Marthe is the first to participate in virtual exchange

Tre unge kvinner som står tett i tett på en kafé. Foto

Marthe Skjerpeng Benonisen (right) together with Anna Dybdahl Hauge (left) and Tatdao Kaeosrila. Private photo

Marthe is the first to participate in virtual exchange
Virtual exchange is an environmentally sustainable way for students to gain international experience.

"It was an incredibly positive experience," says Marthe Skjerpeng Benonisen. She was recently one of the first twenty-five students from Nord University to experience a virtual exchange.

The digital exchange took place this spring in collaboration between Nord University in Bodø and Babson College in the USA, which is ranked as one of the top educational institutions in the United States for entrepreneurship.

"A group of a total of forty students from two universities and three different master's programmes participated in this online learning project," says Marta Lindvert, course coordinator for Innovation Management.

Innovation Management is a study programme that, through the exchange programme, provided 7.5 credits within the Master in Entrepreneurship at Nord University Business School.

Additionally, students from Global Management at Nord University participated in the programme, which from the upcoming academic year will be called Sustainable Management and Arctic Perspectives.

The virtual exchange is part of the COIL collaboration (Collaborative Online International Learning). This is the first time digital exchange has occurred under a formal umbrella.

More info: Virtual Exchange/Collaborative Online International Learning (VE-COIL)

"We found that the task was solved a bit differently because another culture brought new experiences and perspectives into the solution process. It was enriching," says Marthe Skjerpeng Benonisen.

She is about to start her final year in the Master in Entrepreneurship programme.

"I still keep in touch with my group," she says.

She explains that, naturally, the group faced challenges working across languages and time zones. Sometimes language barriers led to misunderstandings, and coordinating meeting times with a six-hour time difference could be complicated at times.

"We usually solved it by working in the afternoon here at home. That was morning for the Babson students. It became especially important to be clear in communication and be flexible with timing to ensure effective collaboration," says Benonisen.

Kvinne med blå kortermet bluse utendørs foran universitetsbygg. Sommer. Foto
Course coordinator Marta Lindvert is pleased with the online collaboration with Babson college. "It was cheap, sustainable, educational and time-saving", she says. Photo by Hege Eilertsen.

"We started with three joint digital sessions where everyone participated. The students were then divided into groups, and although they submitted a joint assignment, everyone was evaluated at their own institution," says course coordinator Marta Lindvert.

The students collectively received a case from an external industry partner, a large international corporation. Then they took on the task: solving a communication challenge in a team where the students were physically located in different time zones.

"Resolving conflicts while discussing in another language is both useful and challenging," says Lindvert.

Both students and institutions strongly desire international exchange, but it isn't easy for everyone to travel abroad for half a year.

For some, this becomes an icebreaker. Meeting students from other continents becomes less daunting.

Marta Lindvert, course coordinator

"For some, this becomes an icebreaker. Meeting students from other continents becomes less daunting. Maybe the next step will be a semester abroad," says Lindvert.

As an institution, they found this a sustainable way to initiate international collaboration.

"It was cheap, time-efficient, and environmentally friendly. We are very pleased that we got such collaboration formalised for the first time," she says.

She believes the conditions for building lasting relationships that could be useful in the workplace later on are definitely present. The idea is to develop this collaboration further so that it can become a regular feature in the second semester of several master's programmes.

Nord University already has a well-established collaboration with the renowned university on the east coast of the USA.

She has full support from the students:

"This collaboration became an intercultural learning arena by bringing together different perspectives, experiences, and approaches from people with various cultural backgrounds."

"Through the collaboration, we had the opportunity to learn about each other's cultures, work methods, and values, which enriched our own perspectives and understanding. It was truly a valuable learning experience across cultures," elaborates Marthe S. Benonisen.

"It was a short but fun project," says fellow student Anton Lorentzen.

He would have liked more time to get acquainted, even though the group work took place via screen. He believes a more long-term collaboration would have been entirely possible.

Just overcoming a language barrier has great value. So, even though this isn't a full-fledged exchange, it is useful to gain insight into cultural differences.

Anton Lorentzen
Ung mann i lusekofte foran by i mørket. Foto
Anton Lorentzen is ready for a semester in South Africa. His desire to travel has not diminished after the virtual exchange. Private photo

"Just overcoming a language barrier has great value. So, even though this isn't a full-fledged exchange, it is useful to gain insight into cultural differences between different academic backgrounds. We also noticed that in Norway, we are used to a less hierarchical organisational structure," says Lorentzen.

For Lorentzen, the exchange marked the beginning of several international student meetings. This fall, he will spend a semester of his final year of the Master's programme in Entrepreneurship and Business in South Africa.

For Marthe S. Benonisen, the virtual exchange was an eye-opener.

"It is a great way to connect with people around the world, especially when physical meetings are not possible. Although it can't fully replace the physical experience of being in a new country, virtual exchange can still offer valuable opportunities for cultural exchange, collaboration, and learning. It's a different approach, but it can be equally valuable in many ways," she says.

She also felt more inclined to go on an exchange after working with people from different cultures.

"It seems like a fantastic way to learn more about the world and yourself."

(This article is translated into English by Chat GPT and quality assured by the Communications Unit at Nord University.)

Do you have questions about exchange? 

Feel free to contact the International Office. The staff gives practical guidance and facilitates incoming and outgoing exchange for students and staff.

Contact the International Office

University alliance SEA-EU

    Did you know that Nord University is a part of the university alliance SEA-EU? SEA-EU is a European university alliance for collaboration within education and research in Europe. The motto for the alliance is «Living sustainably, by, from and with the sea».

    The alliance consists of nine universities:

    In total, Sea-EU has more than 150,000 students and 18,000 staff. The universities in the alliance aim to strengthen coastal research and education fields and promote key areas of cooperation such as internationalisation, sustainability, digital transformation, openness, and democracy.

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