We are the second group of students from FLACSO Ecuador enrolled in the ISAP – DAAD exchange program between our university and the Friedrich Alexander Universität Erlangen Nürnberg in Germany. In this report we want to share our experiences of this highly recommended academic program.
On October 1st, 2019; I boarded a flight to Germany where I arrived some days before the DAAD exchange program started. I took advantage of this time to attend the Oktoberfest, spend some quality time with colleagues from Latin America and travelled to Màlaga in Spain to join the Latin American meeting of young co-operators. At the beginning of my arrival, it was autumn and not all the dry leaves had fallen from the trees yet. There were still 12 daily hours of light and the temperature was similar to Ecuador. Gradually, I got used to the transport system, the everyday life organisation, the food and the time difference. I studied the subjects of “Risk and Disaster”, “Scientific Writing” and a German A1 class. I also participated as a guest in the seminar “International Relations between Europe Latin America”. To me, tasks for the courses in FAU were very similar to those I was used to doing at FLACSO Ecuador. What was different was the structure of the courses, since preparation of contents is more individual and requires self-training. In classes, professors were kind and respectful to the different points of view even in situations of disagreement.
Extracurricular activities such as events or conferences, salsa classes, video projections, parties and games are part of student life in Erlangen, but if you want to enjoy a little more, there are many activities to do in the nearby city of Nürnberg where you can travel by train or bus. Discovering more cities and countries is also a good option. In addition to living an academic experience in another language, I take with me memorable moments such as the commemoration of the 30 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the visit to the Christmas markets in Erlangen and Nürnberg (where you can get a variety of delicious food always accompanied by a good drink, usually a beer or the Glühwein), the marches organized by „Fridays for Future“, the several times enjoying desserts and coffee in traditional bakeries, the end of the year celebration, the Carnival in Cologne and my final trips to Russia, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Spain and Switzerland where I would return again. No doubt my stay in Germany was pleasant. I left Erlangen seeing all the leaves fall from the trees and hoping to return to see a blooming city.
Auf Wiedersehen und Danke für die Erfahrung!
The DAAD exchange program enabled me to take the last lessons of my master’s program abroad. The courses at FAU took place during the winter semester. For me, there were totally new things: the climate, the country, the language and a different way of doing things. No doubt, the winter turned out to be very hard, the few hours of light and the cold outside made the first months the most difficult. However, I do not forget the charm of discovering the new in every corner: the wonderful colour of the leaves in autumn, the squirrels jumping up and down the trees or the bike rides through the Tennenlohe forest to get to the Institute of Geography.
I had the opportunity to share with the people of our beloved Institute of Geography in several academic events organized by them. I look forward to studying Geography someday. Until it happens, I will enjoy all the readings they recommended to me from critical geography. Having been abroad for one semester allowed me to generate personal and intellectual tools to return to my country and to my territory with more strength. The exchange itself allowed me perhaps to leave a seed there and bring with me others that will allow me to continue being more and more perseverant, more rebellious and keep growing and learning from life each day. Also, I got to understand that the academy does not have the last word but it is a tool that can and should be used to seek social and environmental justice.
Maria Isabel Estevez Noboa
I have always believed that the world is so immense to live it from a single place and that was why I did not hesitate to expand my postgraduate experience when I learned about the DAAD academic exchange program. Living in Erlangen was an enriching encounter with multiculturality, the classic German architecture and nature that is always present in and around this small city. During my academic experience at the Institute of Geography at FAU, I joined the seminars „Scientific Writing and Communication“ and „New approaches in Risk and Disaster Studies in the Development Context“. Both courses were led by professors who were always open to dialogue and exchange of ideas. Additionally, my exchange partners and I organized qualitative research field data for the seminar of “Advanced Methods in Human Geography”, took a German course for beginners, held advisory meetings for our theses and attended some academic events. Personally, I had the opportunity to present a project I did for FLACSO related to the perceptions of children in a sector vulnerable to climate change in Quito during the ADLAF Conference.
Social activities like the Latin party, the visit to the Christmas market and the ice skating rink at Schlossplatz jointly with the fellows the German class were also part of our exchange experience. We also spent great moments with our classmates and the people from the student residence, who were from Germany and many other regions of the world. A very pleasant experience was applying to the “Internationale Buddy-Programm der FAU”, through which I met a biology student from Germany who gave me useful tips for my stay in Erlangen and showed us a German recipe to make Christmas cookies. The DAAD-ISAP exchange program has allowed me to think about some academic and professional projects in the future. Of course, it has also been a very personal experience that led to more than one reflection on life and that thanks to the facilities to travel within the European Union, I was able to meet up with relatives and friends as well as visiting other countries different from Germany. One of them was Finland, where I observed the Northern Lights for the first time.
The DAAD-ISAP program is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Perdita Pohle (FAU, Institute of Geography) and Dr. María Fernanda López (FLACSO, Quito).