06 Feb 2024

A student perspective on COIL

1000x667_Blog_A student perspective on COIL


COIL and other forms of virtual exchange have grown enormously in popularity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the growing discussion around COIL in recent years we’ve often considered it from perspectives ranging from institutional strategy to teaching and learning – but what about the students? Today’s blog offers a perspective from a student who recently participated in a COIL project as part of her studies, reflecting on what such online collaboration has meant for her personal and professional trajectory.

In 2023 I embarked on a double Bachelor’s programme at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA) and the Berlin School of Economics and Law (BSEL). The pinnacle of this experience was my involvement in a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) project. This immersive journey redefined my approach to cultural diversity and collaboration, offering a unique perspective on global teamwork and cross-border project management.

Collaborative learning across borders

COIL is an innovative educational approach that connects students and professors from different countries to work on collaborative projects. This virtual exchange approach allows participants to work with international peers, offering a platform for intercultural communication and collaborative learning not only about the content covered, but also about intercultural and cross-border collaboration, without the need for physical travel.

In our COIL project, we collaborated with the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York on two distinct projects over a span of four months. Following a university-led kickoff and initial introductions, the responsibility for the four-month collaboration rested within our intercultural team comprising five students from three different cultural backgrounds and countries.

The COIL project was a catalyst for developing more self-awareness and a better understanding of my role in a multicultural world

The projects that we were working on centred around the theme ‘Beyond the Single Story’, inspired by Chimamanda Adichie's TED Talk. The two projects we worked on included a thoughtful examination of our own cultural backgrounds, aimed at fostering a deeper understanding among team members and a comprehensive exploration of an unfamiliar culture by conducting joint interviews with individuals from this new cultural landscape.

Engaging with people from diverse backgrounds allowed us to step into their world, understand their viewpoints, and appreciate the richness of their cultural heritage. This immersive experience was instrumental in developing empathy, flexibility and a deep appreciation for global diversity. These skills, critical in today’s interconnected world, have become integral to my professional identity, empowering me to effectively engage and collaborate in a multicultural environment.

In addition to skills and knowledge gathered trough the content preparation, we learned a lot about mastering virtual and international teamwork, as our responsibilities extended to structuring our collaboration across borders, overcoming digital barriers and different time zones, as well as trying out diverse working methods.

The tasks that we had to solve during the projects challenged our team to move beyond simplistic cultural narratives. This experience taught me to appreciate the complexity and richness of different cultures, helping to dismantle stereotypes and develop a more nuanced worldview as well as learn how to structure our teamwork effectively.

Applying skills in real-world scenarios

The COIL project went beyond theoretical knowledge, providing real-world applications of intercultural communication and collaboration. This hands-on experience was crucial in developing my problem-solving skills, critical thinking and ability to work effectively in diverse teams. I have had a lot of experiences in both professional and personal situations where the knowledge and competencies I acquired have been instrumental and valuable.

One of the most significant aspects of the COIL project was the opportunity to build a global network. Connecting with peers and professionals from New York, I developed relationships that have continued to provide insights and opportunities beyond the duration of the project. These connections have not only enriched my personal life but have also opened doors to potential future collaborations in my professional career.

Reflecting on my experiences, I realise how each interaction and challenge contributed to my personal growth. The COIL project was a catalyst for developing a more profound sense of self-awareness and a better understanding of my role in a multicultural world. It taught me the importance of continuous learning and adapting, qualities essential for success in today’s ever-evolving global environment.

In conclusion, the COIL project I participated in as part of my double Bachelor’s programme was a journey of immense personal and professional growth in only four months. It equipped me with invaluable skills and left me with a lifelong appreciation for the power of diverse narratives and intercultural understanding. This experience has not only prepared me for a successful career, as it taught me how teamwork in virtual and international contexts works best, but has also instilled a passion for fostering cross-cultural collaboration.