Topic outline

  • Round 5

    VIEL Student Experiences Wintersemester 2023/24

    • Christina: "I will treasure the memories I made forever"

      The Virtual International Exchange Program (VIEL) was a transformative journey that brought together students from the University of Limerick, Pwani University, and the University of Applied Sciences in Karlsruhe. This semester-long program aimed to foster cross-cultural understanding, collaboration, and skill development through weekly virtual meetings, workshops, and a culminating in-person experience.
      I was so happy to be able to take part in this journey and will treasure the memories I made forever.

      I decided to take part in this project because I’ve always had a high interest in other cultures, the differences between them, the values they hold and worldview they have. I’m convinced that we can learn so much from each other and intercultural exchange broadens our horizons.
      The semester kicked off with regular weekly online meetings, where the students from this semesters VIEL round (David Nyagah, Katrin, Aoife and me) also met for the first time. Over the semester we collaborated on workshops, shared insights of our cultures and personal details, and discussed cultural nuances. Over Zoom we created a truly global learning environment. Workshops, ranging from podcasting to visualisation and sharing recipes, enriched the experience and our knowledge.

      In February the VIEL project came to an end and the participants went on a collective journey to Kenya, where we met David, the vibrant culture of Kilifi/Kenya, and the Pwani University.

      The visit to Pwani University provided a unique opportunity to meet our Kenyan counterpart in person, fostering deeper connections. He showed us around his lovely town and University, and we did soak in all the impressions (and food).

      At the Pwani University we also engaged in informative workshops and cultural exchange activities. Outside the Pwani University we also got to explore the breathtaking landscapes of Kenya which contributed to an unforgettable experience.
      The trip to Kenya was not just a physical exploration but an emotional and cultural immersion. Interacting with local communities, experiencing traditional Kenyan cuisine, and participating in collaborative workshops created lasting memories.

      Participating in VIEL was a decision that greatly enriched my academic and personal growth. The semester was a proof to the power of technology in fostering global connections and getting physical limitations out of the way.
      The journey to Kenya gave me an emotional insight into this lovely culture and its lovely people.
      To me it reinforced the importance of cultural understanding and collaboration in today's interconnected world.

      As a reflect of this journey I am so grateful for the friends I made, the skills I honed, and the memories I collected.
      And the journey continues...

      • Katrin: "I made new friends, collected experiences for life and had a lot of fun"

        Everything started with previous VIEL students who told me about their fantastic experiences. By that time, I was thinking a lot about doing a semester aboard in Ireland because I wanted to improve my English and I am interested about the country and the culture. Those two facts brought me to the point to apply for the VIEL Project, since it sounded off a lot of fun, it’s an opportunity to practice my English and not only to get to know more about Ireland but also to learn about the Kenyan culture. Now I am really grateful I have participated in this project. The plan with my semester aboard didn’t work out but because of the VIEL project I am not sad about this anymore.

        Our first Zoom meeting was in October 2023. I remember that I was a little nervous but also very curious about meeting everyone. On that day I got to know David and Aoife. Christina I already knew since we study together, and I was very happy that she was part of the project too. We decided to hold our weekly meetings every Wednesday, where we engaged in various workshops. The first workshop, focusing on podcast production using Audacity, served as a great icebreaker, allowing us to interview each other and craft a podcast episode. Subsequent workshops covered topics such as intercultural communication, basic Kiswahili phrases, and using graphic design tools like Figma. Our weekly meetings delved into our daily lives, traditions, and cultural nuances, often accompanied by discussions about food, and sometimes, shared meals.

        At the 16th of February the day has come when we traveled to Kenya. Our flight was from the airport in Frankfurt and since Aoife arrived there in the morning from Ireland, Christina and I decided to come earlier to Frankfurt as well to spend some time with Aoife in the city center.

        Our flight to Kenya was remarkably smooth, with only minor turbulence along the way. Stepping off the plane at 5 AM, we were greeted by the warmth of a new Kenyan morning, a stark contrast to the chilly 12 degrees we had left behind in Germany. Embracing the 25-degree temperature, I relished the change, though the humidity could be challenging at times. Cold showers became a daily ritual to beat the heat and refresh ourselves.

        After a one-hour ride with a small private bus we arrived in Kilifi. Our hotel was not very big but quiet and had a nice view of the Kilifi Creek. Conveniently situated near Naivers, a local supermarket, and an ATM, it became our hub for daily necessities. The staff at the hotel were incredibly hospitable, engaging us in friendly conversations throughout our stay. Each morning, we indulged in a hearty breakfast at the hotel, complete with fresh juice, assorted fruits, and often Spanish omelettes and pancakes.

        The day after our arrival, we finally had the pleasure of meeting David in person. He gave us a tour around the town and tried to get us SIM Cards. However, it was Sunday and all the shops we went to that would have had SIM Cards were closed. At the end we ate lunch together and had some fresh tamarind juices.

        Following our encounter with David, we had the privilege of meeting Sissi's husband, who introduced us to another remarkable project they were involved in. Together, they leased a field where they provided space for women to cultivate crops, empowering them to generate income and improve their livelihoods. It became one of my favourite places in Kilifi.

        One day we went with some of the women to the market to buy a lot of food and helped afterwards to cook traditional dishes. That was an amazing experience, and I had a lot of fun. At the end we all ate together, and it was really delicious!

        At that day I also had the chance to plant a mango tree there. I named it “Karibu”. That means welcome in Kiswahili and it was the first word I have learned. That’s why I thought it would be a suitable name.

        Other things we did during our time in Kenya were going to university for some lectures (for example the graphic design workshop took place there as well), of curse we went shopping for souvenirs and one day we went kayaking.

        One particularly meaningful experience was our visit to an elementary school, where Christina, Aoife, and I volunteered to assist a teacher in educating students about body hygiene and the menstruation cycle. Recognizing the importance of these topics, we hoped to contribute to the students' health and well-being.

        On Friday the 23rd of February there was an event at the University. It was about the master’s in communication and media that is quite new at the Pwani University and the whole collaboration which made that happen. There were a lot of speeches and presentations of students that are currently doing the master program. At the afternoon all the VIEL-Students had a presentation there as well on different topics. My presentation was about the whole project itself and covered what we did, and which experiences I made.

        Following the event, we embarked on a sunset cruise along Kilifi Creek, joined by David, Christina, Aoife, Yvonne, Pamela, Linda, Neil, and Donald. The serene atmosphere, accompanied by music and snacks, set the stage for an unforgettable evening. As the sun dipped below the horizon, we plunged into the cool waters, relishing the refreshing embrace of the night.

        Reflecting on this experience, I wholeheartedly recommend a sunset cruise in Kilifi as a must-do activity, offering a perfect blend of tranquility and adventure amidst breathtaking scenery.

        On the weekend before we left Kenya again, we did a Safari in the Tsavo East National Park. That was amazing. We did the Safari with Jawamu Kilifi Adventure Ltd. and were a group of 12 people and travelled in two Safari-Vans. I really enjoyed the time. The landscape and the animals were fantastic. Verry often I had music from the Lion King in my head and now I know, why Disney has chosen the Simba for the mane character. Probably because Simba means lion in Kiswahili.

        I am really grateful that I had the chance to be part of the VIEL-Project. As my report shows, I have seen so many amazing things, got to know a lot of great people, made new friends, collected experiences for life and had a lot of fun. Everyone who is interested in other cultures and open for adventures I would recommend participating in the VIEL Project.

        • David:


          I am David Nyagah a student from Pwani University Kilifi, Kenya a pursuing a Master of Science  Degree in Public Health, and was part of the exchange (round five) an opportunity which will never fade. I applied for the exchange after coming across the advert in our university website and was thrilled to participate in an international forum. I successfully applied and secured an opportunity.

          The Gold Inside the Shell

          The opportunity has been a real open eye opener for me as I got to interact with people from different nationalities raised differently from an African Set-up. The exchange was conducted virtually using communication media channels like zoom and Whats-app. Timing for the students   sessions were agreed upon by the team however, the workshops were delivered upon facilitators’ and students agreed timings.

          There were three workshops which were spread across the exchange period namely: Podcast making (October), International communications(November), and Visualization(January). The workshops were properly prepared and delivered by competent facilitators. Notably they helped us undertake the few assignments given to us during the exchange period and also prepared us for International Physical Presentations which was conducted on the 29th Day February 2024 at LTW, Pwani University and all my colleagues gave excellent presentations on this day. The exchange also happened to be during the December holiday festivities and we were able to appreciate the different cultural practices, foods and cerebration styles in German, Ireland and Kenya.

          The weekly meetings among the students were very interesting as we got to share our daily live experiences, the work, the eating habits, the foods, our hobbies, conditions at work or school, the cost of living, our lives as students, lives as working students, the naming practices and we also got to appreciate each other languages. Taught them some basic Kiswahili Words like “Jambo” for hello and “Asante” for thank you and learned some Irish words like “Dia duit” for hello. Colleagues were good time managers and appreciated the time we spent together. We were able to build a bond and a network socially and academically which is geared towards future developments.  Normally our meetings were on Wednesday of every week during the exchange period, at 8:00Pm Kenyan Time. Ms. Belinda was a perfect coordinator for the meetings, vibrant and enthusiastic. 

          Colleagues from the exchange visited the Kenya on the 17th February 2024 and they all travelled together a sign of the strong bond which developed during the exchange period and I met them few hours after their arrival and this day was memorable. To mention these colleagues are generous, they brought some gifts from their home countries. I was able to show them around our town (Kilifi Town), enjoyed a local juice (Turmulin), and soughted out some few issues and they headed back to their hotel rooms. We had meetings and get together activities at different places within Kilifi and I believe they enjoyed their stay despite the abnormal warm and humid conditions experienced this year (2024).

          Take Home Message

          Ø  The world is now a global village and acquainting oneself with International Skills like International communication is very important.

          Ø  Appreciating ones’ culture and being ready to respect other peoples’ cultures.

          Ø  Time is critical and must be efficiently managed.

          Ø  We can all learn from each other

          Ø  Building and maintaining International Networks to sustain Globalization

          • Aoife: "I can safely say that the VIEL exchange has been one of the best experiences of my life"

            My name is Aoife and I applied to be part of the VIEL program at the beginning of my masters program, not really having much of an idea about the program or about the skills I would gain from the masters degree. I thought, what better way to gain as much technical communications experience as possible as I was very unsure about what I would do after my masters.

            As we began the virtual exchange, I gained a greater insight as to what technical communication was, the VIEL program fit in very well with the masters program and the additional lectures, exercises, talks and assignments were a great way to expand my understanding and they were always great fun and not too time consuming. The work I did for VIEL never felt like a task. Belinda and the team had a way of making the information fun and interesting and the assignments entertaining and enjoyable.

            The weekly meetings made the program feel like I was catching up with friends, it was a nice way to unwind after a busy day. Our group met every Wednesday evening, we discussed how our weeks were going and what our plans were for the weekend. We often discussed the differences between each of our home countries. This was a very interesting aspect of the program that I would not have been able to experience anywhere else.

            I also could not give up the opportunity to visit Kenya, I had never travelled that far from home before, to such a different culture than I grew up in. The two weeks spent in Kilifi was the highlight of the program for me, I met so many amazing people and have made connections for life. I personally wanted to go and to see what kind of work other technical communicators were doing around the world and to be immersed in their world for a short time. I learned so much from what I was taught but also from just being around so many people from this field of work.             

            I can safely say that the VIEL exchange has been one of the best experiences of my life. I think that anyone who passes up the oppertunity to take part in this program is greatly missing out. I also got to celebrate my birthday out in Kenya which was amazing and a birthday I will remember forever! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to complete  this program and so happy I made so many friends along the way!