Apart from it being an obvious opportunity to meet new people from different, sometimes unknown to us cultures, it was also an interesting time to discover how group dynamics work and where do you fall within group hierarchy. Because while everyone in the group itself were equal and could always share their opinions, some group members were more vocal in offering solutions to encountered problems. It is not unusual to hear about the “power struggles” within one group, even if it is an academic one. There might be a person or persons trying to push their solutions as the most optimal ones, while others might simply choose to remain silent or not be given opportunity to voice all of their concerns. I am happy to say that our group prevailed over such petty dramas and we developed a healthy working environment. Depending on assignment, sometimes one or two people were behind majority of formatting, solutions and conduct choices, but they were never forced onto a group. All of the group members had to unanimously agree on the proposed solution, free to offer their amendments, and instead of feeling offended, the initiator did their best to consider all concerns and change proposed solution to address all the worries. Only then did everyone get to their assigned work, which if I may say so, everyone in the group did splendidly.
However, it was an intercultural collaboration first and foremost, and that key word “cultural” is what had driven our desire to begin and continue this class. I think it’s safe to say that no matter how many time it happens, meeting an individual from another, foreign culture sphere is always an exciting experience and almost like a discovery of a new world. It is then when we can discuss our differences; learn about customs and traditions that may seem strange, fascinating or even funny at first. That is exactly what we did on this group collaboration. All it took was a simple, friendly conversation. It could range from light-hearted questions such as “do high schools in United States really look like in the movies?” to more serious topics, like “how do people in Pakistan truly live and what do they believe in?”. It can put a lot of things into perspective, and despite how some media try to portray 'others,' one thing is clear to understand: behind every political party, agenda, and official policy of a nation, there are various groups of regular people who are simply trying to live their lives as best as they can. It would not be a shock to realize that a person you can most relate to is not your neighbor next door but someone who lives on the other side of the world, in a country you had never imagined visiting before.
That brings us to similarities, because where there are differences there also must be similarities. Through our collaboration, we discovered that we have quite a lot in common. Whether through globalization, compatibility of personalities, or a mix of both, younger generations around the world (yes, that includes us) tend to find more things in common than our parents or grandparents did. We listen to similar music, watch the same movies, and sometimes play the same video games. For example, each group member claims that they have a flexible music taste, and while they have their preferred genres and artists, they will gladly listen to anything that was recommended to them and make their own opinion based on the sound rather than a genre. That is a statement that can be heard more and more often thanks to quantities and type of music publicly available to consumers around the world, and that is in my opinion a point for team globalization, since it brings together individuals from around the globe, presenting them with a topic that all parties will enjoy discussing. Nevertheless, apart from sharing our preferences, it is also fun to engage in a conversation and discover similarities in our personal lives. For example, the majority of our group has received their high school education in institutions owned and run by Catholic priests, which is a very specific similarity to share, especially considering how those group members live on different continents:
Discovery of all those details and friendships built upon them were possible thanks to how collaboration worked. In my opinion, giving a group full freedom over their time, when they meet, how they work was an excellent idea that encouraged creativity and openness from everyone involved. Because we could meet when we wanted, not just when we needed to, we were more inclined to not just 'tick off' what needs to be done and call it a day but to talk more about ourselves, our days, and our honest opinions.
Speaking of honest opinions, here is one. When starting this collaboration, I was not sure what to expect or if I am going to enjoy it at all. Now that it ends, I must say that I take it with a pinch of sadness and wish for more. A great experience might just be a highlight of my student exchange education in Tallinn. As someone with a degree in archaeology, I enjoyed discovery of new cultures and delving into topics related to cultural anthropology. As someone who studies Translation Studies, I was glad to improve my oral proficiency and confidence, which might help me in my future career as a translator. As a simple Polish person studying in a foreign (but not so much) country of Estonia, I was delighted to meet like-minded people from across the world who I can now call friends.
Ultimately, I would like to express my appreciation to Professor Anastassia Zabrodskaja from TLU and Professor Sara Kim from the University of Louisiana Monroe for providing this outstanding Telecollaboration opportunity.
Written by Jan Miłosz Augustyniak, Erasmus+ exchange student from Poland