saying, I am more than happy with my experience at the UGM, and I look forward to future opportunities to participate in Erasmus+.  Highly recommend!

#erasmus #erasmusplus #teaching #abroad #exchangesemester