Exchange partnership with German post-secondary celebrates 20th anniversary

Almost 200 student exchanges, thousands of miles traveled, and hundreds of employers and communities impacted—that is the conclusion of a 20-year partnership between the University of Victoria’s Co-operative Education Program and Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) Heidenheim in Germany, that is celebrating its anniversary this week.

The partnership dates back to 1998, when UVic signed an exchange agreement with DHBW (then called Berufsakademie Heidenheim) to facilitate academic exchanges between the two institutions. In 2009, the partnership expanded to form CANEU-COOP, a hybrid exchange model where UVic students complete co-op work terms with top employers in Europe and DHBW students complete coursework at UVic.

“Ideally, students who study in Canada get support from the Canadian students, and then in Germany, the DHBW student will support the Canadians during their time in Germany,” explains Brigitte Ilg, director of the International Office of DHBW Heidenheim.

CANEU-COOP goes beyond other simple exchanges with the intentional development of cross-cultural competencies. Students rate themselves before, during and after on knowledge, skills and attributes such as intercultural motivation, intercultural knowledge, strategic thinking and appropriate behaviour. This EU-sponsored exchange program has even been awarded the Global Best Award of the International Partnership Network (IPN) in 2014, as well as the Outstanding Program in International Education award from the BC Council for International Education (BCCIE).

“We encourage all of our students who complete international co-op terms to consider how their own backgrounds impact their workplace behaviour and to learn as much as possible about the culture of the community they are working in,” says Karima Ramji, manager of International Programs with UVic Co-op. “Students think about their own assumptions and work hard to recognize and adapt to cultural nuances in the workplace and beyond.”

To date, 97 UVic co-op students have completed work terms as a result of the partnership with DHBW. More than 20 companies in Germany have hired UVic students, including Voith, Carl Zeis, Bosch, MAN, Airbus Helicopters and Paul Hartmann. 

About Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) Heidenheim

The Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) Heidenheim cooperates with more than 50 partner universities worldwide. More than 45 percent of the 2,400 or so students, currently use the opportunity to go abroad for one semester, and the number is increasing. The students of the DHBW Heidenheim also have the opportunity to gain international experience in the context of excursions and short programs abroad. To enable students to quickly find their way abroad, the Center for Intercultural Competence (ZIK), founded in October 2014, offers lectures as well as general awareness training and country-specific training. On top of that, language courses in seven different languages are available at the DHBW Heidenheim

Videos made by UVic alumni of the CANEU-COOP program

Video: Bowen Song graduated from the University of Victoria (UVic) with a degree in Engineering. He participated in the CANEU-COOP Program in 2016 and spent a work term working for Halle in Germany.

Video: Ashley Luo graduated from the University of Victoria (UVic) with a degree in Commerce. She participated in the CANEU-COOP Program in 2014 and spent a work term working for Halle in Germany.

Testimonials by other UVic CANEU-COOP alumni

Adam Bender

CANEU-COOP term: Vacuumschmelz GmbH & Co. KG in January 2012

"My experience with CANEU-COOP was fantastic, and really helped me learn about other cultures and international business. I would highly recommend the program to anyone wishing to get out of their comfort zone and experience something new and exciting.”

Eric Loeper

CANEU-COOP term: Voith Turbo in Crailsheim, Germany in January 2013

“The people I met in Germany that were technical sales professionals were very similar to me. Their jobs were a perfect blend of technical work and relationship building, and it was then that I decided that's what I wanted to do with my degree. The challenges I faced in meeting new people who spoke minimal English, adapting to life in a new country, and traveling around Europe on weekends prepared me for working life unlike any other experience I had during school.”

Vaibhav Patel

CANEU-COOP term: Airbus Helicopters Deutschland in January 2015

“In my current job, I oversee the development of new stores. For my CANEU-COOP work term, I was working with Airbus Helicopters. I was a cost engineer for Aeroplane Doors. The program exposed me to diverse culture, which in turn help me understand how people from different culture work. This helps me everyday when I hire staff; I have to understand the demographics of the store and train them accordingly.”

Leanne Farmer

CANEU-COOP term: MAN Truck & Bus in January 2015

“Since my CANEU-COOP term, I have done co-op terms with Western Digital in Bangkok and Ocean Networks Canada in Sidney, BC. The CANEU-COOP program helped me build confidence in my field at a world-class engineering company and it exposed me to life in a different culture. I learned that the best way to experience a new place is to live and work with locals.”

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