Cross Cultural Competences

Author(s): Luc Dierickx, Erik Uytterhoeven
Institution/Organisation: Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel (BE)


1.1 Scope of the initiative

Multilingualism has been a stronghold of the Belgian (Flemish) educational system for many years. The HUB, a Brussels-based university/college, wanted to explore how the multilingual experience could be practised in “real” business situations abroad.  How can students in the 21st century graduate from a European university without having spent at least a week in a learning environment abroad? The name of the course is Cross Cultural Competences.


1.2 Range of languages learned

The Cross Cultural Competences course is part of the curriculum of the Faculty of Economics and Management, is aimed at Dutch-speaking students, and focuses on one of the following languages: French, English, German or Spanish.


1.3 Learning outcomes

Language acquisition

Language skills


1.4 Practical realisation

Cross Cultural Competences is based on the concept of a study-week abroad (to Paris, London, Berlin or Madrid). Each stay abroad comprises the following elements :


1. Company visits organized by the tutors

The students prepare an electronic portfolio on each company, including analysis of the company, its main competitors and the market in which it operates. The exchanges between students and teachers with respect to this portfolio mainly occur electronically (blended learning).

A few examples of companies and institutions visited in recent years:
In London: MTV Europe, KBC Financial Products, MergerMarket, JP Morgan, British American Tobacco, Lloyd’s, the Financial Times, Saatchi
In Paris: UNESCO, Stade de France, Le Monde, Euronext, Banque mondiale
In Berlin : Daimler Chrysler, Deutsche Telecom
In Madrid: Repsol, Telefónica


2. Company visits organized by the participating students

Small teams of students (maximum 3) organize individual visits to a company working in a sector in which the students specialized during their studies. Each team operates independently and makes an appointment with a leading person (management level) within that company. An extensive and thoroughly prepared interview is taken from this person during the visit.
The students keep all research, letters and preliminary questions and answers in their electronic portfolio.

3. Cultural activities

The tutors provide the students with a choice of cultural activities from which the students have to choose at least three: walks, museums, theatre, opera, etc.

In addition, the students have to organize one cultural activity themselves.


4. Reporting

After the stay, each student writes an individual report containing abstracts of the company visits organized by the tutors and a fully transcribed version of the interview taken during their individual company visit. Finally, the report also states the cultural activities the student participated in and mentions the student’s personal appreciation. Handed in electronically (portfolio).


2.1 Context

When the EU asked Umberto Eco how it could create a European state of mind for their future European students/leaders, he replied : “Send them abroad and let them spend at least one term at a foreign speaking university.” The Erasmus Exchange Programme is (partly) taking care of this job but it is not reaching ALL students. The CCC course wants to target those students who DON’T take part in the Erasmus exchange programme.


2.2 Strategic goals of the initiative




5.1 Lessons to be learned at institutional level

5.2 Broader implications

Collaboration with private (especially multinational) companies can help to motivate students to learn languages. They will understand the importance of multilingualism in a business-oriented international context, even though their main field of study may not be languages (in our case study the field of study is Economics and Management).