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Students visit UKZN

Three students from the Institute of Economics, Carolin Gunesch, Gina Milliot, and Aida Gebrehiwet, spend this winter term as semester abroad at the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (SoBEDS) of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa. They talked about their experiences In the SoBEDS Newsletter.

The students noted that the amazing exchange program between UKZN and FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg encouraged them to be part of the experience. “Students from FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, who had been part of the exchange program, also shared their experiences with us, and we, therefore, decided to be part of the great experience,” said Gina. She also added that the positive discussions with UKZN exchange students in Germany (Anthony Odili and Pascal Bellamy) were also instrumental in their decision to choose UKZN for their exchange experience.

The students noted that they have had very positive experiences at UKZN. This includes the support they received in the process of integrating into the academic program, when they arrived late in the semester. “Although we arrived late due to logistical issues and missed orientation, staff and students were quite friendly and were instrumental in assisting us to become familiar with the systems and processes in place at the University,” said Gina Milliot.

Engagement with academics in SoBEDS has been eye-opening for the students. “The lecturers are quite approachable and afford students the opportunity to give their opinions on development issues,” said Aida Gebrehiwet. “Our peers in the class have also been quite welcoming and we are amazed by the energy they bring into discussions, as well as their readiness to give their opinions during seminars. There is also a remarkable difference in what we learn at our home institution and what we have been exposed to at UKZN. While the contents at our home institution are mainly theoretical, the experience in SoBEDS has been practical. I think this is due to the South African context where development issues continue to be a daily lived experience of people”, said Aida Gebrehiwet. The willingness of academic staff to share their current research with students was also found helpful.

The students noted that the vibrancy and social life in the students’ residence is a new experience for them. “This is something that I am going to miss,” said Gina. The ongoing #Feesmustfall protests have been a unique experience for them.

“We have never had the experience of protests. Through interactions with staff and students, we have come to understand the real socio-economic challenges students face and the rationale for the ongoing protests”, said Gina Milliot.

“Overall, we are very happy and grateful for the opportunity to be part of the exchange program between UKZN and FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg”, said Gina Milliot.