“My favorite part of the civic project engagement was the opportunity to interact with local people in a context that was relevant to my experience” — Patrycja Wierzchałek, Minerva Class of 2022.
Social Sciences — Political and Economic Development and Communication
Throughout their global rotation, Minerva students have the opportunity to engage with local organizations and help them tackle relevant issues through civic projects. Class of 2022 student Patrycja participated in one such project with a Berlin-based organization, called Expatrio, whose goal is to assist international students intending to study in Germany with relocation and adjustment to the new place. “It’s not always easy for international students to get used to a new place and a new culture, and Expatrio helps to make the process less challenging,” Patrycja shares.
Along with two other Minerva students, Patrycja was responsible for researching how COVID-19 had impacted the way student communities are formed in Germany and how the shift to online learning had affected students’ perception of classes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions were forced to adjust to the use of digital learning platforms and had to find new ways to form student communities. Based on the analysis of a number of research papers on students’ personal and professional development and the role of universities in it, Patrycja’s civic project team concluded that higher education institutions should create non-formal, online environments for their students, to provide the opportunity to meet in a relaxed manner. This could be done through the organization of online extracurricular activities that would help international students arriving in Germany combat the negative effects of isolation, lack of routine, and a diminished sense of belonging. As part of their research on student satisfaction with online classrooms, the Minerva team hypothesized that implementing active learning elements in online teaching at German universities would lead to a more positive perception of online classes. To test this hypothesis, Patrycja’s team differentiated active and passive learning techniques and interviewed 350 students from German universities. The result of the study illustrated that the integration of active learning techniques, such as class discussions, debates, and small group activities, improves the learning experience for students.
Expatrio was one of the many businesses that had to adjust to alternative ways of providing their services to customers due to the pandemic. Insights from the studies conducted by Patrycja’s team helped Expatrio understand how building online communities can help students thrive personally and professionally. Moreover, the Minerva civic project participants emphasized the positive effect of active learning on student satisfaction with online learning, which local universities could utilize to build more engaging digital classrooms. Since the research required gathering perspectives of local students, Patrycja also had the opportunity to engage with Berlin residents and deepen her knowledge of the city.
The Expatrio civic project resulted in the publication of a white paper, an internship offer extended to all project participants, and a valuable contribution towards Patrycja’s undergraduate Capstone project. In addition to gaining professional experience, Patrycja was able to integrate insights from her time with Expatrio into her academic work: the research she conducted allowed her to gain a better understanding of the best practices for remote community formation, which eventually became the focus of her project. “It was an awesome experience that not only resulted in me connecting with local people and learning more about their culture but also allowed me to utilize the knowledge in the process of writing about the remote communities at work for my Capstone project,” Patrycja concludes.
If you were inspired by Patrycja’s story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.