Internationalization in Times of the Pandemics.

The Catholic Private University of Linz (KU Linz) has been in a strategic partnership with the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (STM) since 2018. Despite the pandemic, exchange projects took place digitally. STM students were able to complete the online course "German for Theologians" offered by the KU Linz in May / June 2021.

The Strategic Partnership with the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry as an Example.

The Catholic Private University of Linz (KU Linz) has been in a strategic partnership with the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (STM) since 2018. In support of this partnership, the KU Linz was awarded an Erasmus + International Credit Mobility Grant (ICM) of € 84,000.– This facilitates mobility of students and staff from Linz to Boston and vice versa.

Unfortunately, most of the planned on-site activities and the joint Summer School "Summer at Linz" fell victim to the pandemics. In the summer of 2020, the Summer School had to be cancelled, although many students had registered for the courses "German for Theologians", "Religion, Theology and Aesthetics" and "A Theology of Witness(ing)". Students of the KU Linz who had planned a term abroad at the STM also had to postpone their stay. But for some, the exceptional situation provided a chance. Without having to travel to Boston, the students of theology Stefanie Friedl, Rebekka Sturmbauer and Alexandra Gebhart could join students from Boston in courses which were offered in virtual form due to the pandemics. Here is a short extract from Rebekka Sturmbauer’s report about her experience:

"The course ‘Theology of Elizabeth Johnson’ was and is definitely enriching for me, both in terms of content and of the culture of teaching and learning. The course focused on a theologian and made it possible to work intensively on her way of doing theology, and I began to develop an idea for my master’s thesis. In addition, our professor attached great importance to the spiritual context and always focused on the question of the personal, individual relevance for our lives. The format of the course also provided enough space for dialog and discussion. The possibility to participate via Zoom was just great!"

We are very proud of our three students who completed all their courses at the STM with an "A" in spite of the heavy digital workload.

In order to provide the students of STM with an alternative for the cancelled Summer School, the Catholic Private University of Linz offered the course "German for Theologians" from May 19th to June 25th, also in virtual form due to the COVID-19 pandemics. Students from Boston, together with students from our partner university, the University of South Bohemia, and from Sant’Anselmo Pontifical University in Rome took part. The instructors – FH-Prof. Mag. Martin Kimmel and MMag. Antonia Krainer – did their best to convey a little bit of Austrian atmosphere along with the contents of the program, i. e., German grammar and the reading of Biblical and theological texts. Knowing that to learn German in six weeks is a most ambitious project, the participants showed great commitment, so that in the end, both students and teachers were able to rejoice in their success. Working together in a group of persons from diverse cultural backgrounds was a very enriching experience for everybody. As Paskali Dionisi Shing’da from STM sums up:

"The module presented by Antonia was really an eye opening for a close methodology of how to approach the theological texts and have a grasp of the content in the atmosphere of research and scholarly works."

When asked what we could improve in the future, he recommended to extend the program to seven weeks:

"I think this course will have more added value if it’s given like for seven weeks than the three weeks so as to allow more time for both grammar and application within the given domain which is theology."

His readiness to work on German and Theology at KU Linz for a longer period of time, and also the interest in "Summer at Linz 2022" expressed by other participants, makes us happy and tells us that we have done a good job.