In October 2022 the master exchange programme “International Study and Training Partnerships” (ISAP) between the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Quito, Ecuador and the Institute of Geography at Friedrich-Alexander- University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Germany, started for us. The programme is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
Located in the heart of Germany is Nuremberg and just 30 minutes away by train is the city of Erlangen. Both are very quiet, historic cities where it was relatively easy for us to get used to the public transport system. There are regular connections throughout the city by train, underground and bus; you just need to check the timetables and be on time. Other options for getting around include cycling or using a scooter, and depending on the distances, walking is also a viable option. Around the cities there are forests and trails where you can walk in the middle of nature. Another very important aspect during the exchange was safety, as you can walk around the whole day and at night without fear.
The Institute of Geography at FAU is located in Tennenlohe, a town between Nürnberg and Erlangen. Here you can find the office of Prof. Dr. Perdita Pohle and Dr. Julia Kieslinger, who guided us throughout the entire exchange and also made significant contributions with their observations and recommendations in the development of our thesis projects. For student issues of other rigour we had the support of Hannah Lenk, also a master student at FAU and a member of the programme’s support team. We also would like to acknowledge the support of the FLACSO teachers as well, who were attentive throughout the whole process.
Thanks to the diverse range of courses on offer, it was possible to take classes related to the master’s degrees in Rural Territorial Development and Urban Studies with focus on Policy and Planning, but we also had the opportunity to take courses in other faculties, for example, at the School of Business, Economics and Society.
FAU has great libraries with excellent literature to accompany learning. One of the courses we took was to familiarise ourselves with the university library system and the wide availability of resources and databases (Thomas Hübner).
During the exchange we were invited to participate in a workshop on „Risk: natural hazards, people’s vulnerability and disasters“ with Professor Terry Canon, a very interesting presentation which, through statistics and case studies, contrasts disaster risk creation versus disaster risk reduction.
Together with Dr. Julia Kieslinger and Dr. Tobias Weidinger we completed a course on Special Methods: Qualitative Methods and Participatory Approaches. Theoretically and practically we reinforced tools and techniques that will be very useful in the field work for our theses.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Joachim Hornegger President of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Yunuen Polit, Jazmin Espinoza, Sandra Morocho, students of the DAAD-ISAP exchange programme at the opening event of the winter semester 2022-2023. October 2022. (From left to right)
Dr. Julia Kieslinger, Prof. Perdita Pohle Institute of Geography of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Jazmin Espinoza, Sandra Morocho, Yunuen Polit, students of the exchange programme during the Thesis Colloquium. February 2023. (From left to right)
One of the challenges was the language. Speaking English made communication much easier, most of the courses we took were in English, but we also took part in and passed the German language courses at the FAU Language Centre. Being in contact with the language on a daily basis enabled us to train our listening skills and put into practice what we had learnt.
One of the most relevant experiences during the exchange was participating in the Leadership and Innovation course at the School of Business, Economics and Society, a theoretical and practical course related to the planning and consolidation of ecosystems of innovation. Due to the practical approach it was possible to establish contact with students of other nationalities and with public and private actors from Bavaria and the JOSEPHS innovation lab which was in charge of testing the presented prototypes.
Sandra Morocho, exchange student and innovation team, during the presentation of the prototype, JOSEPHS Lab, February 2023.
The Ecuadorian community of residents in Bavaria was also a special part of the exchange. Thanks to them we had the opportunity to share the traditional colada morada in November, as well as to accompany the national football team in its participation in the World Cup. Some members of the community have been living in Germany for more than 20 years, others have recently arrived. Nevertheless, the welcome and the atmosphere have always been positive and supportive.
This experience has allowed us not only to consolidate our knowledge in order to put it into practice in the service of the greater community, but also to broaden our vision of concepts and approaches to development. We will remember this experience with great affection as it undoubtedly established a before and after in our academic formation.
by Sandra Morocho, Yunuen Polit, Jazmin Espinosa