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I’m international! Improving the international skills of rural youth Sonja Miettinen

Pictures: Tytti Lev채nen Taitto- ja painopaikka: Kopijyv채 Oy Mikkeli 2013

ISBN 978-951-588-368-1 (nid.) ISBN 978-951-588-369-8 (PDF)

Our Earth Hour Responsible global citizenship is founded on respect for human rights and preservation of our joint environment. These themes were heavily present when planning and implementing Our Earth Hour: an international LEADER-project aiming for youth participation and sustainable development. The project was executed between Veej’jakaja action group in Finland and Cambrésis action group in France. In Finland the project partners were the municipal youth administrations, youth councils and 4H organizations in Mäntyharju and Pieksämäki with Mikkeli university of applied sciences as project coordinator. The goal of the project was to promote active citizenship and international skills of young people in rural areas. Through Our Earth Hour the local youth were directed towards internationalization and living by the standards of sustainable development. The project was conducted in order to motivate young people to contribute to their regions with means of sustainable development and social inclusion, but also to enhance their possibilities and willingness to stay in their home region in their further life. The main project events were the two camps organized in Finland and in France in June-July 2012, which were accompanied by several smaller events. During the camps the youth got concrete experience about natural preservation and volunteering. The international skills of the youth grew significantly during the project. They learned about travelling and dealing with people from different cultures. The most important matter to the youth was their improved language skills. Everyone would participate in an international project in future and they would all recommend international youth activities to others, so we can consider the project as very successful. The project has given the local youth courage to internationalize, skills to communicate in their own and in a foreign language, new methods to influence the local decision making and valuable information about sustainable development and environmental protection. The project as a part of upbringing is encouraging the youth into active citizenship now and later, and it gives them a good offset into adult life. Marita Mattila Project Manager Our Earth Hour online Blog: Video:

What is internationalization? In the time of globalization, international encounters are inevitable. Internationalization is not a value in itself, but global encounters will help to bring forth many valuable skills. In the broadest sense, internationalization is more than good language skills. It requires openness and curiosity, ability to tolerate uncertainty and courage to interact in a foreign language. These attitudes and communication skills can be beneficial in later life. Internationalization is not just physical mobility abroad, it is a mindset. It means understanding cultural differences as well as skills to communicate and act in different circumstances with people from different cultural backgrounds. A successful international experience involves comparing what one has learned in another culture to what one appreciates in one’s own culture, and how to combine these aspects in later life. Being “a global soul”, that is to see oneself as a member of the world community, requires intercultural experience as well as capacity to engage that experience transformatively. You don’t have to go abroad to be international, there are plenty of possibilities at home!

Enhancing youth internationalization in regions International education is an essential part of today’s school work, and youth internationalization should be promoted on a regional level. How to implement it? 1. Defining goals and monitoring them - Forming an international strategy in addition to the goals determined in the regional strategy and program 2. Positive attitudes and activity - Internationalization is all about the regional actors’ personal interest and willingness 3. Co-operation between different actors - Strategic partnerships of different actors in education and youth work is essential 4. Ensuring the continuity of actions - International projects are often funded by the EU – regions should contribute to the continuity of international actions after the projects have ended 5. Maintaining the know-how and regionally equal operational preconditions - Active regional development should contribute to supporting international actions by enhancing the language skills and ensuring good transport connections

Source: Hyväkin strategia tarvitsee toteuttajansa! Selvitys maakuntien kansainvälisestä toiminnasta. Siru Korkala, CIMO Faktaa ja tilastoja 2/2012

Global education and global responsibility Global education is a process that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equality and human rights for all. It is supported by upbringing and education as well as training and guidance. Global education includes the global aspects of civic education: human rights, multiculturalism, development policy and sustainable development as well as promoting peace and preventing conflicts by the means of upbringing, education and guidance. Global education supports the citizens’ growth into responsibility for good life and sustainable future. The goal of global education is global responsibility. Learning to be globally responsible demands growing within the dynamics of knowing, being conscious and acting. It is all about one’s attitudes and values in life. Monica Melén-Paaso and Taina Kaivola have defined the spheres of growth into global responsibility as follows:

Multiculturalism Multiculturalism and enhancement of international contacts globally are at their best an opportunity for mutual learning and functional co-operation. Through globalization, the need for intercultural competence has emerged in the contexts of educational, professional and private life. Intercultural competence can be described as “the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural situations based on one’s intercultural knowledge, skills, and attitudes�. Intercultural competence can be developed through meaningful interactions with people from different cultures. International skills require knowledge of different languages and cultures: cultural literacy. The development of cultural literacy through interaction cannot be taken for granted. In addition to practice, learning requires knowledge and tools to analyze the experiences. The roles of school as well as theoretical knowledge and studying are significant. Interaction in multicultural situations has to be open and respectful. It has to be dialogic, equal interaction, the meaning of which is to build a reciprocal understanding. Responsibility of the counterparty is essential in dialogue.

Globalization and sustainable development Sustainable development is a key factor in global education. Globalization and sustainable development cannot be observed as separate phenomena. They are both processes that pursue a long-term dynamic balance. Globalization and sustainable development bring forth a new set of effects on economical, ecological, social and cultural platforms. In Our Earth Hour the ecological aspect of sustainable development was strongly emphasized, although the project touched upon the social and cultural aspects through international co-operation, youth involvement and promotion of active citizenship. Sustainable development was present in the project comprehensively. In the launching event of Our Earth Hour the youth gave a personal promise to protect the environment. All participants have kept their promises. When asked if the camps changed something in the participants’ lives, 7 out of 10 said yes. Most effects had to do with conservation of nature or sustainable development, but social aspects were mentioned as well. During the Finnish camp volunteer work was done in order to enhance sustainable development with concrete measures. At a local heritage farm the youth helped to renovate and tar-paint an old windmill and contributed to the yard work. They also participated in the preservation of a local lake by harvesting the reed. The youth got to know agriculture both in Finland and in France. They considered these experiences as valuable and learned the importance of natural preservation concretely.

Globalization and media The media has an essential role as an arena for growing into global responsibility. The media shapes people’s worldview and reflects the society of its time. When succeeding, the media helps people to picture and observe the world from different points of view and enhances skills to empathize with people living in different circumstances. The media should primarily awaken questions of global responsibility within people, instead of giving ready answers to them. Global and local environments are interweaving as the diversified media creates a joint space and reality regardless of place of residence. The media can effectively connect people from different parts of the world to work towards a mutual goal. The versatile media functions were fully noted in Our Earth Hour. During the Finnish camp the young people learned communicational skills in the media workshop. These skills were further exploited in the dissemination of the project: each youngster devoted to the project communication by writing or photographing for the Our Earth Hour blog and camp publication. In the closing event of the project the Finnish youth planned and made a video with an environmental theme.

Civic organizations as global learning platforms Many organizations in Finland are members of international networks. Through these networks it is possible to co-operate and implement joint projects with sister organizations all over the world. Internationalization at its best is more: activity that leads to global joint responsibility. It can represent ways to enhance human rights, global development, multiculturalism, peace, equality, media and environment. The European civic society has an important role in creating guidelines for international education and implementing it. When thinking about growing into global responsibility, it is crucial that all actors in the society understand the importance of life-long learning and knowingly promote it. Our Earth Hour was implemented in close co-operation with the municipal youth councils and 4H organizations. The youth councils are the voice of young people in the local decision making; hence the project strengthened their work by educating, activating and connecting their members. 4H aims at enhancing the entrepreneurial attitude of young people by using learning by doing methods. The organization also offers several possibilities for internationalization. As the fundamental idea of Our Earth Hour was to motivate young people to take responsibility of their lives and surroundings as well as to gain international experience, the project actions and 4H goals meet perfectly. When asked if the young people would participate in an international project or exchange in future, they all said yes. Everyone would also gladly recommend international youth activities to others. The young people are already looking forward to new international initiatives to brighten their lives in rural areas.

Language skills Language skills are an important part of internationalization – language learning sets the base for culture learning. Versatile language skills are appreciated in working life and they can be highly beneficial in different social circumstances. According to the Finnish youth barometer (2008) 89 % of young people considered language skills as very important or important. When evaluating their language skills before and after the Our Earth Hour camps, the young people mentioned to have learned new words, phrases and expressions during the project actions. 9 out of 10 also felt that they grew courage to communicate in a foreign language. In the media workshop of the Finnish camp all materials for the project blog and the camp publication were produced in English. As a result of the international co-operation, the young people improved both their language skills and communicational skills.

Tytti is the second girl from the right.

I’m international! Tytti Levänen, 17 Why did you decide to participate in Our Earth Hour? I wanted to get to know different cultures and learn to appreciate difference. I wanted to get information about different matters, i.e. educational systems and environment elsewhere. What is so interesting about internationalization? People. What they’re like and how they are affected by different habits, politics, schools etc.

Why do you want to gain international experience? I want to learn more about other countries, get to know people and train my language skills. I would also like to work abroad someday. Through the project I’ve gotten to know French people and their habits, which can later ease the decision where to go study or work. What did you learn about internationalization during Our Earth Hour? Even though the countries are quite close to each other, the people and their manners as well as the climate are quite different. There are differences in i.e. dining habits. Also the language skills of people can vary significantly between regions and age groups. You joined the 4H international team during Our Earth Hour. Why and how did your participation in the project affect to the decision? The project had a positive effect. My interest to go abroad grew as the project proceeded. Through the project I understood how big the world really is. When you look it on a map, it can seem small and dull, but when you experience it yourself it’s a lot greater! The good side of being in the international team is to hear experiences of long-term living in other countries. You get your own interest to wake up. You find yourself thinking about possible destinations and where you really want to go to. What international plans do you have for the near future? I’m going to Virginia (USA) for a few months next summer to do a 4H exchange. After graduation I might go interrailing in Europe or have adventures in Asia.

What others have said about Our Earth Hour

“This project was the best experience of my life. Thank you all for these amazing weeks!”

“I got new experiences and I learned a lot about working in an international project!”

“My vision of things has changed.”

“I respect the nature much more.”

“I hope that we will arrange more international projects.”

SOURCES: Developing intercultural competence and transformation: theory, research, and application in international education. Victor Savicki (edit.), Stylus Publishing 2008 Kansainvälisyyskasvatus 2010. Opetusministeriön julkaisuja 11/2007 Kasvaminen maailmanlaajuiseen vastuuseen: Globaalivastuuprojektin ohjausryhmän loppuraportti. Opetusministeriön julkaisuja 9/2010 Kasvaminen maailman laajuiseen vastuuseen: Projektin 2007–2009 keskeiset tulokset. Monica Melén-Paaso, opetusministeriön julkaisuja 13/2011 Matkalla kansainvälisyyteen: kansainvälistymisen edellytykset koulusta työelämään. CIMO, seminaarijulkaisu 2009 Tulevaisuus meissä: Kasvaminen maailman laajuiseen vastuuseen. Johanna Lampinen & Monica Melén-Paaso (toim.), opetusministeriön julkaisuja 40/2009


I'm International  
I'm International  

The publication describes the actions of internationalization education in the OUR EARTH HOUR project