The following is a continuing reflection on our exchange with EUC Vest that commenced in March, 2005 with my initial visit to Esbjerg, Denmark. Little did we know the consequences of these initial visits and the impact on our students and instructors at Bellingham Technical College (BTC) and EUC Vest.
In May of 2005 John Mortensen brought a group of students to the BTC welding rodeo. They promptly won first prize for their welding sculpture in a general competition involving college students in the Pacific Northwest. We were off to what now is a ten year history of exchanges! In the late fall, closing in on Christmas, we reciprocated and traveled to Denmark for our first exchange at EUC Vest (Now Rybners).
This year, 2015, the exchange started differently. In a money saving tactic we have been traveling between Bellingham and SEATAC on a shuttle bus service; we save a few hundred doing this. We allowed several hours over and above for travel but got caught up in a perfect storm of the a Seahawks game and a drenching rainstorm. As we were dropped off by the shuttle at the airport our plane was leaving. We were three hours later than our projected trip. Not the ideal beginning for an international exchange.
While traveling on the bus, and stuck in traffic at I-90 / I-405 interchange, I called Delta Airlines and was informed that the cost to change the tickets, because of missing our flight, would be $7500 each… Somewhat under my breath I stated that this exchange trip was over. At this point the lady asked some questions about who we were and what we were traveling for. She then put us in contact with Delta’s Salt Lake City international reservations group and we were able to fly on the next flight out on the next day. This was unbelievable customer service on the part of Delta Airlines.
Life is a sum of our experiences. We were lucky to be traveling with such a great group of appreciative students that were able to roll with the experience of being late, problem solving and moving on. We traveled on as if nothing happened and had another experience of a lifetime for our students. We even had a little bit of fun.
All of our students in 2015 again participated in on-the-job experiences at the workplaces of their Danish student hosts and lived with them in their homes at various locations in the country for the first week in country.
The second week was different for the students this year. The Danish students hosted our students individually in their family homes. They shared meals together, in a family setting, and traveled back and forth to school each day together. They met their respective extended families and their friends and interacted on a highly personal level. Once again the students have all commented on what a rich experience this was and that they’ll never forget it. To a person they all want to encourage next year’s students to apply for the exchange because of the opportunities it has presented to them.
In education we ask many questions about outcomes. “What did we learn?”, is a question often posed. The students learned about many things. One example is the controlled climbing and rigging that they recieved instruction on and experienced in a practicum. During this day they learned about working safe in wind turbine towers and what would be expected of them in an emergency situation. All of the students were required to problem solve and work as a team. They also had to work through any language and cultural differences to achieve positive results.
What were the educational outcomes achieved on this trip and how do we measure those outcomes? Only time and the actions of our students will tell. It is my hope that their individual reports and final presentation will capture a bit of that and that we can continue to participate in this exchange with Rybners.
This exchange only happens because of the forethought of Inger & Jens Bruun, and the continued support from the Scan|Design Foundation, that was created for the exchange of students from Washington State and Denmark. I often think of them looking down upon us in awe and wonder at what they created for our students. Who knows if they had an inkling of the impact that this exchange has had on our students? And who knows the future impact on our two societies through the actions of our students?