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Student Assessor Trip to Brussels, Bordeaux, and Bilbao

Date:15 April 2020
Author:Ester Alda H. Bragadóttir
Ester Alda H. Bragadóttir (right)
Ester Alda H. Bragadóttir (right)

Early March, I got the great opportunity to go on a trip as the student assessor of the faculty Campus Fryslân, with the student assessors of the other faculties and the University Board. This was an eventful week, with great opportunities to learn about other universities and the European Commission. 

At the beginning of this term, I, Ester Alda a 2nd-year student in University College Fryslân, was appointed the student assessor of the Faculty Board, meaning that I work as an advisory member of the Board, so as an intermediary between students and the Board. The task of the assessor is to advise board members and ensure that the students’ voice is heard regarding major decisions within the Faculty. This is a great opportunity and I have already learned a lot, despite the short time I have been in the position. 

All the eleven faculties in the University of Groningen have their student assessor, as well as the Board of the University. Therefore, a group of twelve student assessors began the week-trip, March 1st on a train to Brussels. There we got to visit the European Commission and hear presentations on their focus in higher education. At the moment their main focus is on Erasmus+, which is a programme that concentrates on supporting education, training, youth, and sport in Europe, and right now their main goals are to increase inclusivity and accessibility, removing barriers to mobility and cooperation. Furthermore, they are working on a Green Erasmus strategy which focuses on environmentally friendly options, for example regarding student mobility, which I think we can all agree on, is great news! 

Another project we learned about is The EU and ME, which targets young people in order to show them what benefits it offers for them to be a part of the European Union. This was a creative campaign that shows information in a more accessible way than can be found on their general website, so if you have not seen it yet, I really recommend checking it out.

Our second and third destinations were the University of Bordeaux, in France and the University of the Basque Country, in Spain. Both Universities have large student populations and various campuses in different locations, and in both places, we gathered a lot of useful information and inspiration for our work at the UG. I was pleased to know that the former, University of Bordeaux, is paying special attention to Sustainable Development and the effects of climate change. They have experienced the temperature change first-hand in the region, with the peak energy use moving from heating in the wintertime to cooling in the summertime. Therefore, they are focusing on both research and education on finding solutions. Moreover, they informed us about the different measures they are taking in making education more accessible for students with special needs, for instance, students with disabilities, or students with limited time such as pro athletes or artists, which I thought was really interesting. One specialty the University of Bordeaux has is their Institute of Vine and Wine Science, where they offer various programmes and research in relation to wine. 

The part of the visit to Bordeaux that inspired me the most, however, was our visit to their Student Health Center. The Center offers all health-related help and support free of charge to every student of the University. In the center, students can get support with mental and physical health issues as well as various other assistance, such as advice related to drugs, contraception, vaccines, even abortion. Furthermore, they offer peer-education on issues where it can be good to get help from people that have experienced similar things. In my opinion, this is a great initiative that ensures equal access and openness to quality health care. Overall, the visit to Bordeaux was really useful and offered great insights into different university life. 

The most interesting what we learned in the other University, the University of the Basque Country, was when we visited the Universities Employment center in Bilbao. The center aims to help students get their way to the job market after they have finished their studies and to make sure the conditions offered are satisfactory. Companies reach out to them in order to recruit students to work for them, and the center matches students and companies. Not only do they help students right after graduation, but they also do surveys among alumni three years after they graduate, asking if they are employed, about satisfaction and salary. They also see where graduates are lacking and assist with encouragement into certain fields, for instance now they are focusing on getting more women into the tech field. In addition, they are very active on social media in order to reach out to students. This visit was also very interesting and enjoyable to see how much effort is put into student employability. Right now, we are working on a report which will be sent to all boards and other concerning committees, to use the knowledge we gained for a good purpose within the UG.    

In addition to all the knowledge I gained from these aforementioned visits, it was also great to get to spend these days with the other student assessors and gain insight and understanding into the work of the other faculties within the University of Groningen. All of the assessors are really fun, and even though I joined the group half a year later than all of them since student assessors are usually appointed at the beginning of an academic year, they have all been really open and inviting, making this experience even more enjoyable. We added some extra activities, like going to museums and having nice dinners and going to bars, allowing us to bond even better. 

Overall the trip was excellent, as well as all my student assessor experience. The Board and I are currently in the process of looking for the next student assessor. I highly recommend, to every student that will be here next year, to consider applying for the position if they are interested in representing students within Campus Fryslân and advise on major decisions. Keep in mind that the job is extremely educational, and includes perks like this trip! 

Ester Alda H. Bragadóttir