After welcoming the students all along Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and getting to know each other at least briefly through meetings at the hotel as well as dinners arranged for participants on Sunday and Monday, pilot course 2 officially takes off Tuesday at 9.30 in the morning!!
We have our first warming up session with Andrea in the Central Library’s meeting room, where we all share anecdotes, challenges and difficulties faced by participants during their journey up to the moment of the beginning of our week in León. Though not very skillful at drawing, we somehow seem to manage to sketch our journeys across a map of Europe without moving European cities and countries too much from their original settlement!
After that, all participants and members of the project are welcomed to the city of León and its University by the Vicerector of International Affairs, the Vicedean of the Faculty of Arts, the Vicehead of the Department of Modern Languages and the Manager of the International Office. Their warm welcome takes place in the building of the Faculty of Arts on campus.
Coffee break is not really a session of the course, but must be mentioned at least once in this travellog because of all the interaction taking place among the participants, as well as all the ham munching going on! Also called a second breakfast break, it has brought us all together around the table and contributed to some intercultural training, as we have lost track of time and had to haste back to our session’s room in a very Southern European way…
Our first session in the classroom on the first floor of the Library was held with Anne. We focused on the different meanings a picture could convey depending on the eye of the beholder, as well as his or her own culture and country of origin. We all enjoyed the task of identifying one single picture associated only with our own country, specially because this exercise was done in intercultural pairs and faced us with the difficulty of characterizing our own cultures without giving in to stereotypes. This “only in” exercise sure helped to single out some of our cultural peculiarities!
The last session on Tuesday morning focused on non-verbal communication. We all enjoyed Vera and Dot’s acting skills very much! Their sketch was the start of a lively dialogue among the participants concerning body language, strong emotions and non-verbal communication in each of their countries. Even though there are similarities we were all surprised to know the different meanings attached in other cultures to certain gestures, vocalics, inter-personal distance or physical contact. Our curiosity actually spilled over the time limits of the session as we continued chatting about it on our way out of the classroom!