'The university in Florianópolis in Brazil works together with Wageningen University. Its students study articles written by Wageningen scientists. When I arrived and told them where I studied, I could feel their admiration right away. They could name Wageningen professors and asked me enthusiastically if I had met them in person.
The world is really small', relates Linde van Bets. In Florianópolis, she worked for Ecomar, a non-governmental organization which manages marine ecosystems with assistance and know-how from the locals.
'The distance between professors and students is much smaller than at Dutch universities. I was invited to a so-called whisky party at the home of a professor. Everyone danced and drank together, professors and students alike. We partied throughout the night. The students were allowed to stay overnight in the professor's house. Really cool.'
'What I enjoyed most was visiting the first marine national park in Brazil, situated on a group of five islands. It's really beautiful there. The area has the biggest coral reef biodiversity in the South Atlantic Ocean. Darwin sailed past there during his journey in search of the origin of species and was impressed by the jellyfishes which drifted around. I went diving for the first time in my life. I saw huge turtles, colourful coral reef fishes and two big humpback whales with a baby. I went horseback riding with someone from a fishing village where I stayed for a week. We would get off our horses now and then to pick fresh mangoes and coconuts from trees. We made a hole in the big green coconut fruit and drank the juice directly from the coconut. I also sand boarded in the dunes. It's quite the same as snowboarding, but on sand. It wasn't easy though. I had to walk up the dune each time after gliding down. That was super tiring!
'I learnt a lot during those days, but not just about my studies. I learnt what it's like to live and work in a faraway country. I didn't really miss my friends and family in Belgium and the Netherlands. I let them know via Skype now and then that I was alive and well. The three months flew by. The people there are very open, friendly and hospitable and I had enough to keep me busy. It was a really nice experience.'