IEP workshop on intercultural competencies with students from the Ukrainian Leadership Academy

On 17 May 2017, the Institute for European Politics (IEP) received 20 students from the ‘Ukrainian Leadership Academy’ in Kyiv, for a workshop on inter­cul­tural compe­tencies.

The purpose of this academy is to offer Ukrainian graduates an alter­native education system, consisting of a 10 months program, and preparing them for a position as future leaders. The concept was origi­nally estab­lished in Israel. In Ukraine, it is supported mainly by the American organ­i­sation ‘Western NIS Enter­prise Fund’ and other inter­na­tional as well as Ukrainian promoters.

The meeting in Berlin took place in the format of an inter­active workshop on ‘Inter­cul­tural Compe­tencies as an Integral Part of a Successful Commu­ni­cation’, and was held by Ljudmyla Melnyk, research associate at the IEP. The workshop aimed at improving the student’s inter­cul­tural sensi­tivity, which permits them to deal with cultural hetero­geneity in a constructive way.

As primary associ­a­tions with German culture the young Ukrainians named ‘punctu­ality, philosophy, individ­u­alism, variety, sausages and beer’, but also ‘a lack of humour’ and ‘emotional coldness’. With regard to their own culture on the other hand, they named associ­a­tions such as ‘creativity, tradition, hospi­tality, start-ups’ and ‘a lack of punctu­ality’. It is essential to confront young people with their cultural stereo­types, and sensitise them to recog­nizing patterns of thinking that are based on clichés. A number of partic­i­pants declared during the workshop that their image about Germany had been completely different prior to their arrival to Berlin, and that it has changed following their stay. They expressed the wish to discover more about the culture of this country.

The workshop additionally covered the issue of inter­cul­tural commu­ni­cation and addressed barriers that can serve as an obstacle to it. “It is essential to be aware of cultural differ­ences and the general context in order to timely uncover barriers and oppose them. Being aware of these differ­ences facil­i­tates detecting causes for inter­per­sonal conflicts and helps in resolving them. One example of a cultural difference between Germany and Ukraine is the planning-tradition. Whereas Germans tend to plan on a long term basis, Ukrainians adopt a rather sponta­neous planning behaviour. Without this knowledge, misun­der­standings can easily occur,” says Ljudmyla Melnyk.

The IEP-workshop marked the end of a three days’ stay of the Ukrainian Leadership Academy in Berlin. The study trip was organised on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of diplo­matic relations between Ukraine and the European Union.