On April 23 – 27, 2018 two higher education institutions – Vilnius Business College and SMK University of Applied Social Sciences – under Erasmus+ organized a joint international week: Accepting Diversity in Vilnius, Lithuania. We hosted guests from 14 countries: Turkey, Estonia, UK, Kosovo, Spain, Slovakia, Portugal, Poland, Germany, France, Macedonia, Czech Republic, Laos and South Korea. The conference was about integration of international students and staff members on campus. The topics comprised migrant and refugee integration, attitudes, policies and relocation, documentation and legal requirements, challenges that foreigners face while integrating into Lithuanian society, best practices to integrate international students on campus. Issues and challenges of foreigners’ employment in Lithuania were also discussed, as well as foreign students’ internships and practical training. Different experiences were shared, both by guests, lecturers, admission staff and international students who already study successfully.
During the days of the conference Unity in Diversity project was presented to the participants. Its benefits and outputs were explained and online tasks introduced. Booklets of UID project were included into the info pack for each conference visitor.
As planned, I spent a week giving a series of disseminations to the many contacts I have in Alto Adige, northern Italy, who have been very interested in the language materials that we have created in our two recent EU projects.
Without exception they all wanted to know what was new and what reactions we have had from others that we have demonstrated the various items to.
The family that runs the hotel where I stay in Maso Corto, near Merano, are always keen to say how much they have been enjoying the materials that I have shown them previously, especially the 4 smartphone apps and the digital maps, and want to know if we plan to extend them or add new languages.
The owner of the hotel, Giuliana Gurschler, is hugely enthusiastic. Her four children each runs a different department. The eldest, Hermann, previously ran the very popular “Gurschler pub” late in the evening but now runs the bar - which includes providing lunch in the extensive sun lounge to large numbers of guests, especially when the weather does not temp them to eat elsewhere.
Martina is responsible for bookings and keeps a tight control of finance. She is generally at the reception desk. She always asks about our plans for extending our language materials as she obviously makes good use of them herself.
Michael has now taken over running the pub which opens at 23.00. The rest of the day he helps at the bar and serving lunches in the sun-lounge.
Carolina is expecting her first child but is still active helping her sister at reception and serving at dinner. She is as enthusiastic as ever about the digital maps and wanted to now if I plan to add more photographs, which she says adds a new and very attractive dimension to them. She finds the map exercises that we offer in all the languages particularly interesting and hopes we will add more.
The hotel was full, and Edi was not able to spend as much time with me as usual but assured me that she is still a great supporter of our project and makes use of many of our materials.
During the week I invited to dinner two of my close contacts who live in the area and who are really enthusiastic about our language materials. Thomas Rainer who works at the hotel Goldener Rosa in the nearby village of Certosa is now responsible for the bar. I made friends with him when he was the receptionist at the hotel I stayed at when I first came to Maso Corto twenty years ago. He loves the digital maps and wanted to know if we plan to extend them. He was intrigued that I was able to include in them so many items that were inspired by Maso Corto and its facilities.
The other dinner guest was Margit Blaas, who teaches at a school in Merano.
The pupils who are between 14 and 18 mostly end up working in local hotels although it is not officially a hotel school. She finds our materials extremely motivating and is trying to get her colleagues to use them on a regular basis with their students. The area is bi-lingual because it is now part of Italy but was formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The result is that most people speak either Italian or German and are not very competent at the other language. Margit is fully bilingual and uses both in her teaching. This is a great opportunity for the students to improve their ability in their second language.
Margit wanted to ask me some points about the 4 smartphone apps so we agreed to meet on the day I left to come home. She met me when my bus arrived in her village, Naturno, on my final Saturday, and she came with me on the train to Merano so we could talk and I could demonstrate the four apps on my smartphone. I was impressed how familiar she was with the apps. She stressed again the high quality of both the German and the Italian in the apps.
Fortunately on this trip I was able to have a session with Ossi Rainer who was away during my visit last November. He is now working in the Ski Service shop in Maso Corto with Stefan Weithaler who was previously Restaurant Manager at the Hotel Gurschler where I got to know him. They are both as interested as ever, so were disappointed when I told them that we had no plans to do a further project, extending our present range of materials.
I was hoping for an opportunity to have a session with Robert, Christine and Magdalena Koch who I gave a dissemination to at their Goldenes Kreuz Hotel two years ago, but it seems that the hotel was not very successful and they may be closing.
As there is no return flight late in the day from Salzburg to London Stansted, I again stayed overnight at the airport hotel in Salzburg where I had stayed previously. It was an opportunity to have a useful session with the staff that I had got to know on previous trips. They had enjoyed the further details that I v had sent them by email after my visit in November. This time they had been joined by a new receptionist who came from the Phillipines. He was intrigued to learn about the language materials that we have created and was keen to know how to access them so that he could improve not only his English but also his German.
Although our project will end in June, I will continue to visit Maso Corto from time to time and will do what I can to keep the interest alive in our project materials amongst the many contacts that I have shown them to.
Primrose Publishing LTD, UK