Ana Isabel Billingslea Gonzalez and Maria Fernanda Sandoval Quan are students from Universidad del Valle (UdV) in Guatemala. The university is a partner university of University College of Southeast Norway (USN).
The students have just finished their spring semester exchange programme at USN, studying “International Tourism and Innovation” and “Alpine Ecology and Environmental Management”, respectively.
Their stay was financed through the Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility scheme. This is an arrangement where European universities can cooperate on student exchanges with universities outside the EU/EEA area. Students get a grant from the EU for their stay in Norway and a travel grant to cover part of the travel costs.
“Studying in Norway was a really different experience, I had a class with people of 8 different countries and exchanging all we know and getting to know each other was very exciting. Norway gave me a new perspective of the world, of how this country is innovating to have a better place and gave me new ideas to bring home.”, says Ana.
Maria says that “The biggest difference is that in Guatemala we have maybe two or three exams during the semester, not just the final exam like we did in Norway. In Norway the workload was less but the system makes the student more independent.”
“I can't decide what the best part of my stay in Norway was, the whole experience was very enriching. I liked meeting people from different countries and learning something about their culture. Also, getting to experience the changing of the seasons from winter to spring was beautiful. And of course our trip to Lofoten, by far the best road trip I've ever had! Landscapes are stunning”, Maria says.
Ana agrees: “Going to Lofoten and get to know the different tourist places and staying in the cabins was my best experience. The hiking and the experience of “friluftsliv”, it gave me a new perspective of life. I saw how Norway is a very rich country but at the same time they appreciate the basics of nature and family. “
Maria knew that the Erasmus+ programme helped students to study abroad in Europe, but not much else, before she left for Norway. Ana knew a little about the Erasmus+ grants before she came, but says: “I think is a very complete, and the opportunity they give is unique. I’m very grateful and I recommend it.”
The student exchanges has strengthened the cooperation between the universities, which is developing. Last year, UdV and USN also was awarded a joint project through the NORPART programme.