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Experience on intensive learning period about European-Vietnamese higher education network for sustainable forest- and bio-economy

My name is Duong Khanh Linh from VNU University of Science – Vietnam National University. It was a honor for me to receive the Invitation letter from the University of Valladolid to carry out 2-week bioecon intensive learning period about European-Vietnamese higher education network for sustainable forest- and bio-economy from 2 to 16 February, 2020. It was an incredibly interesting trip for me to a such beautiful and peaceful city like Palencia, Spain. For me, it was an unforgetable memory in my life...

Before the trip, I also searched some information about the city going to. However, I just felt the beauty, the peace of the city and the hospitality of the people in Palencia when I set foot here. My first impression of Palencia is a city with fresh air, high density of trees and forests. However, because my trip was in the early spring, the trees on the road were almost deciduous, leaving the trunks of trees which were very different from the tree form in my home country. Although the weather was very cold and there was a clear difference between day and night, I always felt warm when communicating with people here. They were really friendly and humorous. The first time we checked in, after knowing we were students from Vietnam, the hostel owner turned on my country's traditional music as a warm welcome. That surprised me and made me felt close within an unfamiliar country that I first came to.

From our hostel to the campus is about 3km so we often took the bus to go to school. Bus system here is very convenient and punctual to move to anywhere in the city. Occasionally, we left our hostel 30 minutes before the class start and walked to the campus to enjoy the fresh air and stunning views of the city in the morning.

We had 2 weeks to study at the Valladolid University campus in Palencia. There were some groups of students from many countries like Germany, Finland, Mexico... and Spanish students who have been on the ERASMUS + program participated with us. Each individual was learnt through 4 subjects according to the initial choice and arrangement of coordinators, so we had the opportunity to study and interact with a lot of friends from many countries.

We have discussed, raised our views and being expanded our understanding of the natural situation in other countries around the world. Each lesson was the hour of fun and excitement as we were grouped, challenged to pitch ideas and present in a short time. It has helped us develop our creativity and flexibility, discover new skills that we have never shown before. Through this, we have connected with new international friends. We become closer to each other so it is easier to share the culture and life of students from many countries. We organized parties and enjoyed cultural dinners together. The interesting thing was that we also taught each other the basic ways to communicate by many languages in the world. I felt like I was a linguist after talking to them.

I would love to live and study in such a multicultural environment because it requires me to find ways to adapt to the change compared to before.

Besides classroom lessons, we also took part in extracurricular lessons and field trips in the abundant forests of Palencia. I still remember that the first field study trip was a rainy morning but Prof. Felipe BRAVO was still very patiently teaching us under the rain. His enthusiasm drew our attention and made us seem to forget the cold weather.

In addition to our field trips to the forest, we also participated in cultural tours in Palencia and surrounding areas. We visited the museum of ancient architecture, cultural villages, bee farms,... and enjoyed the traditional food here.

The way that food is made here is quite different from my country, and at first we might found it was quite difficult to adapt but then we seem to be addicted to cuisine here. The first Saturday night of the trip, all students and lecturers from many countries attended the gala dinner together. It was an opportunity for us to meet each other, enjoy dinner, and perform the cultural performances with the unique national identity. After that night, we no longer viewed each other simply as classmates or teachers, but rather became siblings and parents in a large family.

In addition to participating in project activities, we also spent time at the weekend exploring the city of Palencia. It is fortunate that we have witnessed and joined the holy procession as a traditional ceremony here. Everyone wore beautiful and colorful costumes, and together they went to the street to join the festival. We were really impressed and excited to participate in the local festival. The interesting thing is that our involvement has been captured by the photographer and we are honored to be on the Palencia city newspaper. I love people and life here, so being on the newspaper of the city is a pleasure for all of us.

I am truly honored and feel blessed to be a student twice participating in projects funded by Erasmus+ Program. I have learned a lot of useful knowledge and developing experiences from Western countries, had the opportunity to be contacted and guided by leading experts. Besides, participating in programs led by Erasmus+ helped me expand my relationships with friends around the world and experience in a multicultural environment. It is also a precondition for me to have the opportunity pursing master's courses such as ERASMUS MUNDUS in the future.

That is my personal experiences when living and studying in Palencia and how I felt when participating in Erasmus+ programs. Spain is a wonderful country and Palencia is a perfect piece in this. I love this country and absolutely immerse myself in the beauty of the landscape, the hospitality of the people, the unique cuisine and the wonderful connections between the international students here.

 Nguyễn Mạnh Quân
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