Study Abroad: A semester in Sweden

By Isobel Beech (Year 2 BSc Geography)

In the middle of August I arrived in Sweden as a flustered exchange student laden with suitcases and I could never have predicted what the next 6 months studying in this country would hold.

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After an emotional farewell at Manchester Airport, Patrick, Diana and I (my fellow Liverpool students) departed for Sweden. The day we travelled to Sweden was the official arrival day for Lund University with 1100 exchange students arriving. After sorting out some essentials such as picking up the keys for my accommodation, I was taken to my halls ‘Greenhouse’ in a mini bus. It was on this journey I realised the distance of my accommodation to the main town which meant getting a bike became one of the first things on my to do list. Greenhouse is very isolated and located in the centre of Swedish countryside, this holds some disadvantages but these all disappear when watching autumn sunrises while cycling to your 9am lectures! The accommodation houses a small group of international students whom have become a tight knit community over the semester with many social events and everyday shenanigans.

The first two weeks in Lund consisted of an orientation period allowing time to settle into the new environment before classes commenced. During this period we were introduced to our international mentor groups lead by student mentors who arranged activities for the new exchange students such as a tour of the town, a trip to the beach and other activities to get to know people and explore the new surroundings. The orientation also included a Swedish language crash course and an obligatory trip to Ikea to sample some of those iconic meatballs.

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Lund is a small picturesque town located in southern Sweden with university as the focal point. The campus stretches across the whole town with a number of flagship buildings including ‘the whithouse’, the AF Castle and the university library. Nations are scattered across the campus which are student organisations hosting a full weekly programme of activities including meals, pubs, clubs, sporting opportunities and more.  Nations have a noivsch period at the start of the semester where you are put into mentor groups and compete against each other. This Novisch period ended with the Novicshfest which was traditional Swedish dinner party known as a sittning, this included ceremonious speeches, awards, singing and of course a little bit of drinking too. During my time here I have become very accustomed to the Swedish practice of fika which is a break in the day marked by coffee accompanied with pastries; I think I’ll be continuing this daily ritual back in Liverpool!

The Swedish university system varies compared to the UK. Only one module is studied at a time here, with a lot more contact hours. The class sizes are also significantly smaller ranging from 15-20 people.  Modules consist of lectures and exercises with assessments in both group work and individual assignments. The courses are also very dependent on fieldwork and excursions which was a great way to explore Sweden. While in Sweden I decided to study geology modules, focusing on quaternary geology which has strong links to physical geography. The first module focused on glacial geology and this course began with a fieldtrip to Norway which was an unforgettable experience and undoubtedly a highlight of my study abroad semester. The trip included climbing up the Blåisen glacier to the plateaux and to Jökullhytta glacier. This required climbing equipment and training which had taken place the previous week at university by hanging from a tree outside the geology department and practising the procedure if we fell down a crevasse!  The views on the glacier trek were incredible and quite unforgettable. Another highlight of the trip was abseiling down a crevasse and climbing back up using crampons and an ice axe. The second module I am studying is focused on palaeoecological methods and environmental analysis. This module involves analysing cores which we took in groups in Pilevad in Southern Sweden and ultimately creating a poster showing our findings.

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In addition to university and everyday life in Lund I have had the opportunity to travel around a little. So far I have made trips to Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Helsingborg. In Sweden a child is classed up to the age of 19 which meant travelling to these places was relatively cheap. I also hope to make it to Stockholm before the end of my time here.

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To summarise my time so far, I have made great friends, embraced the Swedish culture and created unforgettable memories. To any first year students thinking about applying for study abroad I would without hesitation encourage you to do so. I am now 4 months into my study abroad adventure and excited to see what my last 2 months in Sweden will hold. The winter is fast approaching with plummeting temperatures as low as minus 2 degrees, Christmas decorations are appearing round the town and I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas Swedish Style before my return to Liverpool in the New Year.

Isobel Beech (Year 2 BSc Geography)

Reflections on the MSc fieldclass of 2015: environmental changes in Cumbria

9th to the 16th October 2015

Each the MSc programmes in Climate and Environmental Change and Environmental Sciences begin with a 7 day fieldclass to the English Lake District. The programme involves a research training in techniques of Environmental Reconstruction and Characterisation focused on coastal (saltmarsh), lacustrine and wetland environments. The following slide-shows showcase the field activities

Day 1 the late glacial climate and environmental changes at Hawes Water (Lancashire)

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Day 2 climate histories from lowland raised mires (Leven Estuary)

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Day 3-4 sediment dynamics and environmental changes at Brotherswater

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Day 5 saltmarsh evolution and radionuclides in the Irish Sea (Walney Island)

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Days 6 and 7 involve small group work on individual projects presented on the last evening, before home and some deserved rest……

MSc class of 2015

MSc class of 2015

Lorca Field Class 2015

Lorca 2015

Post by Hannah Delohery and Chloe Dawes, Year 2 BSc Geography students

Days 1 and 2:
Days one and two of the six days that we had in sunny Lorca, Spain were our orientation days. They were completed with the purpose of introducing us not only to the area that we would be working in, but also to get our minds (somewhat fresh from the summer holidays) thinking about the key points and processes that we would be examining as part of that work.

Day 1: ‘Castillo de Lorca
After a morning of searching for local bakeries and stockpiling the supermarkets’ supplies of biscuits, bread and water, having bought out Hotel Felix’s bar of Amstel and any other available beers the night previous, day one of Lorca Field Trip 2015 was underway as we made the short journey to the ‘Castillo de Lorca’ via the trusty field trip coach.

As we made the ascent towards the historical site of the 13th century castle; strategically located atop a hill due to its military origins, the history of the area became immediately noticeable in the increasing number of buildings with a more traditional architecture; the arch ways and pillars being highly distinguishable from the very clean cut white walls of the more contemporary builds.

The Castillo, or castle, placement gave our group of avid and definitely not hungover geographers, incredible panoramic views of the valley beneath and the city within, as well as the mountain ranges that encased the two.

The warm but clear conditions that had set in already, that we were to become accustomed to and given t-shirt tans by, made features of the area such as the variable topography, sporadic vegetation and anthropogenic installments easily identifiable. The view and introductory talks given by Janet Hooke, master of the microphone and Andy Morse provided a perfect introduction to the field trip and made it very clear that the damp streets of our lovely Liverpool and of course the equally as damp walls of ‘The Raz’ were far behind, and that we were about to put our first year knowledge to the test as we stepped into second year, in the sun.

Puerto Lumbreras-Nogalte River Channel
Our next instalment of orientation day one took us to an area within the city ‘Puerto Lumbreras’ that had unfortunately fallen victim to multiple serious floods. As we stood within the dry ‘Rambler de Nogalte’ river channel, Janet informed us why two particularly devastating flood events had come to pass, described the effects and impacts upon the local people and showed us the visible examples of flood management that had been introduced since. As unfortunate as the results of the flood events were, visiting this site gave not only an interesting overview of some of the geographical issues of the Lorca area but a reminder of the importance of why geographers do what we do.

Nogalte Channel:
Stops 3 and 4 of day one were both key points of the Nogalte Channel, which has in a relatively short amount of time, experienced some severe changes that made them a must see. The ‘lecture in the field’ talks at these locations elaborated on some of the themes that had been introduced earlier in the morning including channel morphology, hazard management and introduced other key themes such as the concern of climate change and local land use. The first of these two sites also gave us an insight into the research that Prof. Hook has and still is conducting concerning primarily flow rates.

Puentes Dam:
Whether you’re a keen Geographer or not or simply a fan of large-scale construction, Puentes Dam was a site to behold.

The huge dam before us, built in 2000 complete with helipad, represented the CHS’s most recent efforts with damming at Puentes, after developments were first installed at the end of the 18th century. It is in the CHS’s opinion, this most modern dam has indeed saved Lorca from the significant flooding event of 2012 and that without it we might not have had a Lorca to visit today!

Gully:
The final stop of the day may not sound particularly exciting, but for those of you that don’t know, a gully is a major form of soil erosion and land degradation-both topics that physical geographers unashamedly get excited about! This site was a great example of why a considerable amount of research is being performed on gullies at present and for want of a better description, brought the explanation of their development to life in a way no Blackwell’s textbook could.

Buenos Noches:
At the end of the day and after dinner, provided by the wonderfully friendly staff of Hotel Felix, whose service was fantastic throughout and massively contributed to what was a great experience…dedicated research into local past-times and liquor was of course continued by most students.

Day 2:

Day two of orientation was just as insightful and interesting as day one and followed the same format. We visited some truly beautiful places and as a result I’ll take this opportunity to show you, rather than describe it – they do say a picture says a thousand words. (It’s a shame that doesn’t apply to word counts in coursework though eh!)

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Day 3

Waking to temperatures of just under 30 degrees and hearing the rumours of the newly discovered sandwich shop, was a great start to the guided projects day. After travelling to El Muerto, we split into 5 smaller groups. We had 5 demonstrations, each on different topics including; meteorology, slopes and soils, infiltration, vegetation statistics and geomorphology. These mini–experiments provided us with an insight on what factors we might research in our individual reports.

Day 4 – Nogalte & Day 5 – El Muerto

We spent the next two days focusing on our individual projects.

Day 5 - El Muerto Day 4 - Nogalte

Finishing in the field at 4, allowed us to spend a few hours exploring Lorca’s bars and pubs before sitting down for our evening meal at the hotel. With Prosecco on the table at dinner curiosity of the hotel and only a short walk to the Irish bar – O’Neils, the last night was a night to remember (or to forget)!

Day 6 – Departure

Up early, we headed straight to the airport. After rinsing the duty free of what looked to non-students like a year’s supply of Smirnoff, we landed back in rainy Manchester.

Edinburgh Field Class 2015

Post by Dr Paul Williamson

Congratulations to this year’s Edinburgh field class photograph competition winners. Here are the winning entries for the category ‘Views of Edinburgh’:

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And here are the winning entries in the category ‘Students in action’:

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The field class took place in late-April and saw 43 Year 2 BA Geographers and 3 staff heading north, enjoying the warmest and sunniest Edinburgh-based week on record as they to put into practice a variety of research skills acquired over the last year and a half of study.

These included interviewing Members of the Scottish Parliament; surveying any member of the public unable to run away fast enough; interviews with local activists; and participant observation of the local nightlife.

Comparing the 'sense of place' of locals and students

Comparing the ‘sense of place’ of locals and students

This year students researched topics as diverse as perceptions of the newly launched tram network, factors explaining Scottish political allegiance, tourist perceptions of Edinburgh and a comparison of the Liverpool and Edinburgh students’ sense of place.

Tourist perceptions of Edinburgh

Tourist perceptions of Edinburgh

The final part of the field class focussed on data analysis, ranging from traditional graphs and tables of survey results through to the deconstruction of interview responses.

Survey results

Survey results

The Edinburgh Field Class is just part of our wider three-year field class programme, which includes trips to Mid Wales, the Lake District, Spain, California and Singapore. All of these trips are designed an ethos of ‘learning by doing’. Or, in Edinburgh’s Case, ‘learning by doing whilst getting a suntan’. Happy Days!

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

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As we enter 2015 we look back at the top 10 most viewed blog posts of 2015. These include posts by current and past undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff and give a good idea of some of the things that we do here in Geography at University of Liverpool. We look forward to more posts in 2015 and wish you all a happy new year.

 

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10. In Tenth place, a post from February 2014 by PhD student Madeleine Gustavsson on her first publication: First publication – ‘Procedural and distributive justice in a community-based Marine Protected Area in Zanzibar, Tanzania’

 

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9. In Ninth place, a post from June 2014 by James Wilford who graduated with a BA (Hons) Geography in July this year on the Singapore Field Class 2014

 

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8. In Eighth place, a post from June 2014 by Dr. Paul Williamson on the winners of the Edinburgh Field Class 2014 Photo Competition

 

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7. In Seventh place, a post from May 2014 by Samantha Brannan who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year on Geographers on Tour: Santa Cruz Field Class 2014

 

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6. In sixth place, a post from January 2014 about Lisa Reilly who graduated in July this year about her success as National Student Award Winner

 

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5. In Fifth place, a post from December 2014 by Dr Bethan Evans on a Disability, Arts and Wellbeing Workshop with DaDaFest

 

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4. In Fourth place, a post from October 2014 by Sean Dunn who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year and is now studying for an MSc. His post is about the final year Santa Cruz field class on California Field Class and Travel

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3. In Third place, a post from August 2014 by Alexandra Guy, currently a second year BA Geography student on A Year in the Life of an Undergraduate Geography Student

 

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2. In Second Place, a post from August 2014 by PhD student Natalie Robinson on her research with homeless people in Chicago ‘This is My Story: A Photographic Exploration of Chicago’ – Notes from the field.

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1. And in First place, our most viewed blog of 2014 is a post from February 2014 by Jonny Clark who graduated in July with a BSc (Hons) Geography on How a work-based dissertation re-affirmed my confidence in my subject, my own ability and my future

California Field Class and Travel

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Santa Cruz Boardwalk Beach

Post by Sean Dunn, graduated BSc Geography 2014, current MSc student

The beginning of our trip started in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport with a mixture of excitement for the trip and dreading the long flight ahead of it. After a couple of good films, singing along to songs in Frozen with Amelia, my teddy bear George and I landed in San Francisco. Due to some severe jetlag we barely made it to midnight after a slice of pizza and a local beer. The next morning we made our way to the Airport to meet the rest of the Santa Cruz goers and the lecturers, where our journey began to Santa Cruz in some rather lively minivans playing California themed songs.

Once we arrived in Santa Cruz we had some time to explore and get orientated with this new city. It may be fair to say on the first night some of us enjoyed the local selection of alcoholic drinks and the novelty of being 21 in America. The next day we were taken on a walking tour of the city by the lecturers making friends with some lively seals, crossing a disused railway bridge and exploring local lagoon systems (which we revisited during our group project). The evening was then our own to begin planning for the next working day on our projects.

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My group did a project concerning drought and whether it had heightened arguments between recreational users and conservationists of state parks and wetland areas. I think I speak for all of my group when saying we thoroughly enjoyed this experience and our project. At times we felt a bit out of our depth choosing a more human geography related topic but wouldn’t change it at all in hindsight. Our methods included interview and volunteering days and I believe this way we were fully able to experience the most of being in California and meeting the locals. It was a lot of hard work but enjoyable at the same time. We had the opportunity to travel throughout Santa Cruz County meeting countless interesting locals from keen fishermen all the way up to conservationists for global companies.

As well as our project work the lecturers took us on trips around the County which I really enjoyed as there isn’t much point going so far to visit a place without learning about your surroundings. The locations visited included the University, San Andreas Fault line, Redwood forests and a beach site where the famous surfing brand O’Neil was founded. I feel like I learnt a lot about the city.

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When we weren’t working on our projects, the evenings and night time were ours to do whatever we wanted. Obviously some privileges come with our first trip to the USA being over the age of 21… a well-deserved night out!  One of the best nights was for our pal Liz’s 21st where the lecturers gave her a cake and card. Most evenings were spent on the beach playing volleyball at the public courts and just soaking up the last of the California sunshine for the day. My room and I bought food from the local supermarket to make group dinners and lunches but if you didn’t feel like that there is no shortage in options. I don’t think there was a day when the boys didn’t have at least one Mexican from the little taco joint opposite the hotel! Apart from that there was a large selection of restaurants and small takeaways both in the city centre and along the boardwalk.  One of the best places we visited doubled up as a restaurant and bar. It is a pizza place called Woodstock’s where we searched online finding a voucher which is pretty good. If you sign up to the newsletter you get half price extra-large pizzas which is about 20 inches. There were 8 of us with 4 pizzas and enough for lunch the next day! Whilst there we saw they had a dollar night, so we returned that day. When you buy a beer it is just one dollar for a refill!

After all of our fun in Santa Cruz and 10 brilliant days it was time to leave the city. It was a weird feeling to be returning back to San Francisco Airport. Once we arrived the goodbyes began but not before a big group photo of the whole trip. It feels weird saying it but it was emotional seeing everyone slowly walk off in different directions with suitcases rolling behind them. Everyone had made different plans whether it was travelling, first flight home or visiting family. For us, we were travelling.

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Our car

First thing to do was collect the cars. It started well when the guy upgraded us to an SUV for free. I was the person driving and when I saw the car, I was in shock. My car at home is a Ford Fiesta and this was huge! Once I managed to get out the small lanes of the car park we were on our way due south! 8 of us in two cars starting our California Adventure. Our first stop was in Monterey at the opposite end of Monterey Bay to Santa Cruz. We grabbed a bite to eat in a restaurant and had a drink before going back to the hotel. We were absolutely shattered and I was preparing myself the drive the next day.

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The next day was the drive down Highway 1. This is possibly the most picturesque driving I have ever done. Every few seconds was a perfect picture moment. Navigating up and down the cliffs on windy roads we finally arrived at Big Sur. We climbed to the top of the mountain to a beautiful waterfall for a photo moment before climbing the other way to one of the best views I have ever seen: looking out onto the redwood forests with the Pacific Ocean in the background. After this we continued to Santa Maria our rest stop for the night. The next morning we set of for LA. We stayed in a hostel on Hollywood Boulevard and drove up Mulholland Drive to take a picture of the Hollywood sign. This was the best part of LA as from this viewpoint you could see the entire skyline of the city.

Our last driving point was San Diego. This was one of my favourite cities we visited and I finally had some time off from the driving. We spent 3 nights here and did so much in such a short space of time! We drove on the interstate to the last exit before Mexico to an outlet mall. I would 100% recommend visiting one of these! I ended up getting a pair of Reebok classics and a Ralph Lauren polo for the equivalent of £40 where that would be about £120 over here! We also went to watch a baseball match between the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants. I couldn’t attend without getting a foam finger! Our last day we spent on a local beach watching the sunset all together before an early night for the morning drive back up the coast towards San Francisco. We stopped only for some lunch in Santa Barbara which was beautiful. Lunch at the natural café for some healthy vegetarian food and a quick look in the thrift stores! One overnight stop and 16 hours of driving later we made it to San Francisco. The next two days we spent walking around the city, sampling the seafood and getting some presents for loved ones at home! Our last night was a bit emotional after spending so long in America!

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I would 110% recommend this trip to anyone. I still look back on it now knowing it was the best experience of my life. The photos just remind me of what a good time we had. It was the most amazing way to end my University experience with some of my best mates over the previous three years! I hope I haven’t bored you too much and I hope you enjoy the photos of my teddy bear and his tour around California!

Exploring the social and solidarity economies in Liverpool and Brazil

Carol (second on the left) with the Social Enterprise Network team and Cllr Rosie Jolly, Chief Executive of SEN and the Mayoral Lead for Social and Community Enterprise at the Liverpool International Festival of Business

Carol (second on the left) with the Social Enterprise Network team and Cllr Rosie Jolly, Chief Executive of SEN and the Mayoral Lead for Social and Community Enterprise at the Liverpool International Festival of Business

Having lived in Liverpool for a year, I can say how enriching the experience of leaving your individual comfort zone can be! I am Carolina Santos. I have been a Brazilian exchange student at the University of Liverpool for the last twelve months as part of the Science without Borders program, part of the Environmental Sciences degree. This is what I have learned…

Even after having spent some time in this lovely and vibrant city, it is still not easy for me to fully understand how deep the differences between Brazil and the UK – politically, socially, economically, culturally – actually are. While the UK has been at the heart of globalising processes since the Second World War – and the British Empire, with Liverpool at its heart, was central to global trade before that – the Latin American experience of deeply exploitative colonial processes both historically and, as Eduardo Galliano showed, today. This understanding profoundly shaped and intensified my experiences of living among such profound differences. The historical injustice of the legacy of global trade that is celebrated by Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Status still matters, and I am very pleased that these ‘geographies of responsibility’ are properly grappled with by Liverpool Geographers.

During my time in Liverpool I was lucky enough to participate in a research project which examined potential learning between the British ‘Social Economy’ context and the Latin American ‘Solidarity Economy’ scenario, coordinated by Dr Peter North with Liverpool’s Social Enterprise Network. While it may seem a debate about definitions, basically the British Social Economy looks to use business skills and methods to do good and to meet social needs, while the Latin American Solidarity Economy context starts with a different question – how do we want to live with dignity, meeting both our needs, and those of the other species that we share this planet? How can we build an economy that helps us do that? While there are differences, both concepts put people before pounds or profit.

I found the differences between the UK and Brazil fascinating. You will have seen the million strong demonstrations in Brazil around the World Cup: was it right to spend money on stadia while people went hungry in the favelas a few miles away? Considering the current British socioeconomic condition of austerity and the continuing existence of highly deprived neighbourhoods (especially around Liverpool, close to the city centre), I could not help but feel that a dose of radicalism would be beneficial to British society, in order to build a stronger repudiation of the public sector cuts as part of a fight against deprivation and for a better society. Dr North told me that back in his day, Liverpool did see such a fightback, and it did not end well – are todays politicians right to be more pragmatic? As a Latin American, I’m not sure.

Indeed, it’s incredibly interesting for me to observe how people act in relation to economic crisis. Generally speaking: even though in both contexts there is a general historical tendency for people to get together in difficult socioeconomic times, it seems to me that Latin Americans explore and recognize their power as citizens able to make a difference and to fight for their rights more fully. They frequently make this explicit by taking to the streets far more regularly in order to pressure the public sector and fight for public policies or new agendas. The Solidarity Economy in this context can be considered a more radical anti-capitalist approach than Social Economy as it understands social issues as housing, employment, health and education are all connected as consequences of the same exploitative competitive system. The Solidarity economy is based on feelings of reciprocity, democracy and equality, and it works mainly through cooperatives.

In contrast, in the face of public spending cuts the British Social Economy or third sector has explored more market-based alternatives to stake funded provision. Social enterprises, for example, aim to tackle social issues as their main objective, and mainly differentiate themselves from private businesses by having their surpluses reinvested. I struggled to find anyone who had a good word to say about the Big Society! On the other hand, I was very impressed with the professionalism of and the commitment of the lovely friends I made at the Social Enterprise Network in Liverpool – their professionalism and expertise is something I will take back to Brazil.

That said, my Brazilian roots suggest that, no matter how developed the British third sector is and how great its social impact has become (especially around the very well-received “buy social, buy local” movement), it should also be important to keep a clear understanding of what social needs are and what social demands should be made to change things for the better, holding the balance between tackling social needs in positive, pragmatic ways while not accepting state withdrawal, especially in times of austerity, without a fight. We should not be complicit in the cuts, in neoliberalisation!

In this context, Brazilian experiences of public policies for the development of the Solidarity Economy consist of both massive popular pressure toward the public sector to win social benefits through a fairer economy for all, with concrete projects to make this happen. Ever since 2002 there has been a National Secretariat of the Solidarity Economy which supports solidarity economy initiatives nationally and locally. They focus on empowering people and communities with both technical and managerial support, and through supporting what we call self-management and direct democracy. They work to strengthen community cohesion and use educational methodologies developed by Friere which are part of a long-term process toward achieving a more representative and inclusive society. I suppose what I could not help thinking was that the British Social Economy movement could be more obviously part of a fight for a better world, not a way of making the cuts less ‘painful’.

Something else I could notice in the UK (more specifically in Liverpool) was the low involvement of the young student generation in political movements and social economy itself, and how little is made of the potential for running things in co-operative and solidaristic ways by student unions and even student guilds. They do not seem to do as much as I expected to organise political actions, even though the region has had a strong militant past by the 80s. This is a definitely different aspect from Brazil, where students still have a strong culture of political involvement, which is directly connected to the need for change and the fight for social equality, and, in this way, to solidarity economy principles. It all also shows how positive things could be could be if social enterprises got more support from universities, especially through student guilds and unions.

At this point, about to return to my home country, I am feeling fulfilled and thankful for taking back a huge bag full of learning and knowledge for life with me. Even though it has not been easy to live in a different place, noticing differences definitely has the potential to bring understanding between different societies and, consequently, to understand how both can make the world a better place in their own way.

Carol Santos, Science without Borders student, School for Environmental Sciences