Even with travelling restrictions during the pandemic and troubled times in Nablus and the West Bank; The Erasmus+ exchange program between UiS and An Najah National University continues. The spring of 2023 was no exception. Reception of students for the course 'drama and intercultural communication' is central to the years-long collaboration between the two universities. Recently, UiS was granted almost 158,000 euros to continue and strengthen the programme over the next period, lasting from 2023-2025.
Admitting exchange students on the course 'Drama and intercultural communication' has been the nave of the collaboration since 2006.
The group of students coming from Nablus to Stavanger in January reported home to family and friends that the location they had arrived at was both freezing and dimly lit. During the six months they have stayed, the daylight hours have tripled and the temperature has risen. However, the relentlessly, according to the ecxhange students, north west winds blowing, they can't seem to befriend.
The three exchange students have become well acquainted with the district, and return to Nablus with memories from urban and outdoor experiences.
And the drama course they came here for? How has it been?
Zero previous drama experience
‒ It has been a very new and different experience, says Khalid Hawah. The English literature student says he had no experience with drama before attending the course 'Drama and Intercultural Communication' at UiS. It wasn't just the mere being on a stage that was new to him. The teaching methods have also been quite different from what Hawah is used to in Palestine.
How would you describe the differences?
‒ There is more attention on a practical method here, and I have experienced a completely different way of examining and entering texts. The teacher challenges us to search for meaning in the texts we are investigating, to analyze and ask questions about what we read. It has been enriching, but also strenuous. It implies a whole new way of studying for me, says Hawah.
‒ I didn't even know I had it in me to approach texts this thoroughly, says Hawah.
Maymana Theeb offers a knowing nods to what her fellow student describes about challenges and differences comparing study life in Nablus and Stavanger. Like Hawah, she had no previous experience from theatre and drama. In addition, Theeb has had to overcome her own fear of being on a stage by taking a course that requires just that.
Providing good tools
‒ I want to use my experiences from this study in my teaching when entering working life. I see now how important it is to step into a part in the classroom. I feel I have been given some effective resources to develop my capasity as a teacher, Theeb says.
Ahmed Dawoud, like Hawah, highlights the practical approach they have had a lot of on the course.
‒ To be given a feeling for which to investigate, for instance, is not an easy task, but it has been exhilarating to learn such techniques, and try them out for myself, rather than reading about them, says Dawoud.
Ahmed Dawoud highlights the techniques and practical approach he has learned as something he wishes to take with him and utilize further. During the spring, they have all been in an internship at a junior high school. The students point out that the differences between schools in Palestine and Norway are eye striking and obvious even before entering the school premises, as the facilities themselves are very different from the way school buildings are back home in Palestine. The relationship between teacher and student is also something they mark as completely different from what they are used to experiencing back home.
‒ There is a very informal tone between the students and the teachers here, says Dawoud.
Collaboration within all teacher education programs
The collaboration between UiS and ANNU stretches back to 2006. The Erasmus+ exchange started in 2015. Since then, students and staff have travelled from both countries to study and have a professional exchange.
‒ I have always wanted to travel and see the world. Just being able to move around without worries about safety has meant a lot. Getting to know a new country and city has been an incredible experience that I cherish, says Maymana Theeb.
The collaboration between the two universities has strengthened with several agreements and partnerships within all teacher education programs at the faculty. The intention is that all faculties at UiS eventually develop agreements with Nablus.
The university annually applies for funds to reinforce the work around global mobility through Erasmus+. Recently UiS was awarded close to 158,000 Euro to continue and strengthen the work over the next period, lasting from 2023-2025.
Twin cities Nablus and Stavanger also share many other cultural exchange agreements and development projects and have been closely collaborative cities since 1996.
It has now been several years since students or staff at UiS have been able to travel to An-Najah National University in Nablus. Last time was in 2019, when two kindergarten teacher students were on a four-week internship. Since then exchange travels got complicated due to the pandemic.
There are plans to send students on both internships and fieldwork as soon as the security situation allows, but for the time being the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) advices against all trips to Nablus.
Text and photo: Kristin Vestrheim Cranner.