Exchange program brings Swiss, Grand Valley students together

Students stand in front of the technology building at ZHAW.
About nine students from Grand Valley participated in this year's exchange program.
Image Credit: Courtesy
Students from ZHAW and GVSU went on a hike in the Alps.
Students from ZHAW and GVSU went on a hike in the Alps.
Image Credit: Courtesy

During a trip to Grand Valley in July, Martin Vraspir, a student from Switzerland, was impressed with Grand Valley's size and campus life.

The industrial engineering student was one of 21 students who participated in a four-week exchange program. For two weeks in July, nine students from Grand Valley's School of Computing and Information Systems (CIS) studied at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW); then 12 students from ZHAW came to Grand Valley for two weeks. 

"The campus size and infrastructure are amazing," Vraspir said. "The campus life is like nothing I've experienced in Switzerland." 

The study abroad program, in its sixth year, focuses on a trending area of computing. This year, students studied coding, big data and data mining. 

Paul Leidig, director of CIS, said students studied in a global environment while learning about the latest computing trends. 

“The students complete an entire course on each campus that normally takes 15 weeks," he said. "The pace was quite fast with a full day in the classroom. Students from Grand Valley and ZHAW paired up, worked on teams and became good friends."  

When they weren't in class, the students could be found exploring each country's history and culture. 

Madeleine Stuart, a junior majoring in information systems at Grand Valley, said a hike in the Alps was a favorite experience. 

"We took a chairlift up the mountain to get to where the hike started and the scenery was breathtaking. Everyone was so friendly," she said.

At ZHAW, students got to study in the same building where Einstein first taught. In Michigan, students explored Grand Rapids, hiked the Sleeping Bear Dunes and took trips to Mackinac Island and Chicago. 

This is the first international summer exchange program for CIS, which is part of the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing. Grand Valley’s School of Engineering is also a partner with ZHAW and includes faculty and staff exchanges.