Exploring new projects, ideas, learning and exchange formats
Living within the global village with almost no cross-cultural barriers concerning the overcome of distances and similar issues, a huge amount of digital possibilities and a never-failing access to online and human resources, people are more than ever tempted and challenged in their personal decision-making process by choosing what really matters and plays an essential role in their everyday lives. Variety (great mass of influences) meets responsibility (human constraints) and thus the way people structure and shape their relationships and time-schedules is guided towards a certain direction.
Thinking about ways of how to improve the transatlantic relationships basically involves the question, how human beings “function”. A world that somehow seems to “serve everything on a silver dinner tray” (German proverb), results in the focus-shift of human beings from initiative towards consumption. People are satisfied with the so called “status-quo”, as exploring new things would require an extra amount of effort. Understanding the foundation pillars of the human nature and current tendencies within societies of different countries, leads to the awareness that openness towards new cultures, intercultural competence and curiosity cannot be realized within a preconditioned manner.
For this reason, human beings need relevant, realistic and manageable impulses from their environments. One the one hand, these impulses imply being attractive and fresh enough to awake interest and one the other hand, they demand to a certain degree plausibility, relevance and simplicity within the specific living context of the human being. Schools and universities and other forms of educational systems can create a frame for attractive and meaningful learning moments and intercultural encounters. Their role of shaping and influencing the value-system of human beings is often under-estimated. However, their impact is crucial. By using the method of forming an international tandem for learning and exchange, different people of different cultures (e.g. German and American culture) can be brought together easily.
This learning format on a peer to peer level can be applied already in schools, in universities and in other institutions of higher education. Basically, an intercultural tandem consists of two people with different cultural backgrounds. Surely, the degree of difference can be also greater. For instance, there can be as well differences within religious attitudes/mindsets and different languages, that are spoken.
Nevertheless, the common ground for communication processes should be a common Lingua Franca, in this case English. Pupils or students could be brought together/find another through a simple digital system, that offers the opportunity to find a suitable tandem partner based on a digital profile, which includes relevant information (interests, age, religion, language, dreams, books, quotations). This digital tool for searching for a suitable tandem partner should be accessible to all members of the institution (school, university) regardless of the financial background of the person. Hence, interculturality stays at the level of being reachable for all people instead of becoming something that matters only for an elite.
After having found a suitable tandem partner, the teacher, lecturer or instructor sets the frame for the intercultural project. He or she explains the rules of the international tandem. In general, they are flexible and ever changing, depending on the group of people. But there are also some base lines that should be applied. For instance, the international tandem should be able to figure out a project both want to work on within a specific time frame. The tandem is free in choosing, what they want to create.
Their product can result of common passions and fields of interests. Both are only asked to get a project realized within a certain period. After choosing their project idea, they are challenged, to find a mentor that will support them with their project. The mentor could already be an expert within the topic, the tandem wants to work on. The mentor will also be invited by the institution. He or she will also be able to guide the tandem regarding intercultural phenomena that could accrue during the common working process. Thus, learning gets interactive, intercultural and self-responsible. Young people are challenged to organize their learning process based on foreign language skills, common interests and by planning their project step by step. This requires important project management skills and soft skills (teamwork, accountability, responsibility, tolerance, ambiguity, the ability to handle frustration).
Following this path of innovative learning enables young people at a very early stage in their lives to deal with responsibility towards their resources and possibilities. As they are put into a situation of choosing their own topic that they want to deepen, they start to focus on what matters and what they want to achieve collaboratively and personally.
Possible topics for such an intercultural and interactive exchange can differ among the tandem groups. Besides how to teach each other within a certain subject (e.g. history), tandem partners can support each other in learning a language together (in this case the expert could be a native speaker of this chosen language), creating a piece of art together (e.g. poetry slam) or work on a scientific project (scientific research project) together. Their results will be presented after having reached the end of the given time frame. The presentation will be held in front of an audience. This could also be another reason of motivation.
In order to deepen relationships among different cultural groups and to build bridges among Germans and Americans, sustainable and attractive learning formats and offers are required. By implementing the intercultural tandem for learning and exchange young people are positively pushed into a brighter frame of learning and exploring cultural differences and new ideas. Being followed and led by experienced mentors they get the necessary knowledge and understanding for possible misunderstandings, conflict management and the expert knowledge, the need for their common project. The international tandem meets the need of encounters among young people and offers the possibility to develop personal skills as well as abilities that are urgent for future responsibilities and duties.