FHWS continues to collaborate with Mexico during the lockdown
Academic exchange and projects can be realised despite the pandemic
An academic exchange with Mexico during the pandemic – it works. However, the signs are different than they would otherwise be: it is not plane tickets and insurance which are currently the focus, but rather coronavirus and the consequences and rules of conduct associated with it. Interdisciplinary, international projects can also be carried out digitally instead of in person: students can complete the Intercultural Certificate and, as from summer semester 2021, the KomPass International at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt as well as continuing education courses such as the machine learning module.
The incoming and outgoing student exchange also continues because interest is high on both sides. Before the pandemic, there were five outgoing applications at FHWS in 2020, for example, which could have been financed with scholarships from the Bayerisches Hochschulzentrum für Lateinamerika (Bavarian Academic Centre for Latin America, BAYLAT). They then had to be cancelled, however.
Mexicans also like to come to Germany as incoming students for full or part-time studies. Some students at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Tec), still wanted to do their exchange semester at FHWS despite the lockdown – now virtually – Juan Pablo Juárez Castro, FHWS Regional Manager for Western Europe and Latin America, reports.
For example, Alexander Bayerlein, student of Business Information Systems, is currently doing his internship at SSI Schäfer Automation in Puebla/Cholula in Mexico and would like to complete an exchange semester afterwards: “In addition to the wealth of experience that I have been able to gather so far in the professional aspects, I would of course also like to gain personal experience and get to know the country of Mexico more than just through tourist eyes.” The company has another production site in Giebelstadt. According to Bayerlein, he has been able to maintain contacts despite the lockdown and is looking forward to an exchange: “I am hopeful that I will be able to travel to Puebla in Mexico again for a semester abroad in 2022. I feel safe to the largest extent, and with the appropriate protective measures it is a very good place.”
Practice, projects, collaborations – Mexico is popular
How can we explain the keen interest in the Latin American country at FHWS and vice versa? On the one hand, the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt is so popular because only a few higher education institutions in Germany offer entire degree programmes as TWIN variants in English and students are therefore able to attend multiple seminars – with accreditation of more credit points. Incoming students also value the application-oriented study focus – studies in Mexico are generally more theoretical.
For German students in turn, Mexico – like Germany – is a strategic location for the automotive industry and is therefore interesting for an exchange: numerous German companies have sites there (e.g. AUDI AG, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG) with corresponding suppliers from the Lower Franconia region (such as Bosch Rexroth AG, Brose Fahrzeugteile SE & Co. SKF GmbH, Schaeffler Technologies AG & Co. KG). This results in numerous substantive connecting factors in the course content, in projects and collaborations (e.g. the international dual cooperative study programme). In 2019, FHWS was able to obtain funding from the Erasmus programme predominantly in order to finance incoming mobilities, including internships. Although these could not be carried out in the winter semester 2020/21, the time limits were extended so that mobility can still be financed.
In the summer semester 2021, the Faculty of Business and Engineering at FHWS will be offering the machine learning module, supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), together with Tec in Monterrey. This collaboration occurred on the basis of a tender by the DAAD on the one hand, and owing to interest at Tec in a collaboration with FHWS on the other. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jan Schmitt from FHWS and Prof. Ph. D. Rafael Batres from Tec work together with students from both countries. “On the one hand, the module is a great opportunity for students to work together on exciting tasks in international teams across continents. On the other hand, I am of the opinion that machine learning will develop into a sort of ‘hand tool’ for engineers in the future. Both aspects are therefore important skills which our graduates can further develop with this module,” says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Schmitt.
Intercultural on-boarding is offered in parallel with the academic content: here, both institutions are presented and differences and similarities between the participating countries of Germany and Mexico are discussed. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jan Schmitt, CIPS Centre Management at the Institute of Digital Engineering (IDEE) at FHWS, looks forward to the new international teaching format: “I am very excited by how our students will interact virtually with the Mexican students and complete the tasks they are set together. It will be a completely new experience for us as lecturers too, sharing lecture modules across the continents and providing advice and assistance to the students.”
Interest in scientific collaboration with Mexican colleagues is high and exists on an interdisciplinary basis across faculties: thus, for example, Prof. Dr. Tanja Kleibl in the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences at FHWS offers an integrated scientific symposium and an international conference in Mexico in the context of the summer school on the topic of “Defending lives at the border: Civil Societies support to strengthen migrants and refugees protagonism and their right to have rights”.
Partner higher education institutions in Latin America
FHWS maintains a continuous exchange of students, lecturers, professors and employees with three Latin American partner higher education institutions. These are
- Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla (Faculties of Economics and Business Administration, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science and Business Information Systems)
- Tecnológico de Monterrey (at multiple sites, double degree graduation possible) (Faculties of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Business Information Systems, Business and Engineering)
- Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (Faculty of Applied Natural Sciences and Humanities)