BIP brings international students to Haarlem

"You have to step out of your comfort zone to see things from a different perspective."


Emerging from the fog were 29 international students and 10 Inholland students who participated in the Erasmus Blended Intensive Programme (BIP) in Haarlem at the end of March. During the previous five weeks they had engaged in online learning, talking, and thinking about sustainable fashion. Now was the time to develop a communication concept for a local frontrunner in sustainable fashion targeted at young people. The working method during this week was based on that of Inholland's Living Labs, which was quite unfamiliar for the international students and their coaches. It was only on the last day that the fog truly cleared for them.

"I really enjoyed working in such an international group," says Inholland student Jesper. He is one of the 10 Inholland students from 3 locations (Alkmaar, Haarlem and Rotterdam) in the BFL domain. "It's interesting to see how people from other cultures work and what their teachers are like. For example, the Belgian coach was very strict and very critical, which we are not used to. I didn't know much about the subject, but I'm now more conscious about my clothing. We started this week with design thinking, which I found very informative. This way of working stimulates your brain in a different way, leading to new and different ideas. The international students found it challenging that there wasn't that much structure this week. I thrive on that freedom, but I understand that they sometimes felt los."

His fellow student Sarah from Germany agrees: "I found it a challenging week. Our generation wants to make a difference, and I learned here in Haarlem that you have to step out of your comfort zone to see things from a different perspective. This way of working was really new to me, but I now see that the outcome is much more creative and better than if you had done it another way. I really developed new competencies and made many friends this week!"

International Network
University of Applied Sciences Inholland has a large international network of partner institutions. Additionally, Inholland is part of Businet, an international network of higher education institutions aimed at realizing international cooperation between educational institutions, and thus providing students and teachers the opportunity to develop and participate in international projects. Teachers and coordinators of internationalization are involved in this network. Marlies Springorum, international coordinator and teacher of marketing at Inholland initiated this international project, and introduced it to partners in Inholland’s international network.

Tamara Schoon, lecturer-researcher at the Lectorate Sustainable Business Innovations, said, “Last year, Marlies approached me with a request to write a pitch for an Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Programme on sustainable fashion. My plan focused on raising awareness and activating sustainable consumption behaviour among young people in the EU. A Flemish, Walloon, German, and Italian university then showed interest. Together we then continued to develop the programme.”

Marlies Springorum: "This programme is for students who don't necessarily want to go abroad for six months but who do enjoy working in an international setting. This cross-cultural collaboration, both online and offline, is a key EU objective. I think a very important one. This semester, Inholland BFL Rotterdam will also be running a BIP. The focus will then be on creating solutions for the City of Rotterdam that meet the needs of entrepreneurs, citizens, and urban designers. I'm very happy with the way the Sustainable Fashion BIP was linked to a Living Lab. The curriculum was rich and varied, and the final presentations were of high quality. Most students were enthusiastic too; they liked the change from regular lessons in the classroom.  Of course, it was a complex project with its own dynamic. As Inholland, too, we are learning."

Online BIP
This BIP had five weeks of online learning , followed by the live week in Haarlem. During the online phase, the forty students had two meetings per week, with keynotes on themes such as the negative impact of fast fashion, Introduction to sustainable fashion, EU Circular textile strategy, and sustainable marketing. Tamara: "We could also invite interesting guest speakers through our partners, who provided keynotes on, for example, traceability and transparency in the fashion and textile sector."

In the second half of the online weeks, the student teams met with their learning coaches to complete the tasks for that week. Tamara: "These included brand assessments on sustainability, analysis of students’ own fashion consumption behaviour with the help of the Shift framework, and trend research in their own region. In the final online week, the student teams developed a communication concept for a local frontrunner in sustainable fashion."

Live BIP
This concept was developed during the live week in Haarlem. Between March 19 and March 24, the students and learning coaches were offered a curriculum in which they incorporated insights from the online phase into a communication plan for their own local frontrunner. They also went on an excursion to Amsterdam, walked sustainable fashion routes, and participated in a hackathon with the Inholland lector Design Thinking. The ideas developed by the students were pitched to communication managers from the European Commission (DG Environment) and Andrea Reyes, founder of the Sustainable Fashion Community Center in Harlem, New York, via a video connection. The students incorporated the feedback received into their final presentations.

The concepts presented on Friday afternoon at the Seinwezen in Haarlem are all innovative, creative, and feasible. For example, one group came up with the idea of "The Thrift Hunter" for a chain of second-hand clothing stores. An item from these shops is posted on Instagram, and the participant who finds the item in one of the stores during the "hunt" can take it home for free. This group of students aims to introduce the target audience to second-hand clothing stores, which many students perceive as dirty, boring, and outdated. "With our plan, we don't want to push second-hand clothing, but make it fun," said the group's spokesperson.

TikTok campaign
Other groups came up with concepts such as a "flash sale" for the previous season's collection of a more expensive, sustainable denim brand, a Tiktok campaign to showcase the coolness of second-hand clothing, and a chill-out area in second-hand shops where young people can come together, drink coffee, and repair their clothing. A communication plan was also developed for the Amsterdam-based company O My Bag. The students propose allowing young people to try out the more expensive and sustainable bags for a certain period for free. If you decide to keep the bag, you can pay it off in ten months. Bags that are returned can then be resold by the brand at a lower price. The students hope to combat the throwaway culture and raise awareness among young people that you had better spend a little more money on a sustainable bag.

Hans Zahn, business studies lecturer, said after the event, "I am very impressed with these presentations, the level is really high. Starting with design thinking was a good foundation for this week. The students have made significant progress, and we saw the fog in which they began to clear up quickly. The outcomes show that they could all handle this approach very well. The collaboration with international students and teachers was enjoyable and educational. I hope that after this week, they will all become ambassadors for sustainable fashion."

Since the new Erasmus program started in 2021, and Erasmus subsidy is linked to the development and participation in BIPs, Hogeschool Inholland has already organized six BIPs at various locations, with two more planned for this semester. The European Commission considers BIPs an inclusive way of internationalizing because students who cannot or do not want to spend half a year abroad can participate due to the short duration of the programme.

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