With 15 students and three academic staff taking part in the exchange, the trip is a core part of the internationalization strategy within the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster.
Under the direction of Dr Farhang Morady (Course Leader for Development Studies) students had the opportunity to engage with the political culture of Turkey through a collaborative student workshop over two days on ‘Current Debates in Turkey, the European Union and the Middle East’. The trip also included three days in Istanbul, allowing students to reflect upon the recent history and cultural politics of Turkey, which significantly encompasses both ‘the East’ and ‘the West’.
In Izmit, the workshop allowed students from the University of Westminster and Koceali University to debate some of the ‘big issues’ associated with politics, international relations and development studies within the region. In particular, it was a chance for students to discuss the current challenges facing the European Union and the Syrian crisis.
Dr Morady noted the value of field trips for students within the social sciences, “we often assume that students primarily learn in the classroom”, Dr Morady says, “yet we often find that the most creative learning takes place outside traditional seminars, lectures and tutorials.”
Now in its fifth year, this exchange gives students who might not otherwise undertake study abroad exchanges, the chance to experience another political culture as part of their studies.
Dr Dibyesh Anand, who attended in his capacity as Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations, said: “This field trip isn’t about teaching students what to think about Turkey and the surrounding region, it is about encouraging students to think critically and ethically about the world in which we live.”
The exchange also provides an opportunity for researchers in the Department of Politics and International Relations to build bridges with scholars in the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Sciences at Koceali University. With three edited volumes already produced through the exchange, it is anticipated that further published research will follow from the most recent collaboration.
“Taking students outside their classroom setting and encouraging them to engage with the world in which they live is a primary objective of the undergraduate courses we offer in Politics, International Relations and Development Studies at the University of Westminster.”
Academic staff and students recently presented their insights into the trip at the 13th Learning and Teaching Symposium at Marylebone campus. Dr Thomas Moore, Director of Learning and Teaching, has noted that “not only have field trips been an important way of building student confidence but, more crucially, they equip students with the knowledge tools and resources for cross-cultural engagement. This is an important part of our ‘global engagement’ mission as we prepare students for the future.”
An important part of the project is that students are required to create a blog as part of their field trip. The blog provided a chance for students to reflect upon their experiences and to continue their discussions about political culture on their return to Westminster. The blogs are another way for students to develop an e-portfolio of their learning as part of the field trip and they also assist students in developing and managing their digital identities as they prepare for the job market.
A selection of these blogs can be found below: