• The University strengthens its internationalization strategy through cooperative internship programs

    April 28, 2015

    Graduate and master students join humanitarian projects developed by Cáritas in Latin America and Africa to complete their academic training

    Rural community of Bajo Atrato, in Colombia, one of the places where international cooperation projects are being developed. Picture: Álvaro Villegas.

    In the last few years the University of Oviedo has shown a strong commitment to internationalization, not only concerning education or research, but also promoting the mobility of graduate and master students to complete their training abroad. Internships in international projects related to development cooperation are one of the alternatives offered to students to become closer to other social and cultural realities, and to gain practical experience "in situ" adding a sense of commitment and solidarity.

    The Asturian academic institution, in collaboration with Cáritas Asturias and the Asturian Agency for Cooperation, promote every year some grants for university students from different branches of knowledge to collaborate in projects developed by the organization in Latin America and Africa. These grants, managed by the Vice-Chancellor for Internationalization and Postgraduate programs, get a round 50 applications every year and the grantees go through an intense training course before spending from 4 to 6 weeks in their destination. This is an experience that, as participants say, changes your personal and professional vision.

    This type of initiatives is developed in the framework of the objectives of the Campus of International Excellence to strengthen the commitment to society. Some participants in this program share their experiences with other students interested in joining the program, through talks and meeting which have a common conclusion: their willingness to go back.

    "I actually went to Peru to unlearn", tries to explain Eric Cuesta to other students willing to apply for these grants. He is almost done his studies in Nursing and he spent several weeks in the Peruvian highlands developing workshops based on Education for Health. "You actually realize how different their personal values and priorities are, and how much we need to learn", he explains to the attendants to the informative session at the Faculty of Teacher Training and Education.

    Last summer, Álvaro Villegas learnt how to build fences in a mountain area in the northeast area of Medellín, in Colombia. This Psychology student worked alongside with some groups whose human rights had been violated and that, in many cases, had been taken away from their homelands. "You actually realize that you are kind of a retaining wall that allows to restore the community network of rural areas", he says to other students while showing pictures of the communities that have taught him " a lot", and stating his wish to go back there again next summer.

    The respect to the different ways to see the same reality is a useful lesson that Cayetana Arias brought back from Peru. "Sometimes, it is not that easy to implement our evident and practical solutions to problems, because they have their own way to understand life and your actions as a professional shall take that into account", highlights this Nursing student, who worked with communities in Cajamarca in Peru. Covering the fruit, keeping animals within their animal enclosures, not in the kitchen, and throwing away the meat from sick animals are some of the advice Cayetana gave them in her Project on Families and healthy homes.

    A hospital in the city center of Yaundé, the capital of Cameroon, was the place where Loreto Arias did her internships. She went through all the different services and noticed that solidarity favors the best results. "They have nothing", she said, and most of the times are the doctors themselves the ones who try to ease the lack. "I have seen doctors pay for material or surgeries with their own money to prevent a kid from dying", she explains. "This makes you have a different perception and when you come back you know things have to be different", she highlights, in relation to the efficient management of resources.

    The call for grants to participate in collaboration projects aimed at students from the University of Oviedo will end on May 5. The graduate and master students who meet the established requirements will be eligible for this program. Cáritas Asturias will give the students previous training and will select the final candidates and destinations. The international collaboration internships shall be recognized as credits according to the specialty and destination.

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    Children in one of the small villages of the Cajamarca region, in the Peruvian highlands. Picture: Cayetana Arias.