U-M exchange program sparks problem solving in North African nations, here

A program between students in North African nations and students here in the U.S. at the University of Michigan, is helping solve problems both places deal with.

The Virtual Exchange started a year and a half and has more than 500 students involved, including ones from U-M.

Hela Zarjoune, a student from Tunisia, flew to Detroit to collaborate with students to come up with a way to recycle. 

"We tried to come up with a smart bin that rewards them each time they dispose of the recyclable wastes," Zarjoune said. "So it goes with an app, it's very trendy and it's a social experiment." 

Students from Morocco and Egypt also flew to Detroit. They came with entrepreneurial solutions to problems from unemployment to trash collection. 

"The virtual exchange experience definitely got us to know the importance of working inter-continentally for sure," said virtual exchange learner Sara Gzara. " The feedback we are getting from our American teammates is helping us develop ourselves personally and also develop whatever work." 

The U-M community is also taking something from the program. 

"Many of the problems we have are global now so students really appreciate a different lens on a similar problem," said Amy Gillett from the U-M William Davidson Institute. "Problems in healthcare, problems in the environment, these are issues that we all share and bringing together people of different culture to put a different lens on the problem and to take a different look at the problem and come up with the entrepreneurial solutions has been a wonderful experience for the students."