Positive experiences for Foreign Exchange Students during year of COVID-19 24 June 2021

Research conducted by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Malta for the European Universities of the Seas (SEA-EU Alliance) has revealed that while the number of ERASMUS students has understandably gone down, the majority of students who were able to travel, amounting to 95.5% of the respondents to follow lectures, could enjoy the benefits of experiencing life in a different European country.

Furthermore, students have declared that they were given adequate support when needed. This included psychological support, logistical support for quarantine purposes and medical support. The SEA-EU Universities have ensured that the student support which is readily available to domestic students is also made unavailable to international students.

During the academic year 2020/2021, SEA-EU accepted its first cohort of students, during which 99 students availed themselves of the opportunity to go on an Erasmus mobility exchange through this initiative.

The survey collected 70 responses detailing the international students’ experiences to gain insight into the impact the pandemic has had on international student mobility.

Through the SEA-EU Alliance, which 61.5% of respondents said they were not aware of, possibly because it is still in its infancy, and partly because a number of planned outreach projects had to be cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, students enrolled at a university that is part of the Alliance are able to study at any other partner university through Erasmus mobility.

It consists of the University of Cádiz (Spain) as the lead partner, along with Université de Bretagne Occidentale in Brest (France), University of Kiel (Germany), University of Gdańsk (Poland), University of Split (Croatia) and the University of Malta (Malta).

During this academic year the University of Cadiz, the University of Malta and the University of Split welcomed the most students, while Université de Bretagne Occidentale in Brest, the University of Gdansk, and the University of Cadiz sent out the most students.

The majority of classes were held online, while some courses offered blended options.

With regards to the quality of lectures, again the majority of students reported overall positive satisfaction over the means and methods used to deliver lectures. The majority of respondents provided positive evaluations primarily for their host university’s use of digital learning tools and platforms (66.1%). This is followed by access to educational materials (60.7%), information provision on how to make use of online tools (57.1%), quality of learning activities (57.1%), interaction with lecturers during online activities (55.3%), and readiness to implement online activities (50%).

Mixed feelings were reported by foreign exchange students with regards to the level of integration and interaction with the local students of the SEA-EU Universities, as the students were split over how satisfied they were with their interaction with local students. 28.6% of respondents provided a neutral answer, 30.4% said that their interactions with local students were negative, while 32.1% of international students remarked that they had an overall positive relationship with local domestic students.

The full report, titled ‘Student Mobility in Europe in times of COVID-19’, may be accessed online.
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