Manouk about going on exchange
Our Global Management of Social Issues student Manouk is very much aware of the fact that travel has a bad impact on the environment. “However, by making sustainable choices, you can travel in a more environmentally friendly way.” In the Fall of 2019, she went on exchange to KIMEP University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. “Air travel often seems an attractive option, but it isn’t very interesting at all. My cool traveling experiences happened on trains amidst the local population: you can go sight-seeing and experience culture first hand. That trains have less of an impact on the environment makes it the best way to travel for me.”
Since in her studies at Tilburg University, much attention was paid to so-called ‘wicked problems’, Manouk got to do many assignments on subjects like climate change, poverty, and disease. “If you want to work on these kinds of issues in your career, it is important that you immerse yourself in a culture that is rather different from your own. That will give you different perspectives of these issues. Therefore, going on exchange was a logical step for me.” Manouk was also motivated to go on exchange as part of the curriculum and specific information activities were organized for that purpose.
Although the fact that the experience would be a useful component of her studies was an important reason for Manouk to opt for going on exchange, seeing more of the world in general was another motivation. “I find the culture of Kazakhstan interesting because of the country’s history. I was curious how the culture of this former Soviet country combines with Asian influences.” She is thrilled that the opportunities for exchange at Tilburg University are so diverse. “I was so excited to be given the opportunity to discover this kind of place for myself.”
In Kazakhstan, Manouk took courses on political and policy subjects. “The classes were different. The groups were smaller so there was more interaction and different perspectives came up for discussion. I was in groups with students from Kazakhstan – who were lucky enough to have parents who could afford to send them to university –, with scholarship students from neighboring countries, and with one or two European or American students.” There were opportunities to discuss different perspectives of political freedom in class. “Most of my fellow students were from countries with different views of freedom and where they are not used to being able to always say what they think, so this was a very instructive experience. It was challenging sometimes, but it has also enriched my own understanding.”
In addition to taking courses, Manouk also did a lot of traveling during her exchange. “We used to go on a trip almost every weekend,” she admits. “From Kazakhstan, there are good connections to the surrounding countries. So I saw a lot of that part of the world.” Manouk took the train, of course. “They were long-distance journeys on the night train. Because the area is so thinly populated, you see beautiful natural scenery for hours.” And when they stopped at a village … “Because the people there are so isolated, they are happy when a train makes a stop. We once stopped at a remote village and the villagers rushed to the train to sell us their fresh produce.”
After her exchange in Kazakhstan, Manouk continued her journey into India. She traveled through India and Sri Lanka by train, north to south. And when, at the end of 2021, she moved from Copenhagen to Czechia to graduate there, she also opted for the train. “For journeys in Europe, I will always try to travel by train. And if I want to travel further, I will first make a list of possible modes of transport before I make a choice.” That is something she wants to impress upon students who want to go on exchange: “Sustainable options are always open to you, so think twice before you get on a place. And it's not only easier to square it with your conscience, but it can also yield cool experiences.”
Are you unsure about where you want to go and what mode of transportation would be your best choice? Please contact our Study Abroad team. The next application deadlines are July 1 and September 1.
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Disclaimer: Exchanges in the academic year 2022/23 will go ahead if and when the COVID-19 situation permits.