Last week, a group of 26 students from the Faculty of Education and Psychology (FEP) embarked on a remarkable learning journey. They joined forces with 20 other students hailing from Poland, Turkey, Spain, the USA, Germany, and Lithuania, creating a truly diverse and multicultural environment. Together, they embarked on a transformative Blended-Intensive Programme, hosted by the prestigious University Babes Bolyai (UBB) in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
The activities combined learning, practical application, networking, and cultural exploration, creating a comprehensive and transformative experience for the students participating in this BIP in Cluj-Napoca. Throughout the program, renowned experts and thought leaders delivered guest lectures and keynotes to our students about well-being and mental health in academic life, learning in a 3D world, theater to develop communication and social skills, how the brain learns, how to provide and accept meaningful feedback, and evidence-based applications of technology in mental health.
Students also took part in podcasts in the AcademicRadio during the BIP, holding immense significance in terms of personal and professional development. This experience offered a valuable platform for students to amplify their voices, share their unique perspectives, and contribute to meaningful conversations in a global context.
The hands-on activities and practical exercises provided valuable insights, but the cultural and social part was equally captivating. Students had a cultural immersion, experiencing the rich cultural heritage of Cluj-Napoca through guided tours, visiting historical landmarks, and participating in local traditions. For instance, they visited the Ethnographic Park Romulus Vula, an open-air museum with beautifully preserved traditional houses and artifacts like entering a time capsule. About this, one of our students said:
“The Ethnographic Park Romulus Vula was like a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. Exploring the traditional houses and witnessing the artifacts felt like stepping back in time.”
Another one also said that:
“Visiting the Ethnographic Park Romulus Vula was the high point for me. The attention to detail in the traditional houses and the captivating stories the students guided us shared made me feel connected to the region's past. It was a testament to these people who shaped the local culture of Cluj-Napoca.”
Two professors from the FEP joined the students during the program: Prof. Alexandra Carneiro, who serves as the coordinator of the Degree in Psychology, and Prof. Patrícia Oliveira-Silva, FEP's vice-dean responsible for internationalization.
Prof. Patrícia Oliveira-Silva, the organizer of this initiative, said that:
“Witnessing the transformation of the students throughout the BIP fulfilled my heart. Of course, they initially expressed fear and apprehension about some parts of the experience. Still, it was inspiring to see them overcoming those initial reservations and fully immersing themselves in the program, proudly representing our faculty. They demonstrated high adaptability, embraced the challenges, collaborated with peers from diverse backgrounds, pushed their intellectual boundaries, started actively participating in discussions, and became more integrated every day, excited and confident about moving on in this international community. Their dedication and willingness to step outside their comfort zone exemplify the transformative power of those international initiatives.”
Also, this BIP served to nurture a positive internal work culture and a testament to collaboration. The BIP in Romania brought together the Faculty of Education and Psychology (FEP) at the University Católica in Porto and the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences (FFCS) at the University Católica in Braga. The FFCS was represented by nine students, accompanied by Prof. Armanda Gonçalves and Prof. Íris Oliveira.
But listening to the students’ voice about the entire experience will bring to life the profound impact that this experience can have. See below some of the testimonies of those global explorers.
“Thank you to the UCP and UBB organizers, faculty members, and other students for making this program an unforgettable experience. The blend of learning, networking, and cultural immersion has broadened my horizons and enriched my experience from now on.”
“I was quite nervous initially because Prof. Patrícia told us that we would be challenged every day. And we were. Now, I am confident that the skills and connections I gained in this experience will propel me toward success. Looking back, I am grateful that I pushed past my initial fear and took part in the BIP. I cannot recommend this program enough to anyone seeking to move on from their comfort zone and open their eyes to the world.”
“Thank you, Cluj-Napoca, for an extraordinary experience. This BIP experience exceeded my expectations in every way. I must admit I had some reservations about giving interviews, talking in the radio and other experiences. But at the end, I formed lifelong friendships and this program has opened doors and empowered me to finish now my masters.”
“The collaborative workshops pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me develop strong teamwork and communication skills. It was like a rollercoaster of learning and adventure. Some speakers blew my mind and shared real-world insights that made everything click. But it wasn't all serious stuff! We had laughed, learned, dreamed, and high-fived like crazy.”
“The workshops were super hands-on and practical, keeping everyone excited. We explored the city, hit up the coolest bars and restaurants, and made friends from all over the world. Cluj-Napoca is a hidden gem. Sign me up for round two!”