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- It will change your life and make you see things differently.

24 year old Shearn Santiago from Washington, USA, has spent several months as an exchange student at QMUC. 

I am a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. I am studying Early Childhood and Family studies for my BA degree. I found the Norwegian system to be interesting and I wanted to learn more about Norway. Therefore I applied for the courses Norwegian Early Childhood Education and Care, and Playscapes for Learning, Health and Relationships in the ECEC.

I was a bit nervous when I arrived in the beginning of August. It was my first time in Europe. I have had some homesickness here and there, but most of all I have had a very good time here. The weather, the culture, the kindergarten where I had my practical experience, and everything else has made a big impression on me. The food is very different from what I am used to. What was new to me was that Norwegians tend to eat a lot of cheese and bread which is not a big part of my normal diet.

One of the things that surprised Shearn was that babies and toddlers sleep outside in Norwegian kindergartens.
One of the things that surprised Shearn Santiago was that babies and toddlers sleep outside in Norwegian kindergartens.
Practical training in the kindergarten
We spent 30 days working in the kindergarten, which was a wonderful experience. I learned so much from the children. In the beginning it was hard to communicate, because of language barriers of not being able to speak Norwegian, but it was amazing to be able to understand through facial expressions, repetitive phrases and body languages. I spoke to them in English, but I also learned a lot from them.

There's a big difference in the pedagogics
Observing the children's freeplay was very inspiring, it is very different from what I am used to. There's a big difference in the pedagogics. That you have a National Curriculum for the pedagogical content in the kindergartens is also very different to me.

The view on risky play, outdoor play and freeplay is also very different. I would have liked to learn even more about it, and I hope I manage to incorporate what I have learned from QMUC in the kindergarten when I start working when I graduate. One of the differences that I was able to observe was how freeplay is very limited from where I come from; there are many rules to follow. Also we fear that the children will hurt themselves if they play outdoors.

It was also quite interesting going on field trips with the children. The kindergartens here are environmental- and naturebased, and someday I hope to bring more nature into the classroom.

We experience a lot as students at QMUC
One class day, we took a field trip to the forest called Frøset, where we did various of activities learning about risky play. We have also been on many trips, we've been skiing, and made our own campfires where we cooked our food. That would never have happened at home.

We have visited both the oldest and the newest kindergarten in Trondheim, and spent a lot of time outdoors. I have also travelled a lot in my free time. I've been to the Lofoten islands, to Røros, to Bergen and we've visited Sweden and Finnish Lapland together with the other exchange students. We've done a lot of walking and hiking. There are so many beautiful places to see, I'll definitely recommend people to come here.

I have become good friends with the other international students, and we will definitely keep in touch. Learning about different cultures is very interesting. We spend a lot of time together after the lectures and was able to get to know a lot about our different countries and cultural practices.

As an exchange student you have to be open minded
You have to be excited about learning and gaining knowledge and new experiences. It will change your life and make you see things differently. You will learn a lot about yourself, about your limitations and what you are capable of doing. When you are observing the children you are observing their learning development skills. Still, they will surprise you.