As a recent Master graduate of International and European Relations I have always been fascinated by borders and more precisely by the EU’s influence on them. Driven by this fascination, it may come with little surprise that I started working on an EU-funded INTERREG project at the Transboundary Policy Department of the Département Moselle (France). United in Diversity is the EU’s official motto - living and working together peacefully while preserving our own cultural identities. But how does that work? And how can we make it work? The many INTERREG projects taking place all over the EU and sometimes even beyond are one of the beautiful answers to this question.
As for my part, I am an INTERREG Youth Volunteer Project Partner in a project dealing with Multilingualism, Interculturality and Employabilty. The Département Moselle is the lead partner of the INTERREG VA project SESAM’GR. The project is implemented in the “Grande Région/ Groβregion” which consists of Lorraine (France), Saarland (Germany), Rheinland-Pfalz (Germany), Luxembourg, parts of Wallonia (Belgium) and the German speaking community of Belgium. The main priority is the development of an integrated labor market in the Grande Région through the promotion of education, training and mobility. In this framework, the specific goal is to increase employability and access to the cross-border labor market.
During my first two months here, I was able to learn a lot about these 4 countries and 5 regions, which may be sometimes united by language but still very different in its culture and administrative systems, too.
Together with its 14 project partners, the Département Moselle is the interface between abstract goals and concrete implementation. Many initiatives have been and will be implemented with the help of pedagogues of formal and non-formal education. It is not just about single projects but rather about triggering structures that will be lasting beyond the project. Therefore, often projects and initiatives of the region that already exist are picked up by SESAM and the cross-border dimension is added.
This means, for example, that frequently two classes from two different regions participate in the same activity, so that they not just get to know their neighbor and his culture but also they are given the possibility of developing intercultural competences when working on exercises in mixed teams. The topics range between subjects on the framework of Education for Sustainable Development, Digitalization, Cultural Patrimony and much more.
A concrete example is the Technobot Tournament which is an established format that should be realized for the first time at a cross-border level in 2018. Several cross-border pairs of schools from different countries of the Grande Région design, program and build two little robots that will have to go through a course, transporting a golf ball together. At the final tournament, the school pairs come together with their robots and the best team will be selected.
This project does not just teaches and promotes intercultural competences, technical know-how but also triggers the student’s interest for new technologies and related occupational areas.
SESAM’GR’s initiatives target both students and teachers. Training and informing the teachers and making them multipliers is a central part of SESAM’GR. It is always fascinating to observe the creativity, ambition and optimism of the teachers who, after all, are the engines of implementation.
Recently I was participating in the SESAM’GR networking and training event directed towards pedagogues of the Grande Région. They had the chance to exchange best practices and find new partners for further collaboration. I supported a workshop on Interculturality, where participants exchanged view points and discussed on different question on this very complex concept. What reverberated was that exchange is crucial and that acquiring intercultural competences is a process which makes us realize that we may not just be French, German, Luxembourgian or Belgian but also European Citizens.