Inspiration at the International Staff week in Almeria, the “Sea of Knowledge”

Teksti | Sini Aalto-Friman

I was happy that I had the opportunity to join the annual international Week of University of Almeria in southern Spain, April 22 to 26, 2024. This was the 13th time they organized the week. More than 250 applied for the international week and 49 participants were selected to join, from European countries, also from outside Europe and U-Green final conference participants joined for one day. So that shows the popularity of the international week.

The participants were from Finland, Armenia, Hungary, Lithuania, USA, Malaysia, Ecuador, Albania, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Colombia, Croatia, Tunis, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, France, Italy, Slovakia, Uruguay, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Georgia, Czechia, and The Netherlands.

City of Almeria in Spain

Almeria is founded by the Caliph of Cordoba, and it is a reminder of the region´s Muslim history. It is located on the southeast coast of Spain. The easiest way to travel there is to take a direct flight from Helsinki to Malaga and take a direct bus from there, the quickest is approximately 2,5h hours. They have been building a train line, but it takes a long time until it works. Almeria has 200 000 inhabitants. According to the locals it is a “real Spanish city” because it is not like the traditional holiday destinations on the coast. It is recommended to learn some Spanish before arriving, because locals do not all speak English that well. The city receives few international tourists, only Spanish curing the summer. It is a calm and safe city, which is warm all year round. The locals also commented that it is cheap compared to many other cities in Spain. The sights include the Alcazaba, massive fort and from there you have beautiful views to the city. There is also a cathedral and many museums. The city was beautiful when Jacaranda trees were blooming with purple colors.

City view of Almeria, photo by Sini Aalto-Friman

University of Almeria

University of Almeria has a large campus by the sea. It was founded 1994 and it belonged to University of Granada before. The university has about 14 000 undergraduate students. The fields of study they have are Humanities, Law, Psychology, Economics and Business, Education Sciences, Experimental Sciences, Engineering, Health Sciences and Master and Doctorate level (” affiliated centers”) degrees.

The University of Almeria is a popular destination for exchange students because they receive about 700 incoming exchange students, and they have 500-1000 outgoing exchange students annually. They have 400 exchange agreements! They have 70 popular destinations. The most popular are Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Mexico. Most incoming exchange students come from Italy, Mexico, France, Germany, and Poland. They also organize summer courses, and 200 students join them. They are active globally and are a part of eight alliances.

Their international office has 17 staff members: 4 outgoing, 3 incoming, 1 for agreements, 1 for staff. This shows how important internationalization is to University of Almeria. The importance of internationalization was visible in many ways, in the speeches by the principal and vice rector for internationalization. University of Almeria has also had 20 projects in the last six years.

University of Almeria Campus, photo by Sini Aalto-Friman


Almeria coordinates this European University initiative called” U-Green”. It was interesting to hear that 60 % of Spanish universities belong to a European Universities alliance. Almeria is a leading university in environmental issues and that is why U-Green has been a priority. We learned that under 20 % of the universities in the world have integrated sustainable topics in their curriculum and this should be developed further. Activities of the project have been creating a green label that a university can apply for. This includes an online training and they created guidelines for education and training institutions (U-GREEN Guidelines for Education and Training Institutions ( They also have created a U-Green Buddy Programme. U-Green ends in June 2024 and they apply for continuation.

International Week Programme

On Monday after registration, we had the welcoming session by the authorities. Then we learned about University of Almeria and got an introduction to Spanish culture and language. This was followed by a guided tour around the university campus. In the evening we had a guided walking tour in the city center of Almeria.

On Tuesday we started to learn about Unigreen, the Green European University by Tomás Lorenzana de la Varga and Maria Fernanda Rodriguez Heras. It was followed by an interesting round table discussion, which introduced mobilities through students’ eyes. We heard about experiences of outgoing and incoming exchange students at University of Almeria. Then there was a presentation “Challenges of Internationalization” of Ramon Herrera De las Heras, who is the General Secretary of Universities Junta de Andalucía. In the afternoon we had a networking session, where we all presented our universities and planned cooperation together. Laurea raised a lot of interest and partnership proposals.

On Wednesday we started with workshops. I attended the one concerning Erasmus+ 2021-2027 Challenges using EU tools, where we discussed mainly Beneficiary Module and Online Learning Agreement issues. Then another workshop followed where the topic was “Erasmus+ 2021-2027 New opportunities on Erasmus+ mobility (Blended Intensive Programs)” It was interesting to share experiences and ideas and to see that we all face similar challenges in Europe. In the afternoon we visited the beautiful Cabo de Gata Natural Park by the sea and had lunch in a seafood restaurant by the sea.

La isleta de Nijar, in Cabo de Gata natural park area, photo by Sini Aalto-Friman

On Thursday we started with the University cooperation for promoting the GREEN transition and sustainable practices in education and training Inaugural Conference. The first speaker was Diego Vazquez-Brust from University of Portsmouth and he spoke about U-Green Growth Transition. Then we continued with U-GREEN Project dissemination and U-GREEN presentation of results. In the afternoon we got the chance to join the Festival of Nations, which was an international student fair. The exchange students presented their countries with stands, music, costumes, food, dance, henna tattoos, so many things! The local students had a “passport” in which they collected stamps from the stands. With a full passport they received paella ja beer in the end! The area was filled with students and the atmosphere was like a carnival, marvelous! In the evening we got the chance to see a unique flamenco show, where they were singing and dancing Andalusian folklore songs. The evening finished with a dinner, where we got to taste typical dishes and specialties of Andalusia.

On Friday we continued networking and sharing ideas while traveling to “Mini-Hollywood Thematic Oasys Park”. The park has been the filming setting for many world-known western movies, and it had also a zoo next to it. This would be a perfect day trip with kids, and it was fun for us adults too!

Show in Mini Hollywood, photo by Sini Aalto-Friman


The goals of the event were planning together, discussing alternative practices, sharing experiences on mobility, responding to policy changes, supporting joint practice development, sharing successful project experiences, strengthening links between partners and naturally also networking. I can say that these goals were well achieved during the week.

What we can learn from University of Almeria is the active student life and big international fair introducing various countries. Their social media is very active (”ualmoves” on Instagram). Laurea and University of Almeria have a partnership in the field of business management. It is possible for Laurea students to go for an exchange in the University of Almeria. For staff it is possible to join the annual international week and plan collaboration with the local teachers. It must be taken into consideration that their degrees are structured differently, they have 4 years undergraduate and 1-year master’s degree. University of Almeria is organizing and joining many Blended Intensive Programmes so that may be an interesting possibility as well for the Laurea community.



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