Jurgita Babarskienė, LCC professor in the Department of Social Sciences, recently visited the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) as a part of the Erasmus+ program. The participation in Erasmus+ exchange programs is always a great opportunity for LCC and its faculty to enhance their networking circle and foster academic relationships across different cultures.
Our first contact through the Erasmus+ program was with a professor from Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, who came to teach last Spring semester in 2018 in the Social Sciences department. There were other professors who came to LCC through Erasmus+ and taught in our Social Sciences department previously. They taught in my classes, and we got a chance to know each other a bit. The Center for International Education (CIE) office was trying to find someone who would like to go somewhere through the Erasmus+ program. My colleague and I showed interest, but unfortunately, there was only one opportunity and one grant to go to UCU. I agreed to go since I already knew a little bit about the university and their professors. I applied for the grant, did the paperwork, had all the details planned and went to UCU for a week. The grant includes a per diem as well as travel expenses and it was enough for the accommodation and food expenses. The whole exchange program for faculty always takes one week: five days of teaching and two days of travel. It usually happens in the fall and then in the spring, so it is possible to choose dates of your visit with the university.
I had to give a proposal beforehand and arrange topics for the lectures with the UCU department there. After approval for the lectures on their side, I also received a schedule of lectures, so in total I had ten hours of teaching. I was teaching different psychology topics from interpersonal communication, from the area of developmental psychology, and I was sharing some information about the practical work I am doing. Even though classes in UCU are mainly in Ukrainian, students speak English well, so I had no trouble teaching in English and everyone was very proactive. Everything was organized and planned out ahead of time, which was nice. I also got a chance to attend a few classes as well as some events and dinners.
I can speak about it more from the Social Sciences department perspective. We have established really good connections and we are thinking of maybe doing something together with some of the faculty from UCU. One of the ladies from UCU is coming to LCC this Spring semester to be our thesis chair. I think there is more room for future cooperation in terms of faculty and student exchange. When I was in Lviv, I met a student who was at LCC on the Erasmus program in the past and she was also in one of my classes. It was really nice to meet and hear her feedback about being in LCC for a semester. Traveling to UCU in Lviv might seem far, but it is a small world and you might meet some of the people that visited LCC in the past, so in a way it seems that there are no boundaries anymore.
I think one of the biggest advantages is to visit UCU and see how things are done in a similar setting. UCU and LCC are both privately owned universities with Christian values, similar liberal arts emphasis and international flavor. It is also beneficial to see how faculty and staff develop in their fields and what they do there. From a professional experience, I think it is helpful to go and establish connections with faculty and staff. While visiting UCU I went on tours around the university, talked to people from different departments, and many were interested in possible collaboration. We can have faculty visiting LCC with their students, or coming for different events and conferences. I think the faculty would benefit from just going outside of their everyday world and seeing how things are done elsewhere. I was amazed at the amount of work they are doing: publishing, organizing conferences and other things. Another interesting thing is that they have dorms where people with different disabilities live. They have a program that helps these students to integrate into the community, so the students and the faculty relate to them in a way by being a part of a larger community. In terms of professional development it was an amazing trip and it can be an interesting experience for other faculty, especially if they speak Russian. Even though they all speak English, when they were speaking in Ukrainian I could understand most of things, but I had to listen very carefully. However, I did not feel like an alien or an outsider while in UCU, the atmosphere, and everyone around me were very welcoming.
I was very surprised by the students. When you go to a new place, you never know what to expect, but the students were extremely active. It was more like a dialogue than a lecture. They are lovely students, very bright and interested in psychology, so I think that kind of international experience would be great for other faculty and staff.