2024 Jun/28

First-hand Experience in the EU-CONEXUS Bachelor Minor Programme: Fatima’s Story

Mirroring the very core of EU-CONEXUS’s international spirit, bachelor minor programmes offer a unique opportunity to enrich students’ academic experience. From discovering new perspectives in their main field of study to completely new subjects and adventure-filled mobilities, the potential of the two programmes – „Blue Economy and Growth“ and „Coastal Development and Sustainable Maritime Tourism“ – extends far beyond additional credits.

Currently a student in the Business Management bachelor programme at Klaipeda University, Fatima Uz Zama is a living example of this enriching experience. She is currently preparing to take on the fifth and final subject of her chosen minor programme, “Blue Economy and Growth”.

How did your story with Klaipėda University begin?

When I was still in high school, I wanted to study something that was business-related. I wasn’t sure exactly where to go for specialisation, but I did know that studying business would give me exposure to multiple other fields, such as economics, accounting, management, and others. Now that I’m actually studying business management, I have this needed clarity: next, I would like to obtain a Master’s degree in finance.

How did you become aware of the EU-CONEXUS minors programmes?

It was very simple, actually: I received an email from our Erasmus coordinator here at KU. It was very short and precise, and it outlined what looked like a very good opportunity: by voluntarily picking up courses, I could get extra credits. So I went through the course catalogue, and I saw two options: either choose one or two courses and get the extra credits, or finish five EU-CONEXUS courses within the same academic field and get a minor’s degree that will be added to my graduation certificate. It was very convincing: suddenly, I had the opportunity to study in different universities around Europe without being charged a single penny for it. I had to take it!

How has your experience been so far?

So far I’ve done my courses offered by universities in Spain and Croatia. I’ve finished four courses, and each one has benefited me in different ways. Now I’m just left with one mandatory course and then I will get my minor’s, but I can also voluntarily do more. Once you get into this programme, you realise that there’s much more to it than what shows up in the catalogue.

How did the topic of blue economy catch your interest? How has it benefited you?

My primary studies are related to business management, but Blue Economy opened up a whole new perspective on it. I discovered responsible, environmentally driven ways to approach business. I also found that, although some of the courses that I took at Klaipeda University and through EU-CONEXUS minors programme had the same core (entrepreneurship, for example), the approach from the blue economy perspective was very different. There’s more than one way of learning a particular thing, and people should always be curious and try to get as much out of it as they can.

I didn’t just stick to courses related to my field, either. I wanted something different, so this spring I took a course on underwater archaeology. It is completely unrelated to my field and I was cautious at first, thinking that I would be the only one who’s completely new to the topic.

But, let me tell you, I have no regrets! This course opened a lot of new perspectives: I learned a lot about history and got the opportunity to actually take a short-term physical mobility, where I conquered my fear of swimming and even had the possibility to obtain a diving licence.

Could you share more about this recent research mobility?

Once I decided on going, the process was very simple: I went to my Erasmus coordinator, submitted the necessary documents, and wrote a motivation letter. Then I applied through the Erasmus system, and that’s it. The mobility was fully funded, so I did not have to worry about the expenses, either.

This mobility took place in Croatia and was hosted by the University of Zadar. We got to go to different archaeological sites and actually help researchers excavate certain objects, as well as work with some of the finds. Being around experienced researchers who have already done a significant amount of work in this field was just incredible.

Mobilities within the EU-CONEUS minor programmes are relatively short: I was there for 10 days. And I was completely wrong in thinking I would be the only participant from an unrelated field: there were students from multiple other fields, such as civil engineering, child pedagogy etc.

What advice would you give to students who are still unsure about taking this opportunity?

Just from my own very personal experience, nothing sugar-coated or anything…it’s actually such a good opportunity. I myself wanted to test the waters first, so the first three courses I chose were 100% remote. And for those who have jobs or other responsibilities, it’s also important to know that all mobilities are optional. Courses also do not require 100% attendance, because professors are very aware that our main courses and classes can sometimes clash – that’s where recorded lectures were really helpful.

If you’re still unsure about taking this opportunity – just go for it. Now really is the best time, because you’re already in your academic journey and you can use that momentum to get even more out of this experience – all with the bonus of a minor degree that will end up on your graduation certificate.

A lot of international students miss out on Erasmus opportunities because they typically require long-term relocation, and that can be difficult. This is a unique chance for you to actually experience how studies and teaching methods are in different countries without moving there. You will also get to explore different cultures, meet a lot of different people with unique minds and interests. It’s not just educational – it’s inspiring. And on top of that, you can find a whole new passion along the way.

Talking to my acquaintances from different countries, for example, Romania and Greece, I learned that in some universities the selection process is tough because of how many candidates there are. In KU specifically, there is no competition because only a handful of students take this opportunity. This is your chance to actually take this opportunity before people start coming in, which is bound to happen with the potential it offers to students like me. I would highly recommend it!

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