COLUMBIA, S.C. (courtesy columbiasc.edu) — During the Fall 2023 semester, Columbia College’s COMM 200 course (Communication Today) hosted a virtual exchange program with the International University of Sarajevo (IUS) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The IUS course VA 102 (Introduction to the Visual Communication Design) students teamed up with Columbia College students to research and present topics related to visual communication in order to understand these effects across cultures. This initiative was led by Columbia College Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Ahmet Aksoy and International University of Sarajevo Assistant Professor/VACD Program Coordinator Emir Hambo.
Throughout the project, the classes compared and contrasted how their cultures advertise to and target their prospective audiences. VA 102 student Amer Tanovic said, “We learned a lot about the differences and similarities in the way advertisements approach audiences of different demographics. It was also very fulfilling getting to know students from the USA who I have had the pleasure of working with. We had wonderful conversations about the many things we found similar to each other. Meeting new people is always a privilege, and meeting people with different cultural backgrounds is one of the most important values in the interconnected world we live in today.”
Dr. Ahmet Aksoy shared his intentions when designing the project, “With our society and media industry becoming more global, I found it important to connect students with a culture outside of their own. Also, our digital spaces are flooded with American culture, and I wanted to demonstrate to our students that not all cultures operate under that default culture. Through this exposure, Professor Hambo and I wanted to develop our students’ critical thinking, social, and communication skills across cultures. Through this virtual exchange, we aspired to internationalize our two courses.”
COMM 200 student Breanna Harris said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience; the students from Sarajevo are friendly and engaging, and it’s been interesting to work across mindsets and cultures. Moving forward, if I were to do a similar project, I would like to attempt to learn some of the local language to better understand the surrounding culture and the people within it.”
Finally, Professor Emir Hambo expounded upon the importance of providing opportunities for students to build their networks, “Our students are great, but the opportunities they get are limited. This exchange offered them the opportunity to exchange ideas, exchange knowledge, and exchange cultural backgrounds. Perhaps the most important benefit was the opportunity to get to know each other and build relationships with the potential to go beyond this project.”
Columbia College’s innovation and commitment to a dynamic learning environment allows for doors to be opened to students during their time at the College as well as beyond graduation. Columbia College students are supported by faculty and staff on campus, and they are even presented with opportunities to build relationships globally. This virtual exchange program encouraged Columbia College communication students to bridge communication gaps through community-building. As an institution, Columbia College aims to empower all students to do the same in their local communities and beyond.