The Department has the longest-standing international student exchange programme at the University of Colombo to date. Begun in 2008, the Department has sent 3-4 Special Degree students each year for a semester to Justus Liebig University (JLU), Giessen, Germany, while students from JLU, Giessen have come to the Department for a semester. This international collaboration gives students of the Department the opportunity to spend a semester overseas in Germany with full credit transfer so that they do not lose time in obtaining their degree, and the opportunity of experiencing student life in Europe. This exchange agreement is open to academic staff of the English Departments at both Universities as well. Currently the Department is in the process of developing a similar programme with the Department of English at Technical University, Dresden, Germany; and in 2016, the University of Colombo and the University of Malaysia, Sarawak (UNIMAS), Malaysia established a student exchange programme which enables students to participate in a short-term visit (of up to one semester) with the partner institution. These partnerships are also platforms for important international research collaborations (ex. the International Corpus of English (ICE-SL) project, which is a joint research project between the Departments of English at the University of Colombo and JLU, Giessen, focused on creating a corpus of written and spoken Sri Lankan English).
Zahrah Rizwan, Ayudhya Gajanayake and Pramodha Weerasekara, Special Degree students of the Department of English, participated in the exchange programme with Justus Liebig University in 2017.
Zahrah: “The semester abroad in Germany was indeed an amazing experience. From eating schnitzels to getting our European mates to eat Kottu without the use of cutlery, while being spokespersons for Sri Lanka in classroom discussions (bringing in a touch of the “Colombo University-English Department-Educated” critical analysis into conversations), living in Germany for a semester enabled a multi-cultural exposure to education and life as a whole. Having gotten this opportunity as a final year graduate was self-enhancing as I was able to engage with people as well as my travel experiences around Europe in a more analytical manner, considering them learning opportunities, to put into practice the knowledge that I’ve gained throughout my undergraduate life. I found Germany quite empowering and a safe haven having lived in a society with 6pm curfews for girls and daily catcalls. Nevertheless, I am highly indebted and grateful for the Colombo University education I received and for my beloved lecturers for having added immense value to my personality and giving me this opportunity to participate in the Exchange programme.”
Imaan Mohammed and Thilakshi Mallawa-arachchi, Special Degree students of the Department of English, participated in the exchange programme with University of Malaysia, Sarawak in 2016, where they followed courses in Literature, Language, Film Studies and Cultural Studies.
Imaan and Thilakshi: “The Student Exchange Programme with UNIMAS provided us with the opportunity to interact with students from diverse backgrounds, communities, ethnicities and cultures, whom we would otherwise not have encountered. We were introduced to technologically advanced teaching and learning environments that proved to be an enriching experience that broadened our knowledge.
We relished the varieties of food and drink, and enjoyed the music, festivals, art, film and languages that we were exposed to by the local and international friends we made. Coming from the city, we were in awe of the biodiversity within the campus premises, from the lakes to the dense forests that encircled UNIMAS.
The challenges that came along with the newfound independence included navigating our way through language barriers, travelling around on foot, and consuming multiple cups of noodles – all of which contributed to making this a once-in- a-lifetime experience. We are grateful for this opportunity, which presented us with the possibility to advance our studies, encounter life-long friends and backpack our way across borders”
Praveen Tilakaratne, Stephanie Nicolle, Piumi Wijesundara and Saambavi Sivaji, Special Degree students of the Department of English, participated in the exchange programme with Justus Liebig University in their third year, in 2016.
Praveen: “On the 23rd of June, I skydived. As I jumped out of the plane, I saw the all of Giessen, Wetzlar, and Frankfurt in technicolour; I never knew such colours existed and the experience was so refreshing. The same can be said about the Study Abroad Semester. We saw so many new faces and places, experienced so many new things, and thanks to this wonderful opportunity given to us by the Department of English, I believe the bubble I lived in is now slightly bigger.”
Stephanie: “24 hours ago as the train departed from Gießen, my thoughts were immersed in an affective present of rhythms and images– a time lapse, an unwillingness to let go. Singing at the Eichendorffring kitchen with our flatmates to the tunes of the ukulele while drinking flavoured tea and eating fusion food, watching the sunset by the Baltic sea, overcoming fears at 13,000 feet … these are the moments, the faces I take with me and hope that someday, somewhere I’ll see them again across a crowded street. I came here with many uncertainties but this experience has shaped the way I see myself and the world at large. For this I am extremely humbled and grateful to God, the Department of English, my family, and everyone else without whom this would’ve been an impossibility.”
Piumi: ‘Time flew in Gießen. On my study abroad semester I’ve opened myself to many many experiences. It’s been a whirlwind of days meeting the best people, exploring, sightseeing, or sometimes just waiting patiently at Eichendorrffring for my next adventure and wondering how to bring it all back. The study abroad semester at JLU has certainly opened me out to a new part of the world and widened my scope of understanding through even the most mundane everyday activities. I’m thankful to the Department of English, University of Colombo for enabling this and can only recommend that incoming students too make their way towards making the study abroad semester part of their undergrad experience.’ All our study buddies (particularly Toby, Martha, Eva, Sina, Caroline, Kim) have been extremely helpful during our stay; we are all very excited and looking forward to having Kim, Ludmila, and Anja over at Colombo next semester.
Saambavi: “As I look back at the passage we traveled together for four months, my eyes slowly begin to well up. Leaving Giessen and all the beautiful memories is a hard choice for me. One thing I realized during my stay in Eichendorffring is how much we are dependent on each other. The togetherness the four of us shared is irreplaceable. Despite being hailed from different cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities we enveloped ourselves with one name: “exchange students from Sri Lanka”. In Eichendorffring we were called “a happy Sri Lankan family” always smiling and always together. We cooked together, laughed together and enjoyed every single moment together. I will cherish the beautiful moments and memories I gathered in Giessen throughout my life. I feel the exchange program has broadened my spectrum of life. I am indebted to the Department of English for granting me this once in a life time opportunity”.
Swasha Fernando, Rebecca Surenthiraraj and Atarah Senn are currently representing the Department of English as exchange students at the University of Giessen, Germany. They will spend the summer semester studying courses in Literature, Linguistics and Cultural Studies, and are also working on the International Corpus of English – Sri Lanka joint research project as student assistants. ” It has been an amazing experience being at JLU Giessen. Adjusting to a new cultural context, meeting other students from many countries across the globe and living and traveling alone has been more educational than we expected. Academically too it is quite a different experience, and we believe that the semester we spend in Giessen will broaden our knowledge base as well as improve our understanding of our particular field/s of study. We are grateful to the Department of English for the opportunity and we hope to exploit it!” – Swasha Fernando, Rebecca Surenthiraraj and Atarah Senn.
Sandani Abeywardena, Kevin Perera and Avanthi Jayasuriya, 3rd year Special Degree students of the Department of English were the latest batch of students to participate in the exchange programme in 2014
“The experience that the exchange program provided was invaluable in many ways. The challenges it brought forth tested and defined our life skills while the opportunities it presented allowed us to experience a heretofore alien sense of freedom and independence and a broadened perspective of the world.” – Avanthi Jayasuriya
“JLU, Giessen facilitates the convergence of students from different countries and interaction with this diverse community as well as being exposed to different techniques of teaching and learning, diverse opinions and cultures have influenced my own thinking. The previously unknown challenges of living alone, the independence as well as the responsibility and the golden opportunity to travel, explore and relish being in new places and meeting different people have made these few months an unforgettable time in my life. This program has been an enriching experience both academically and on a personal level, and I’m truly grateful to the Department of English for this opportunity.” – Sandani Abeywardena
“God changed my life through my experiences in Germany. Enjoying a Berlinien Currywurst all alone in Alexander Platz and contemplating about all the friends I made from around the globe was one of many experiences that taught me to be independent and exposed me to many areas of life. The academics was great and a new experience as well. I thank UOC, specially the Department of English and the IUUC for this opportunity.” – Kevin Perera.
In 2013, the fourth batch of students from the University of Colombo, Aksha Suares, Thamesha Tennakoon and Ruth Surenthiraj completed a semester in Giessen under the exchange programme. In addition to academic work, they also participated in several cultural events including the annual Sri Lankan Cooking Night.
In 2012, the third cycle of students from the English Department, Thilini de Alwis, Nileptha Magallage and Thakshala Tissera, all third year Special Degree students, spent a semester studying abroad in Giessen, Germany under this exchange program. Dushyanthi Mendis and Shermal Wijewardene of the Department’s academic staff also spent time in Giessen, Germany, on short-term teaching Fellowships during the summer semester.