MoXMo: European multiculturalism and the challenges of the Thau Basin

Some sixty students from the Charm-EU European Alliance were in the Hérault region from April 15 to 26 to work together to solve environmental challenges directly linked to the region. It was an opportunity to put their learning into practice in a stimulating multicultural context.

Did you say MoXMo? Behind this acronym (Montpellier cross-thematic mobility) lies an Eramus + student mobility program that falls into the BIP category ( blended intensive program). These programs enable young people enrolled at European universities to spend a short but intensive period abroad. In this case, the event took place as part of the "Global Challenges for Sustainable Development" international master's program, a joint degree offered by five member universities of the Charm-EU alliance (see box), including the University of Montpellier.

The 60 or so young Europeans from universities in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary and France who took part in the second edition of MoxMo, held from April 15 to 26 in the Hérault region of France, were sure to enjoy a change of scenery. A key moment in their training, which is based on learning by solving challenges, this express student mobility program gave them the opportunity to work in international and interdisciplinary teams on environmental themes in line with the challenges facing our region.

Raising awareness of real-life issues

Five of these challenges had been developed in advance by the European Master's teaching team in close collaboration with the Syndicat Mixte du Bassin de Thau(SMBT). We're taking advantage of the presence of the CHARM-EU students, who speak English and come from several European countries, to bring us a different way of thinking and solutions we wouldn't have thought of," explains Alexandre Pennaneac'h, in charge of piloting the Blue Thau Lab, the SMBT's collaborative territorial innovation platform.

The aim of these master's students was to think about how to raise awareness and involve both civil society and the professional world in the concrete problems of the Thau lagoon. These challenges included agriphotovoltaics applied to shellfish farming, the use of AI for water analysis in the Thau lagoon, eco-responsible walking trails, subsidized environmentally-friendly actions for agriculture and livestock farming, food safety...


Sixth and final challenge: a reflection on the development potential of the UM' s aquaponics training platform, located at the Station méditerranéenne d'environnement littoral (SMEL) in Sète. Aquaponics is a technique that enables water from aquaculture to be put to other uses (market gardening, ornamental plants), thus avoiding waste and limiting pollution. " Students can have a much more global vision than ours, which is often very technical," remarks Claude Amiel, UM project manager at SMEL.

From podcast to interactive cartography

Students spent their first week in Balaruc-les-Bains, on the shores of the Etang de Thau. There, they met professionals working in strategic areas of the region: fishing, viticulture, livestock farming, agriculture, oyster farming, tourism... Supervised by Master's teachers, the projects were developed in real-life conditions within teams made up of young people who were sometimes meeting for the first time and who, another major challenge, didn't always speak French. The CPIE association (Centre permanent d'initiatives pour l'environnement) Bassin de Thau and members of the SMBT also contributed their expertise to a holistic approach that took into account the central role of environmental protection and the importance of communication between the various players in the area.

During the second week, the young Europeans met with researchers fromIcireward, the Unesco center on water, and visited various research sites while continuing to work on their challenges. It's a field school: students find themselves dealing with constraints they don't face in the classroom, but which they will have to face tomorrow in their professional lives," explains Valérie Borrell, a teacher-researcher in Water Sciences at the UM. They come to confront problems for which scientists don't necessarily have the solution. Together, teachers and students develop a methodology to find solutions. It's a more concrete and authentic way of learning.

This collective international adventure culminated in a presentation of the students' work on Friday May 26, before a panel of both educational and professional judges. The solutions proposed ranged from podcasts and interactive cartography to a WhatsApp group open to local residents and the integration of artistic projects into the landscape for educational purposes. The work was greatly appreciated by the members of the jury, not least because of the quality of the work carried out in just two weeks, in an area that was unknown to most of the young people. They left with the impression of having lived through a unique collaborative experience. " The professionals we worked with involved us in the whole thought process. They trusted our ideas and our methods, which was really great ," say Ema and Nelli, one Hungarian and the other Finnish, currently students in Montpellier. Our team was particularly multicultural, with everyone coming from a different country. This greatly enriched our work together.


A master's degree in Europe

The Charm-EU alliance of European universities was launched in 2019 in response to the Erasmus + call for projects from European universities. It brought together five partners under the coordination of the University of Barcelona, including: the University of Montpellier, the University of Utrecht (Germany), Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) and the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest (Hungary). A co-constructed joint master's degree has been launched by these five universities in 2021.

Entitled "Global challenges for sustainability", this trans-disciplinary, research-backed curriculum is based on solving challenges in the field in line with society's issues, working on three key themes: water, food and health. De facto enrolled at all five universities, students follow the same course at the same time, regardless of which campus they are on, thanks to a hybrid teaching system that enables the teaching team to offer the most international experience possible.

Since its creation, five European universities have joined the Charm-EU alliance: the University of Åbo Akademi (Finland), the University of Würzburg (Germany), the Rhuhr-West University of Applied Sciences (Germany) and the University of Bergen (Norway). They will be part of the new, enriched Master's program due to be launched in September 2025, with a fourth, new training theme: energy and sustainable cities.