Mari’s exchange programme was divided between three countries – Zimbabwe, South Africa and Norway. Two participants from each country represented the “Young Women in Leadership” group and the first stop was Norway.
” I was prepared to adjust to being in an international group, but I didn’t expect that it would change how I experienced Norway. So, I gained new perspectives. I felt like I was seeing my country from the outside, in a new context. It was very different being on exchange in my own country”.
When the group travelled to Zimbabwe and South Africa, Mari was prepared to experience a new, different and exiting reality than what she was used to. This was also some of her motivation to go on exchange – to live in another country, not being a tourist. “It’s just like cheating in a game when you have a local next to you from your team – you get easier integrated. It was a luxury”.
During Mari’s exchange, she worked with women’s rights issues through information work and activism. Mari and the rest of the team experienced a great deal of freedom to design the content of their exchange themselves.
When working in South Africa, she contributed in the planning and in executing feminist political education sessions, where she received great feedback from the coordinators. When she lived in Norway, she attended a course with Queer Youth, on norm critique and how societal norms in many ways foster and maintain discrimination. Being aware and critical of these norms can create positive change in societies. She applied this knowledge when working in South Africa, which was well received.
Nevertheless, Mari was mainly focusing on gaining as much new knowledge as possible compared to teaching her skills, which is exemplified through her stay in Zimbabwe - being on exchange for one year, changed Mari – “I have lived in a country with an authoritarian regime. That was a special feeling. I am educated as a political scientist, so I felt like I was living in the empiricism I had been studying”.
After coming back from her exchange, Mari has focused on spreading her new knowledge and skills through seminars and workshops for students in Universities in Norway. “During my exchange in Zimbabwe, I attended a meeting where the students discussed societal issues by linking them to personal experiences. It’s a different way of working, which I have tried to implement in workshops at Norwegian Universities after my return”.
In South Africa, Mari learned a lot about feminist theory. Here, she also learned how important it is to integrate people’s experiences with academic theories, to identify a greater societal pattern. This has been her focus when coming back to Norway when working on women in academia in different workshops, together with the SAIH local chapters.
Professionally, Mari has gained new knowledge both academically and practically which she has received great feedback on from students attending the workshops “They are happy to have a forum to discuss openly on issues that they relate to”.
Today, Mari is a board member in SAIH. SAIH is a students and academics organisation whose goal is that all youths have access to quality education so that they can contribute to more just and inclusive societies. “It is highly valuable to have the feministic perspective I gained during my exchange. It’s great to think that I can use my knowledge from activism and my exchange to contribute to shape our organisation”.
For new FK participants, her tips are – “experience as much as possible. Do as much as possible”.