Sharing experience with participation in the INOTLES inter-university course
By Lea Lobel, MGSOG, Maastricht University
Studying Public Policy and having a background in European Law, I am always looking for new insights in how policy debates are driven in European institutions. The EU Tempus project on Innovating Teaching and Learning of European Studies (INOTLES) gave me the chance to exchange views on European integration. Not only did I meet like-minded students from Europe but I also studied with students from countries that are not yet part of the European Union.
The INOTLES European Studies course is offered by the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Maastricht University and other partner schools in Europe but also with universities from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. It started in October with the study of online material and webinars in which the student participants had the opportunity to get to know each other as well as our mentors from the different universities. Spread over the course period, we were asked to work on group assignments, making use of our newly acquired knowledge but also of ideas that we ourselves brought into the discussion. There was a lot of room to express our own interests among the groups from EU foreign policy to neighbourhood policy.
Without doubt, the highlight of the course was to finally meet all the participants in person in Brussels this March. The three days were filled with group presentations on current policy debates, a simulation of a European Council meeting and the visit of the European Parliament. In particular, a round table debate with policy officers of the European Commission (DG NEAR) offered us, especially the students from neighbouring countries, a platform to voice ideas and concerns on EU integration, which developed as an implicit focus of this course.
I like to learn flexibly and to decide on my own when I want to learn. Therefore, I enjoyed the INOTLES online learning course very much. Study material was readily available, with realistic timeframes to complete chapters depending on time constraints in the regular curriculum. Our mentors were always open to answer any questions that we had. This way, the course fit perfectly and easily in my curriculum, additionally to the courses of my master programme.
It is the cultural exchange between European students and students from pre-accession countries which really added value to my experience throughout the course. As a European Law student and a “European citizen”, I often take the structures and outcomes of the EU policy process for granted. Listening to the opinions of students that are either eager to see their countries make progress in accession or critically review actions of EU policy makers was very stimulating for my own perception of the learned material. Especially, meeting all students in person led to a better understanding of the many views that became already apparent through the online discussions. The meeting in Brussels created respect for different perspectives and working approaches. It reinforced my passion to further learn about European affairs and the integration process.