Topic outline

  • Round 3

    VIEL Student Experiences Wintersemester 2022/23

    • Alexa: "I am endlessly grateful for these wonderful experiences and would never want to miss them"

      When I first heard of the VIEL-Project I was a little bit insecure if I could manage to participate in a project additional to my regular courses at the University. But I was very interested in the program, so I joined it and made one of the best decisions in my life.

      In the first online meeting I met the other students Cliona, Hadjer, Thea, Josephat and Martin. Everybody was nervous but also excited to meet each other for the first time. But after a few minutes we already started to feel comfortable around each other. With every meeting I had the feeling to get to know the others more and more. I learned so much about the other students and also about their way of life, their cultures and traditions. So we slowly became friends without ever having seen each other live. Together we participated at four workshops about communication and media. In particular, I really enjoyed the video editing workshop by Farina Ebel. She first gave us a short overview about the theory of video editing and afterwards showed us the tool “DaVinci Resolve”. After this workshop I really started to enjoy making compilations of short videos.

      As always, the semester went by very quickly and preparations were made for our trip together. Flights were booked, visas were issued. And on February 24, 2023 was finally the big day when we flew to Kenya together. I was so excited and really looking forward to see the others. In Addis Ababa, we finally met each other in person. Everyone was still tired from the flight and couldn't believe it. When we drove from the airport in Mombasa to Kilifi, I first realized where I was. I was excited about the upcoming adventure and what awaited me in the weeks to come. On our first day, we all had dinner in a restaurant together and tried Kenyan specialties. Tamarind juice was very delicious, but also the seafood was excellent.

      On the second day we went to the sea. Even from a distance I could smell the salty air mixed with the smell of seaweed and algae. Our tuk tuk stopped in front of a hotel and we took a small alley alongside the hotel. From here I could already see the turquoise colour of the ocean. At the end of the alley, a beautiful view was waiting for us: In front of us stretched the Indian Ocean and miles of white sandy beach. We walked along the beach and noticed beautiful little shells and corals in the sand. I've never seen corals lying on the beach before. I put my feet in the water. It was pleasantly warm and flowed around my legs. At this moment I was incredibly grateful for everything that the project had made possible for me. I would have never thought that one day I would be sitting on a beach in Kenya with friends and talking for hours about the different lifestyles and cultures in our home countries.

      On Thursday we visited an event the Pwani University in Kilifi. As soon as we entered the huge gate, we could see how beautiful the campus is, that lies behind it. The streets were surrounded by colourful flower bushes. Friendly young people walked everywhere and greeted us as if we had known each other for ages. In a large hall we met the organizing team of the VIEL project. In the next hours we listened to exciting presentations about the upcoming master program for the students of Pwani University. After a delicious lunch, it was our turn: each VIEL participant presented a topic of their choice about study abroad experiences. I chose to present the benefits of gaining experience abroad because such experiences have a very important added value for individual personality development and many people underestimate that.


      The day after at the University event, we visited the WEIKE-project, which impressed me very much. There, I learned how to bake chapati with the help of three wonderful women and was immediately a part of their community. I really enjoyed that day and definitely try to stay in touch with the project.

      On the weekend, we went on a safari trip. We saw elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes and many more animals. When I was seeing all these animals in the wilderness, I felt so small and unimportant, but was also amazed by their daily fighting spirit. This was the crowning glory of the whole Kenya trip.

      The time in the project has gone by way too fast. I would love to continue participating in the wonderful project and never finish it. "VIEL" means "much" in German and that is true. I learned so much about other people, other cultures, but also about myself. I am endlessly grateful for these wonderful experiences and would never want to miss them. I am really looking forward to a reunion with my friends, but this time in Ireland.

      Let’s get ready for the next journey!

      "3 Questions to Alexa" on Instagram:

      • Josephat: "VIEL Project has taught me that we are a rich community of diverse cultures living in a small global village"


        I take this opportunity to thank Professor Sissi and Belinda for according me such a rare and wonderful chance to be part of the VIEL Project. Many thanks to all other students, Alexa, Thea, Hadjer, Martin and Clio, for the wonderful experience we shared during the journey of the VIEL Project. It would not have been possible without you all. You have transformed and impacted my life in such a special and wonderful way I shall never forget. I am truly grateful. Thank you! Danke schön! Asante sana! Shukran!


        Project Report

        During the VIEL Project we had several workshops on How to make a Padcast, Intercultural Aspects in Communication, Video Editing and Visualisation Basics. As I was preparing my podcast, I was exposed to Algerian culture and had a very wonderful exchange with my colleague and interview partner, Hadja Hammadi. I broadened my unerstanding of Germany through the interview I did with my student colleague Thea. I learnt quite a number of new things about Ireland through Clio and the football craze in a country proud of the national team. I also sharpened my video editing skills.

        Then came the lesson on cooking from Dr Rukiya. Oops! I am not a very good cook but believe me I tried my best to prepare "Mkate wa sinia". My first attempt was poor because I mistakenly used ginger instead of cadamon. It was such a horrible mistake I did which reminded me I am not perfect after all. My second attempt was better and the bread tasted nice. I learnt I just have to be careful at all times when it comes to food recipes, otherwise mistakes may render the whole meal unpalattable.

        The use of Emojis and the power they have in communication was an eye-opener to me. It was such a wonderful experience to see how signs in Asia mean one thing, but mean something else in Europe or in some Afrcan village. These emojis and signs are universal, designed the way they are, accepted and used the way they are. I pose to ask why the authors of these emojis never thought about asking for my or our opinion and views before coming up with these images and choice of colours. I personaly feel many cultural views may have been completely left out by the creators and inventors of emojis. Maybe they should do some random reaserch across many parts of the globe before creating new ones. 

        In the Giryama culture for example a sign showing a face with a mouth covered by the palm of the hand, may mean someone is sad, or emotionally distressed. Yet to others elsewhere in the world it could mean please be quiet, do not speak anything or someone is muzzled and not allowed to speak their opinion. This diversity in our cultures should have guided the designers and inventors of emojis to cover as many cultures of the world as possible, something which in my view did not happen. We are just given emojis and signs the way they are without being asked our opinion, we accept them the way they are and we use them.

        The trip to Kenya was such a beautiful climax to the VIEL project. I already knew the students, so meeting them face to face was completing the whole picture of the VIEL project. So exciting!

        It was such an honour for me to be asked by Professor Sissi and Belinda to take other students and delegates of the VIEL project around Pwani University. I felt really honoured and I humble myself to these two great people. Welcome to Pwani University in Kilifi. Welcome to my city! We started at the new administration block then went to the botanical garden where we had a real one on one experience with nature. The experience was so exciting enjoying the cool breeze under the shade of neem trees and listening to the beautiful sound of birds singing and grasshoppers chirping. I actually discovered I had a natural talent of being a tour guide and showing visitors and tourists around, something I was actually doing for the first time. I could do well in the hospitality industry, just once in a while. Maybe I still have hidden talents in me which I hope to discover as I continue to make my small humble contribution through the VIEL Project. Bofa Beach was a blast. The white sand, the blue ocean, the small waves, the warm water current, the swimming! I get goose bumps whenever I think about the captivating experience we had. I be like take me back to Bofa beach now!

        I had a difficult challenge at the Agha Khan Hospital in Kilifi when I had to take one of the students who had been taken ill. I guess the heat was just too much especially after having come from a cold winter in Europe. The doctors and nurses there were so nice and friendly. As I experienced what other patients were going through at the hospital, I realised how privileged I am to be healthy. I learnt to appreciate good health and never take it for granted. I learnt how important it is to be compassionate and gracious to others in need; creating time and giving myself up for service to others in need.

        The presentation at Pwani University on Thursday 2 March was the climax of the VIEL Project. Standing in front of so many people is not something I am used to on a daily basis, but I feel I performed well. I sharpened the art of public speaking in a very cool manner without fear, using humour to keep the audience glued, attentive and interested to what I was presenting. I loved the connection I had with my audience and their reaction was reassuring and encouraged me as I presented my life experience in Germany. A feeling of acceptance and being appreciated by my fellow country men and women seeing me as a good ambassador in a foreign country on continental Europe. What a privilege!

        I have learnt a lot about compassion; showing love and compassion to the less privileged in society. l did this at the women project in Mnarani by weike eV. It was such an amazing experience to see wonderful ladies running such a beautiful project to further advance their lives and make an impact and difference in their immediate families and society. I learnt that life is about sharing and showing love to others. Sharing, sharing and sharing - anything and everything that I have with those that may not be lucky to have, or they have little to survive on.

        I was looking forward to having a lifetime experience at the Tsavo East National Park but it was not to be. I was a bit feverish and felt body pain the night before the safari on Saturday. I decided I would remain behind and rest. I guess my body was just tired and body fatigue took a toll on me. I got well in time for final dinner at Mnarani Club, a very old but beautiful hotel. It is here that we were given our certificates having successfully completed the journey of the VIEL Project. What a surprise! What a feeling! I actually did not expect it. I thought we would get our certificates once we submit our reports about the trip to Kenya. Such is life, surprises that leave me completely surprised and create a lot of nostalgia.

        It was such a sweeet surprise and so refreshing to receive my certificates from Professor Sissi, as Belinda called our names, one by one. I was so so happy I had to sing a thank-you song first before Professor gave me my certificates. These certificates touched my heart so much. I felt the whole VIEL project was very much worth it and I had a very deep feeling I should avail myself for the project or any other project in the days to come. That readiness to make my small and humble contribution to further advance the project became so strong in me. I just felt like flying higher and higher for VIEL. A true Kenyan ambassador to the VIEL Project.

        Then I had an experience with the forgotten towel. One of us left her towel at Makuti Villas in Kilifi. I just happened to go back to Makuti to meet someone for breakfast and by chance the lady who had served us while we were staying there, told me about this forgotten towel and asked if I could take it with me to Germany. I obliged taking into consideration the significance of clothes in my culture: In my own Giryama culture, clothes symbolise identity, power and authority. There is such a special reverence to clothing such that we respect every piece of clothe that belongs to other people. Before anyone can wear or use someone else's clothes, permission has to be granted by the owner. If someone forgets or loses their clothes and are found by somebody else, most probably they will keep them and try to look for the owner and return them; no matter how long it may take. This behavioral pattern in our culture may have been eroded by modernity but it is still very much evident in villages away from cities and upcoming towns. Clothes can be shared, passed on and even be gifted to others. The burning of clothes is not very common. So is the collection of clothes at special places with the aim of giving them as donation to centers of the disabled people or orphans. It is due to this significance of my culture that I decided with intent to take the forgotten towel with me back to Germany. It has to reach her owner eventually.

        As I conclude, VIEL Project has taught me that we are a rich community of diverse cultures living in a small global village. We share so many things together despite our many difference in language and countries of origin. All said and done, we are all one. A humanity that is resilient and shining everywhere for everyone.

        Thank you Professor Sissi and Belinda for extending a hand of invitation for me to join the VIEL Project. I cannot find words to thank them enough. Many thanks to all other students we have been together in this journey, Alexa, Thea, Hadjer, Clio and Martin. Many thanks to Vickey, Alex Muthanga and Edith Miano, the Heart of VIEL at Pwani University. I really appreciate you all and hope and pray our paths will cross again along the journey of the VIEL Project. Long live VIEL.

        "3 Questions to Josephat" on Instagram:

        • Hadjer: "Throughout the project, I felt that I have developed both personally and professionally"

          Joining the VIEL project for me started with a coincidence that led to an unforgettable experience. Being in the final stages of my PhD, I was very hesitant to join the project for a full semester. However, I had no idea that it will be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have always been passionate about different cultures, and this was one of my main motives to join VIEL. Throughout the project, I felt that I have developed both personally and professionally.

          During the semester, I learned a lot about communication and media from the variety of workshops we had. I found the first workshop highly informative. Although it was my first time learning about podcasts, I was thrilled with the final result of the podcast that I made using the software. I had the chance to interview Josephat and ask him a few questions about his culture (Kenya). Our conversation lasted longer than expected as it was rich in cultural aspects that were interesting and insightful. The second workshop revolved around intercultural communication. I was very excited to attend this workshop as it is in my field of expertise. The discussion was very engaging as we all came from diverse cultures and perceived things differently. We had other two workshops on video editing and visualisation. Overall, I gained an overview of the basics of communication and creating media with considerable practical knowledge. Along with these workshops, we used to meet each Tuesday evening online. This was like a once-in-a-week chit-chat session. We talked about everything and anything: our daily life routine, food, culture and many more. Gradually, we formed friendships that we will cherish forever.

          The highlight of the whole VIEL experience, which we were all looking forward to, was our travel to Kenya. After a long flight, I got to feel the warm breeze of the Kenyan weather. Although I was very excited to visit a new country and meet everyone face-to-face, the trip exceeded my expectations. We all felt like we knew each other and clicked immediately. We had the chance to visit several places around Kilifi and be exposed to the real Kenyan lifestyle. I was amazed by the welcoming spirit of Kenyan people and how they lived in harmony within a very diverse community. We had the chance to visit the university and participate in an event to showcase and share our experience. My trip to Kenya was an eye-opening experience filled with memories that I will never forget.

          Thank you VIEL for the opportunity!

          • Cliona: "The depth of what I experienced there almost surpasses my capacity to explain it"

            I would strongly encourage any student offered a place on the VIEL Project to seize the opportunity to participate. We learned new skills and formed new friendships. I looked forward to our weekly calls with the project participants like a beacon of light during my working week. Apart from the learning opportunities, we exchanged many funny stories and there was a lot of laughter. This translated and was exponentially multiplied when we met.

            I can understand why there were so many returnees to Kenya amongst my travel companions. There are many things about Kenya that are simply intoxicating. The depth of what I experienced there almost surpasses my capacity to explain it. It was transformational for me to see how people live and do things in other parts of the world. I knew it would be a hugely enriching experience, but it provided me with a level of education and insight that I had not expected.

            I am glad that I took a chance and did the project, despite any initial reservations I may have had. It enhanced my university experience tenfold and provided me with some insight and lessons that I hope to bring forward to serve me in my everyday life.

            Thank you VIEL. Thank you, Kenya.

            • Martin: "VIEL program was amazing! "

              I vividly remember receiving a call from Edith offering me the opportunity to be part of VIEL Cohort 3. Without hesitation I agreed to take up the opportunity expecting to learn new cultures, languages and make new international friends (lol). My first interaction was with Belinda who reached out through Whatsapp and email providing a brief background of VIEL and introducing me to the rest of the team through the Whatsapp group. Wednesday, 12 October 2022 was our first virtual event via zoom at 12:30pm EAT (Kenya). At first my network almost disappointed me breaking especially when granted the chance to introduce myself; luckily I managed to shift locations going just at the far end of the office compound under a baobab tree. I really like that tree the hotspot of nature.

              On 27th October 2022 we were taught on how to make a podcast. Honestly I did not know that making a podcast would be that easy especially with audacity. Later on we were grouped into three each tasked to make a podcast interview. I was privileged to interview Alexa in one of our private chats with the podcast also presented during the workshop. Cliona also had the chance to interview me with the podcast being remarkable too.

              One of my most remarkable classes was on Intercultural Aspects in Communication (Thursday, 17th November 2022). This took me down memory lane on the coastal dishes which I had missed; my taste buds were irked by the presentation of mahamri, pilau and biriani. I could not resist the urge to prepare pilau at home though I made it too spicy, a story for another day.

              Thursday, 15th December 2022 we learnt about Video-Editing using Davinci. This was a game changer as I could now edit videos and present them to interested parties, who know maybe make it a side-hustle. However, my laptop seemed not to be compatible with the program despite the numerous efforts to update my drivers. I recognize the continuous effort made by Belinda in assisting me to find a way to complete my assignment on video editing. 

              The program culminated with a physical meeting at Pwani University which was an opportunity to physically meet.

              VIEL program was amazing! I would not hesitate to refer friends to the program. Asante - Danke - Thank You!

              • Thea: "At the start of the semester, I couldn't dare to imagine that it's possible to build friendships with only one meeting a week and a week of traveling."

                At the start of the semester, I decided to take part in the VIEL-project to improve my English skills and get to know some people from other countries. Honestly, the trip to Kenya also caught me. I wasn't sure what to expect from the project, how it feels to stay in contact with people I haven't seen in real life before. I also didn't know anything about Kenyan or Irish culture and how students lives over there.
                Once a week we met online and talked about daily stuff, shared recipes or funny memes and also planned our journey to Kenya. It became a fixed meeting in my weekly schedule, and I always loved these meetings because of the relaxed atmosphere. In addition to these meetings, we had a workshop every month. At these workshops we learned some new skills like video editing, visualization or how to do a podcast. In small exercises, we had the possibility to learn and improve these skills.

                At the end of February, it was time to pack our backs and get on the plane to Kenya. So we left the German winter behind us and traveled to Kilifi, a cute town at the coast of the Indian Ocean. The experience started already on the bus from the airport: we saw many people, small villages, palm forests and the ocean and couldn't believe we're finally there. The following days we visited Pwani University, explored the city and saw some Gedi ruins. We also went to dinner at different places, chill around at the great beaches or enjoyed the sun at our hotel pool. During all those activities, we get to know each other better from day to day. Luckily, Josephat knows the city and the region around Kilifi very well and showed us around, helped us with stuff like register sim-lines or going to the pharmacy. He was the best tour guide we could possibly have and a very good help to get to know how it works in Kenya. It was crazy that I saw those people for about half a year only online, but it feels like we have been friends before. Not only our activities and adventures were a great time together. It was very nice to know that there is always someone around to hang out, sometimes it feels like we all are neighbors or roommates for this week. At the start of the semester, I couldn't dare to imagine that it's possible to build friendships with only one meeting a week and a week of traveling.

                On Thursday, the event at Pwani University took place. Within this event, Sissi and her colleagues finally presented the MCM-study program to the students. Another part of the event was the presentation of the VIEL-project, which also included a small presentation from all participants. Like exemplary students we were finishing the presentations the night before, just sitting at the pool, talking, laughing and helping each other out. Even if we all did study nearly the same, it was interesting to see that we all did have other skills than the others. In this case, it was actually very helpful, because we could help each other with our presentations.

                Another highlight for me was the WEIKE-project. This project is also founded by Sissi and some other people, who were also traveling with us. The project offers single mothers a piece of hope and future through offering fields to plant vegetables and fruits. Those can be taken home for their self-sufficiency and also  be sold to earn some money. I was really impressed by this project and the strength of the women, who were partly my age or even younger. Together we cooked a meal and enjoyed our lunch in the shadow of a huge tree that built the center of the field.

                Furthermore, the VIEL- Project gave me the possibility to travel around Kenya. As I really love to travel and had a few more weeks off from university, I decided to extend the stay in Kenya after the time of the project. Luckily, a friend of mine also had time and decided to join me for traveling around the country. Together we traveled the country for three and a half weeks, went on safari, hang out at beaches, partied till the sunrise and snorkeled at beautiful coral reefs. We also got the opportunity to get to know the culture and history of Kenya during a visit to the National museum, traditional villages and the contact with many locals. In the end we also spent some time at the coast again and I had the possibility to go back to Kilifi for a day-trip.

                Now, after one month in the sun of Kenya I am back in the cold, rainy Germany and thinking of the many experiences I could make during the last weeks. I wouldn't miss a single one of them, even if there are also some experiences, which do not feel like the perfect holiday experiences. The reality of life is very hard for many people in Kenya, they live with the bare minimum, while others (including us) live in nice houses, have everything we want and need. But even under these conditions, the people were so friendly and helped us every time we needed help.

                I am so thankful for this whole experience VIEL offered me, starting with our weekly meetings and ending with the time in Kenya. During the semester I did not only improve my English skills as expected, I got new friends all over the world and collected moments and impressions that I will keep in mind for maybe the rest of my life.

                "3 Questions to Thea" on Instagram: