"The best part of the challenge was having interesting conversations with people from different parts of the world"
Students Marcos Lascurain, from the bachelor's degree in Contemporary History, Politics and Economics, and Ana Lupiañez, from the double degree in Business Management and Administration + Law, participated in the ECIU University's Alpine smart working challenge, proposed by the University of Trento. Both students received a mobility grant so that they could discover the reality of Italy in relation to this challenge, and work on proposing solutions.
Marcos: “The challenges are a very nice and different way to learn and earn credits, to complement your academic training, to travel and meet people... Everything about them is positive!"
Ana: “University life is not just going to classes and studying. It is also about working on real-life problems and becoming involved with the community”.
You participated in the Alpine Smart Work challenge. What was the challenge about? Did you come up with a solution?
Ana: This challenge was about finding a real solution to a real problem. We had 3 coworking spaces that had the same problem: lack of customers. Since they were different business models we had to come up with different solutions. So, what we did was analyze the different target groups and everything so we could give these challenge providers a specific solution. We gave an overall solution, and each challenge provider took the one which was the best for them.
Marcos: Mainly, our objective was to prevent people from rural areas of the Trentino region to have to move to bigger cities, so that they could have the opportunity to work in rural areas in coworking spaces.
Tell us about your day-to-day life working on the challenge with students from another country.
Marcos: The first day was the coolest one and they gave us a tour of the city of Trento. And then we moved to Mezzano, which is a rural area in the Alps. We had very hard workdays where we were working from 8am until nighttime. We did a lot of activities: teamwork, courses and conferences from teachers and mentors. It was cool because you could learn methods and they taught us interesting things that we then could apply when working with our groups.
Ana: I think that the fact that we were from different cultures (in my group there was an Italian girl, a Pakistani guy and a Portuguese), made it really diverse and really fun to work with these people and we all got along fantastically. We had different approaches, different methods, and that was also really interesting because that’s how I get to know different types of working methods that are really useful.
You did an exchange with the University of Trento. Tell us a bit about your stay, the activities you participated in, etc.
Ana: The first day we arrived, we started making connections with the people we had been talking to online. The meeting point was at the library at the university and that is actually where we met (with Marcos). We didn’t know there would be another person from the UAB going there. It was a pleasant surprise. We met there, we had a city tour around Trento. It was really nice, the people were amazing. We got to speak with other people there, we ate and then we started to work. We went to different coworking spaces. The one that was in Trento was packed up and it was really cool. People showed us the space, how people work there, we had an interview with a real customer, which was really useful. After that we went by train to Mezzano and we also visited another coworking space and started the work there. It was a really dynamic experience. We didn’t stop for a moment. It was really fantastic.
Marcos: The first day was very fun because we realized we were different people from many cities around the world. We did a lot of activities: some of them were with our group, but most of them were with everyone. It was fun during our free time, having dinner together and getting to know other people and their cultures. It was a pretty good and interesting experience.
Ana: I think we made lifelong friends and acquaintances and that’s a really cool thing because you never know where you can find these people again
What was the best part of the challenge?
Marcos: It was to be able to work in a different way than we usually do. The best part was to discover a new way of learning, of working.
Ana: I loved being in those coworking spaces. When we were in Mezzano, we were like a customer would do using the spaces. Working as a group was actually fantastic. The brainstorming part was so much fun because we had paper sheets and we rolled out everything. It was like in the movies.
Marcos: In addition, since we had so much guidance, it was cool to apply what we were learning. It was rewarding.
What do you think you have gained personally, academically, etc. by participating in this type of challenge-based activity?
Ana: Personally, I’ve learned how to work in groups and to respect other people’s opinions because maybe you think your idea is the one, but maybe other person gives another idea and it changes. It was a real good experience to get to start the work like in real life.
Marcos: This experience gives you the opportunity to learn a lot, academically, but what is more important, in a personal way. The best for me was to be able to have very interesting conversations with people from very different parts of the world. We were having dinner and having a conversation with someone from Pakistan, Iran or Norway and you could compare your languages, your culture. It was very enriching.
Ana: You get to know people from all over the world and you become friends.
In addition, Marcos, you’re now participating in the Digital inclusion against social inequality challenge. How is it going?
Marcos: We haven’t finished yet. Our objective is to find a solution for a project that the city council of Barcelona is doing in the neighborhood of Trinitat Nova. They want to give digital devices to people who do not have enough resources for internet connections. I find it pretty interesting that you can do fieldwork, talk to people, to consumers, businesses, etc., everyone who is involved in the problem. Once you get to the neighborhood and talk to the people you realize some of your ideas are not good and you have to rethink the problem in another way. This challenge-based learning method is good because you get close to the problem and offer feasible and real solutions.
Ana: After participating in this challenge and hearing him speaking, I am for sure going to participate in another challenge next year.
The ECIU University is a fairly new institution. What drove you to enrol in the programme?
Ana: I received an email about the challenges and I went to the website and the first one I saw was this one (Alpine smart working). Since I am really interested in travelling around the world and also working in coworking spaces, I felt this could be a good opportunity to start and to see what’s the real work they do there.
Marcos: I also found out about the ECIU University on the UAB website. Participating in a challenge is a very cool and complementary way of complementing your education, you also get credits and do some of your academic education with a different kind of learning, meeting people, having the opportunity to travel and do things in a more dynamic way, not the usual masterclasses we have at the university.
Once you start working on a challenge, you get passionate about the project and you get involved.
Ana: University life is not only about going to classes and studying. It’s also about getting to work on real life problems and becoming involved with the community.
Marcos: It gives you a closer approach to the worker’s life because you get to work with different people which is how most of us will work in the future. You are working with people of different ages, from different backgrounds so you get closer to this kind of culture of sharing ideas.
What would you say to a student thinking about signing up for one of the ECIU University challenges?
Marcos: I would definitely recommend signing up. In fact, I have already tried to convince my friends to sign up for other challenges together. It’s a very cool and different way to learn, to get credits, to complement your academic application, to travel, to know people… I only find positive aspects.
Ana: I would say do not hesitate, enroll in a challenge, in a micromodule and enjoy university life. At the end of the day it is really rewarding.
The UAB, with Sustainable Development Goals
- Quality education