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

  • Mastering three foreign languages enables a student in Economics and Management to establish contacts within a foreign (corporate) culture.

Language skills

  • While developing our students’ language skills, specific attention is paid to corporate relations: the participants have to perform preparatory research on the companies they will visit, write letters and e-mails, make business-oriented phone calls, etc.


  • Each student should be willing to express himself correctly in the three foreign languages and within the context of the corresponding cultures.
  • During each travel course the participating students are supposed to operate as fully engaged team players.

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).

Print this case study