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Erasmus VET: an accompanying person perspective

09/04/2019 Traineeship
Erasmus VET: an accompanying person perspective

Quique Miana, Mundus vice-president, Anna Skocz and Magdalena Lenartowicz, and Javier Royo, VET hosting coordinator

Erasmus VET in Spain. We have talked with Anna Skocz and Magdalena Lenartowicz, two Polish accompanying persons that came to Zaragoza, mentoring two groups of students that come from the Poland for a 4-weeks traineeship in Zaragoza, Spain, thanks to the Erasmus+ VET programme. Anna and Magdalena have visited the companies of their students, tutored them and have got to know Mundus a bit better.

What is your role as an accompanying person?

Magdalena: I see it like mentoring, helping them with the daily life, with the integration, encouraging the understanding of a different culture

Anna: We support them during all 4 weeks, but especially during the first days, we are making an evaluation of how their activities are evolving, and this means that in the first place we become aware of what are they doing , how are they executing it, what are they learning. I do it through individual talks, observations and also a little bit of animations to make them feel more relaxed, and interested. Another task is the management of the activities.

Also we show them the city and the most attractive places, we try to help them with integration in a whole new environment and culture. They are very young, they have difficulties with the language, both English and Spanish, and since the communication is the main channel of integration we support them into trying to learn new words and communicate.

What schools are you representing and how many students do you have?

Magdalena: I’m the accompanying person of a group of 25 students coming from the Powiatowy Zespol Szkol, and they are students of four different courses: economics, hotel technicians, food technicians and mechanics.

Anna: I’m in charge of a group of 15 students, half girls and half boys, coming from the Technikum Zawodowe Centrum Ksztalcenia Zawodowego i Ustawicznego; they are part of the secondary level education in Poland and some of them have already had an experience like this in our coutries, and for some others instead is their first professional experience.

For how long will they be doing this traineeship?

They are staying in Zaragoza for a month, and we are with them for the whole project.

What is your general impression of the project?

Magdalena: I have noticed how with time passing they become more open and adapted to the new culture. At the beginning everything was weird for them, they used to stay in their accommodation and go out only for the compulsory activities, the main fear was the language and how to approach eventually people. After they started to ask about places and where could they go to meet new people. For example, two students of mine have asked me about bars and clubs, about some places where to experience fun.

Another improvement was their effort to learn some words of Spanish and nor the less they have become more independent. So for sure there was an evolution since the beginning.

Anna: I agree with my colleague, I have noticed the same improvements in my group of students, now they have a deeper feeling of the culture and also the idea of the acceptance of the diversity.

What has had the higher impact so far in the students?

Anna and Magdalena: Some of them have referred to this very interesting phenomenon: the students were ‘shocked’ by the approach that the companies have in Spain regarding the duties and the concept of work. In Poland we have a very rigid work system and kids grow up with the idea of hard work as a life goal, it is a very intense concept. It is like: "we are ready to work", and seeing this lack of pressure in Spain was not taken as something positive, but with a critic judgmental approach of saying “they are not working”. As accompanying persons, our duty has been to show them the existence of different economic systems and to promote the acceptance of other models that are successful even if they are really different. So learning was their task and not judging.

I think some of their learnings and conclusions will show up probably after a bit of time, the time they need to process all this news, such as seeing how not working intensively doesn’t necessarly mean the result will be less efficient.

Do you have any particular interesting story from the students?

Magdalena: there was this funny episode about the language crossing process, so one of the companies tutor was not speaking English at all and the guys were not speaking Spanish so one day he wrote on a piece of paper the word “Bored?” but he did it in Polish and the guys found it very funny. An enjoyable and surprising moment.

What do you think will be the biggest impact on them when they go back to Poland?

Magdalena: I think the biggest impact will be seeing the different perspectives of a different system; especially for the students of economics and technicians classes, learning that other organisational structures exist, as well as that relationships between the people inside the company might be different.

Anna: One of the key skills that emerge from the post-evaluation analysis is the self-organizing skill. For the first time many student discover how is living on their own, when “Mum is not here”. They are learning ‘the real life’, basic things such as buying food, cooking, washing, taking care of money, taking care of themselves.

They also learn to be part of a group, so team work and team building. And they learn to manage a new language and to challenge their usual way of thinking because in another country people might think differently. They get prepared for adult life and learned to respect.

Why is Zaragoza a good place to carry out an Erasmus+ VET traineeship?

Magdalena: For me Zaragoza is a very interesting mix of culture, tourism and daily life. Is not too big so you can spend some time watching also the life of the local people and learn their traditions.

Anna: The size of the city fits the student's habits because they come from villages. Zaragoza is a perfect combination of challenge and safety. For youngsters is safe and in 20 minutes they can be everywhere. For example compared with Barcelona, Zaragoza is more handy because Barcelona for its dimensions could be more difficult to manage for someone so young and on a first experience abroad.

What did you like about Mundus as a hosting organisation?

Magdalena: Mundus managed the mobility in a very professional way and also with a very good atmosphere, welcoming, and with a quick problem solving approach; they pay attention to the students, they communicate in order to find solutions, they focus on the required things.

Anna: I liked the hospitality, I have found the people in the organization who are friendly and supportive. I have noticed devotion, and the wish to get along with the students.

This is very contrasting with Poland for example; Polish people are more closed and the approach is not so welcoming because they are frustrated and stressed, coldness can be perceived as well as negative emotions. The group in Zaragoza instead has showed a warm hospitality.

Mundus supported very well us very well as well. We were shown the things, we also had the possibility to attend a language course that Mundus provided after our personal and individual requests over it. Individual necessities are taken seriously in consideration.

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Erasmus | VET | Zaragoza | Poland | companies |