"If educational collaboration across European borders is to be a robust process, then internships between a university that offers international study programmes in one country with placements and employment agencies in another would be one step forward," says Julia Degenhardt, a German who used to study in Denmark.
"When you study for a period abroad and then travel home or to another place in the world, you often lose the social and cultural links to the region or city in which you studied. I think that it is important that you also integrate an internship or get a job; and thereby build a sustainable social and work-oriented network. This network could later be used to open doors to a permanent and challenging position. I believe this is the way to grow European cross-border mobility in the labour market," she says.
"This is where educational institutions and companies or organisations in the STRING region can lead the way."
Career start in Denmark
Julia Degenhardt, 26, is currently working as a Junior Consultant in Danske Bank's Department for Global Process Improvement in Høje Tåstrup near Copenhagen. She has an Elite Master of Science in International Law, Economics and Management from Copenhagen University and Copenhagen Business School (CBS), and has deliberately followed a diverse educational path.
After secondary school in the small German town of Stade ved Elben, a few kilometres North West of Hamburg, she attended high school in the US for one year.
She then graduated as a Bachelor of European Studies at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) in Sønderborg, studied for one term at the University of Ottawa in Canada and one term at the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Austria - both as part of Bachelor and Masters programmes. She did work placements in regional business support organisations and chambers of commerce in Germany, at Novo Nordisk in Denmark and as a pro bono student adviser at 18 Degrees Consulting at CBS in Copenhagen.
Her career objective at the start of her studies was not clearly defined.
"Who has a firm view about such issues as an 18 year old student when the world is calling?" asks Julia Degenhardt.
She knew, however, that she wanted access to jobs with an international profile and an international employee environment in German companies or organisations - or even outside Germany, in an EU country.
Julia did have the European study field in the Netherlands in her sights but a European Studies programme at SDU in Sønderborg was a better match for her ambitions.
"The study programme was in English so there were no issues with language. It also provided the opportunity to meet students from different countries, as well as to build a good network and a greater awareness of cultural similarities and differences," she says.
"It has become easier to study in an EU country. There is the Erasmus exchange programme, there are scholarships to study abroad and there are english language courses. Also, to some extent - although not sufficiently - there is reciprocal recognition of grades and examinations in the EU. There are, however, also regulations and scholarships that make it difficult to undertake a core course abroad and study for just term in one's own country."
Less competition more collaboration
There is yet to be an adequate range of coordinated cross-border European study programmes - apart from regional studies, perhaps.
"In Sønderborg there was collaboration across the German-Danish border but it was limited to educators from the University in Flensborg teaching courses at SDU in Sønderborg. In my view, there should be less competition and more collaboration and what I missed when I was studying, were cross-border trainee agreements."
"As far as I know, there are no firm agreements between educational institutions with international study programmes and organisations or companies with regard to traineeships or permanent placements. In this regard, there is room for improvement," she says.