Find out more about staff mobility experiences by reading some of our staff testimonials.
Christina, Research Associate Local Energy Systems, School of Engineering
I attended the Hochschule Esslingen HE International Lab Week March, 2020 in Germany.
The 5 day programme promised to be an interactive learning experience and intercultural exchange. However, as the days drew near, anxiety crept in as the threat of COVID-19 was imminent. The host university conducted a poll; amongst the fears and understanding that any advance Erasmus grants would have to be repaid, an overwhelming response was in favour for the event to go ahead. Thankfully, my insurance coverage gave me the confidence to make the best use of the opportunity.
The programme did not disappoint and was well organised and executed. Approximately, 40 individuals attended from universities across the world including Asia, Europe, UK and USA with a mix of academics from lecturers, technicians, researchers, HOD (plus students who were involved in another programme). Along with a goody bag, COVID-19 guidance notes, hand sanitisers (which was very much appreciated) were distributed; no hugs nor handshakes, so a smile was suffice. This did not dampen the mood as each day was fun-packed with edutainment. HE opened the doors to a number of their state of the art facilities such as the ‘drinking water hygiene heat transfer’ building services laboratory which was among my favourite and introduced their support services offered to visiting academics. The close proximity to Stuggart, a manufacturing hub gave us a chance to tour Audi, Porsche, and Mahle.
It was a terrific informative experience not to be missed and I walked away with insightful real life examples to illustrate and enrich my class discussions. Glad I went not a day or week later and returned home safe and sound, eager to share the details and encourage others to attend in the future when it’s safe to do so.
Alastair, Professor of Geology, School of GeoScience
Çukorova University is in Adana, the third city in Turkey, in the southeast near the Mediterranean coast, with a population more than four times that of Edinburgh, and a campus on the outskirts of the city about the size of Queen’s Park, overlooking a large dammed lake.
The undergraduate course is for four years and can be followed by a two year masters degree that some students take. Most of the employment after graduation is in applied geology, including civil engineering, mining geology and environmental geology (e.g. earthquake risk assessment). There are also numerous PhD students, many of whom traditionally go into academic geology in what was until recently a rapidly increasing university sector.
The teaching out there is a mix of lectures and discussion with students at both graduate and post-graduate level, together with more specific field-based training and supervision of PhD students. The high spot of the teaching visit was a full-day conference in which I gave three main lectures on aspects of the geology of Turkey and the adjacent eastern Mediterranean region that I am (or have been recently) working on together with Turkish and UK colleagues. The conference is open to outsiders and was also attended by members of the Turkish geological survey (MTA) from the regional Adana branch. The one-day focussed session gave students a taste of what an international geological conference is like, something that they may not have a chance to experience otherwise.
My visits to Çukorova University have run now for some years, during which several jointly supervised PhD students have progressed, completed their theses, published their research (jointly) and are now members of the academic staff. Overall, the ERASMUS teaching support is greatly appreciated, both by myself and the university out there.
Ruth, Academic Support Librarian, Library Academic Support
In April I travelled to northern Finland to visit Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OAMK) for their international staff exchange week.
Although OAMK is a lot smaller than the University of Edinburgh, like us it is spread across the city, and operates site libraries on several campuses. They are also well-established in delivering online distance learning, and I’ve already borrowed a few ideas for providing remote library support and embedded information literacy for online students.
The week’s programme was arranged by OAMK library staff and involved visiting libraries at the different campuses, sharing practice through presentations and discussions with colleagues – including a walking meeting between two campuses in the snow through Oulu’s most picturesque neighbourhood Karjasilta. We also joined other visiting staff and academics for the general programme, which included a crash-course in the notoriously difficult Finnish language.
The social programme at Oulu also involved one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had – walking out from the beach onto the frozen Baltic Sea!
Louise, Salvesen Mindroom Research Centre, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences
In May 2019, I was fortunate to receive a Staff Mobility award to visit the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre (GNC), within Gothenburg University, Sweden, for a week.
The GNC conducts research aimed at developing and establishing new methods for early intervention, examination, investigation and intervention/treatment in the fields of neuropsychiatry and developmental neurology ("ESSENCE", i.e. Early Symptomatic Syndromes Eliciting Neurodevelopmental Clinical Examinations). I have attended events in Gothenburg and visited the GNC briefly before, but had never had the opportunity to spend a substantial amount of time there and meet the many excellent researchers and clinicians working in the centre.
Throughout my week at the GNC I had meetings with many of the researchers to find out about their work – from a long term follow-up of adults diagnosed with autism in the 1970’s, to learning more about the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS) and fascinating work on neurodevelopmental disorders and maltreatment using those data. In collaboration with two of the researchers at the GNC, I developed an outline proposal to use CATSS data linked with national education data to explore the role of neurodevelopmental disorders in educational attainment of children at age 16. The GNC made me feel very welcome and the week I was there coincided with the GNC midsummer lunch, allowing me to happily indulge in lots of lovely Swedish food! Outside of office hours, I was able to enjoy the wonderful sights of Gothenburg – a truly beautiful city and well worth a visit. Many thanks to the University of Edinburgh Go Abroad for Staff scheme for funding my trip, and to the GNC for all their hospitality. I would thoroughly recommend this experience to others!
Anita, European Programmes Administrator, Study and Work Away Service
In October 2019 I attended the International Staff Week at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of NOVA Lisbon University.
The week was an opportunity for a group of participants from different European countries, ranging from Estonia to Turkey, to come together and share experiences, best practices - and common struggles! - when supporting internationalisation within their home institutions.
The young and enthusiastic team at NOVA put together for us a week packed with activities, from discussion round tables about student and staff mobility, to one-to-one meetings with other colleagues across the University, to Portuguese cultural activities – including a language class and a traditional Portuguese dinner. It was a fantastic opportunity to network with colleagues from across Europe who work in similar roles to mine and to build new professional and personal connections that I am keen to maintain and build on in the future.
Exchanging ideas between representatives of 15 institutions that are so different from each other in terms of history, size, scope and budget was an eye-opening experience. It allowed me to appreciate all the resources that we have here at UofE, but it also helped me see new ways in which our own programmes could be improved.
Andy, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, School of Law
As a criminology lecturer in the School of Law, I undertook three Erasmus+ teaching exchanges in three years.
Each asked something different of me, and each offered something different in return.
My first exchange (April 2017) was to KU Leuven in Belgium. I taught on an international, intensive seminar, as part of the normal curriculum, and was fully integrated into departmental life. My discussions in Leuven resulted in a return visit from Leuven colleagues and enhanced cooperation between our Schools.
In January 2018, I visited VU Amsterdam with a self-contained research elective. The elective is a regular feature of the MSc in International Crimes, Conflict and Criminology, allowing VUA to bring in outside expertise. It gave me a chance to test new material and approaches that will be integrated into a new course on Criminologies of Atrocity in Edinburgh.
My latest experience was a week teaching at a relatively new university in Turkey, MEF in Istanbul (April 2019). This pushed me in new directions: teaching English for law students; lecturing in new areas; and even lecturing in Turkish (but just for 10 minutes). The visit was arranged around teaching, but was also a chance to collaborate with co-author based there. Soon after the exchange, we finished a paper which has since been accepted for publication.
Lynsey, International Recruitment Officer, School of Mathematics
I went to Lisbon for my Go Abroad staff mobility experience and participated in Técnico Lisboa’s International Staff Training Week, which was themed around internationalisation in higher education institutions.
I work as an International Recruitment Officer and found it hugely valuable to learn from and share best practice around student recruitment with colleagues from across Europe and beyond!
This training week also gave me the chance to get exposure to some other topics around internationalisation that I am less familiar with such as student mobility, strategic partnerships, joint degree programmes and summer schools, which really helped to increase my confidence in dealing with these projects. Overall, I found the experience hugely valuable in forming networks with staff in similar roles at other universities, and it was heartening to discover that our European colleagues face many of the same challenges as we do in our own international efforts. The training week was a great motivator, and I returned to Edinburgh excited to share what I had learned and implement some new ideas that I picked up from my time in Lisbon.
Isabelle, Lecturer in Sociology and Sustainable Development, School of Social and Political Science
Last year, I, alongside 7 other colleagues and PhD students (tutoring at UoE) all involved in our Food Researchers In Edinburgh network, co-organised and took part in a 3 day-workshop in Lisbon, at the Institute for Social Science.
The aims were to strengthen the collaboration with staff/PhD teams in European (Portuguese, French, Danish) sociology of food teams with which we have been cooperating informally over the last 4 years, and compare teaching and research practices with a view to designing a joint Spring School together. One direct outcome of the workshop was the decision to resubmit a Marie Slodowska Curie proposal to Horizon 2020, with a view to funding a European PhD Training Network. The Portuguese partners were new to our European network, so this was also an opportunity to get to hear about their postgraduate teaching and to meet some of their PhD students.
The 3 days were intense yet relaxed and enjoyable – with team as well as individual presentations, from both teaching staff and PhD tutors, who also strengthened their practice exchange amongst themselves. The two joint dinners were moments of freer exchange and appreciative commentary on the local food… Some cities are just more conducive to conversation than others, and Lisbon is certainly one of them (despite rather high acoustic contamination!). Erasmus staff mobility has been a very stimulating tool and resource for not only consolidating our joint training projects with our partners but also for consolidating our own group. A highly recommendable experience.
Kristina, Legacy and Grants Coordinator, Development and Alumni
I had the privilege of going on the exchange to Vancouver where I spent one week with the Gift and Estate Planning team at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
I was welcomed by a spectacular campus, surrounded by mountains, ocean and cedar tree forests, and an extremely friendly and professional bunch of people.
In my current role, I support the University’s legacy and planned giving programme. North America is known for its wealth of fundraising experience, planned giving included, and I knew that this is the place to be if I want to learn more about various country-specific planned gifts, their tax benefits and management. I am not an expert in planned giving now but I definitely know more and met fabulous people I can turn to with questions. The visit exceeded my expectations, both in terms of professional and cultural experience.
I spent most of the week in meetings and job-shadowing the team. On my last day, I joined 200+ fundraising and development professionals from UBC at their very own conference. The University’s Vice-Chancellor also attended. His name is Professor Santa J. Ono and he has his own newsletter called ‘Letter from Santa’ – brilliant, I thought!
Sara, Philanthropy Assistant, Legacies and Grants, Development and Alumni
In July this year, I was lucky enough to visit the Catholic University of Chile in Santiago thanks to Go Abroad and the Erasmus+ programme.
I did a week of job shadowing within a very similar department to the one I currently work for (Development and Alumni) with the aim of learning how the top University in Latin America builds on their communications strategy for their stakeholders.
The experience exceeded my expectations greatly! Everyone made me feel very welcome from the first day and treated me as a member of their team. They provided me with a desk and a computer to work from during the week and an agenda full of activities, conferences and meetings with other key departments at the University.
Coincidently, the University of Edinburgh Regional Centre for Latin America is also based in Santiago and I had the opportunity to visit the team there one afternoon during my Erasmus+ week. It was truly great to understand how the University strengthens its relations in the area and so I managed to kill two birds with one stone!
Mark, Reader in History, School of History, Classics and Archaeology
I was among twenty-three people from thirteen countries, mostly from across Europe but also including Argentina, Brazil, China and Kazakhstan, who attended International Mobility Week at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland in June 2019.
As the week began, I made my way to the meeting point in the centre of Katowice by the spectacular space-age Spodek stadium, which looks like a flying saucer. Standing in a circle in glorious weather, we introduced ourselves before heading off to a nearby restaurant for a sumptuous meal of Polish cuisine and further conversation and networking in a convivial atmosphere. It was ideal preparation for the week that largely focused on an exchange of ideas, experience and good practice for meeting the needs of international students. The sessions included vibrant discussion and interaction, as well as break out groups. As a history lecturer, I found the training and discussion about cultural differences and expectations particularly valuable as our university recruits students ever more widely. We were also given a crash course in Polish, a walking tour of two campuses and the city of Katowice, and interesting visits to the Silesian Museum, which explained the area’s history, and a silver mine in Tarnowskie Góry.
Stella, Student Recruitment Manager, Business School
I took part in an Erasmus Week at Riga Stradins University in Latvia.
The focus of the week was Internationalisation in Higher Education who was evidently a popular topic drawing 80 participants from all over Europe. As the only participant from a UK University, it was brilliant to gather such diverse regional perspectives on the topic and the speakers were excellent. I particularly enjoyed the sessions about different ways to interpret and use University rankings, and about how to manage the impact of geopolitical factors outside our control. As the Student Recruitment Manager for the Business School these sessions were both relevant to my role and incredibly interesting. The University was a great host and organised many fun activities after hours, including dinner at the Latvian National Museum of Art and a visit to Rundale Palace. These more relaxed events were a great backdrop for sharing cultures, languages and thoughts and I’m still in touch with some participants I met that week. All in all it was a great experience and something I recommend to everyone!
Claire, Senior Administrator, Edinburgh Global
I went on a training visit to Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore under the Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility scheme.
In my current role, I have been heavily involved in organising both inward visits by groups from NTU, as well as outward delegations from the University of Edinburgh to Singapore, with NTU being one of the key institutions for staff to connect with. Job shadowing and meeting with my counterparts over there not only provided me with an excellent opportunity to share best practice and make contacts, but I was also able to gain a better understanding of the cultural differences within the workplace. NTU could not have been more welcoming, and they put together a full programme of activity for the week. I felt so flattered that they had gone this much effort for little old me! I also had plenty of time to explore the city and found out so much about Singapore’s interesting history and culture – as well as their local cuisine! Not only do I feel like the trip has improved my cultural knowledge, but I have also gained so much confidence, and I would recommend the staff mobility scheme to anyone!
Norman, Projects Development Manager, Library and University Collections
In July this year, I attended the Library Staff Week run by the University of Reims Champagne Ardenne (URCA) in France, the theme of which was “Getting Ready for Tomorrow’s Libraries.”
The URCA team took a totally different approach to way we run our own equivalent staff week, with most of the activity based around workshops rather than presentations. In many ways, their approach offered a more genuine exchange of ideas than our model so we may well incorporate elements of this into our own programme next year.
Given its importance to the town and the region, a visit to a champagne caves was compulsory and yes, we were made to drink champagne!
The week was not without incident, however, with one participants having to be taken to hospital with food poisoning and my own apartment block having to be evacuated after someone set their room on fire. It was also the only work trip I’ve ever made where I’ve been asked for an autograph! Be sure your sins will find you out…
All in all, a great week away, with a lot learned and a grand time had by all.
Frauke, Senior Lecturer in German, Department of European Languages and Cultures
I spent one week in August 2018 at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) in Brazil.
At USP I was involved in some research-led teaching, which included a presentation on the German writer Clemens Meyer in the context of World Literature for staff and students of Modern Languages; a workshop on World Literature for doctoral students and early career researchers; and a drop-in session for postgraduate students on studying and researching in the UK. I also had the opportunity to mentor some doctoral students in comparative literature/studies by discussing their theses in more detail.
Being at USP allowed me to try out my research ideas revolving around World Literature in a new cultural and academic context. I could also share my expertise and teaching practice with Brazilian colleagues, which I can only describe as productive and fruitful exchanges. So, I left USP and Brazil not only with a fresh perspective on my research, but also with some new ideas for my teaching at Edinburgh, especially my MSc option 'World Literature', which regularly attracts students from Brazil and South America. The international academic experience I gained at USP has really left an impact on the way I perceive, and wish to develop, my research and teaching beyond national, cultural, and institutional borders.
Lilly, Programme Office Manager, Data-Driven Innovation Programme
I recently attended a staff training week organised by the University of Cologne, in Germany on the theme of HR staff development.
It was the first time that the University of Cologne hosted a staff training week – so the experience was as new for the hosts as it was for all 30 of us who attended. There were 18 different nationalities in attendance for the training week, ranging from Finland to Bulgaria, so this made the experience very unique! Across the week, we all presented to each other on our university’s staff development opportunities, and this turned out to facilitate some great learning and networking opportunities. In addition to this, we also engaged in some job shadowing with HR professionals from the University of Cologne itself, who took turns to deliver us workshops on different aspects of their own HR staff development, so the programme was jam-packed with relevant learning and sharing opportunities. I learnt so much in a week, made so many new friends, and got to explore a decent amount of the city – so I would highly recommend a staff mobility ERASMUS trip to all!
Susan, Photographer, Digital Imaging Unit, Library and University Collections
I was delighted to be able to participate in the 4th International Staff Week at the Biblioteki Politechniki Gdańskiej, Poland this year.
We visited 5 Libraries during the week, each with interesting ideas to take away, a rich history to explore or beautiful treasures to see. For me the highlight was a behind the scenes tour of Biblioteki Politechniki Gdańskiej Special Collections to see some of the treasures they hold and how the digitisation team at the Pomeranian Digital Library are making these wonderful collections more accessible.
There were many presentations throughout the week, my favourite was on Citizen Science - an interesting history of how crowd-sourcing science developed. Who knew that Napoleon Bonaparte solved the problem of supplying food to the troops by offering a 12,000 FRK reward contest for the best food preservation, leading to the tinned food we know today?
And of course, we had some fantastic cultural excursions in the programme too. I have a new favourite museum- the European Solidarity Centre was one of the most moving and imaginative museums I have been too. Erasmus is a fantastic programme- make the most of it!
Rebecca, Events and Protocol Assistant, Development & Alumni
As a member of the Events and Protocol Team, I was fortunate enough to spend a week job shadowing the Special Events and Protocol Office at Sapienza University, Rome.
During the visit I assisted with an Engineering Symposium Opening Concert in the beautiful Cloister of San Pietro in Vincoli, home to Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. Throughout the week I had the opportunity to meet, and share experiences, with colleagues across the University who work closely with the protocol office during visits of high profile individuals including the press office and communications team. The last day of my trip coincided with ‘European Make Music Day’ therefore I helped with the event preparation for an evening Jazz Orchestra Concert within the Sapienza University Chapel. For me, Go Abroad was an incredible experience to share event planning expertise with another institution and helped build my confidence in an international environment (not to mention the opportunity to sample some of the delicious pizza and gelato Rome has to offer)!
Carlos, Lecturer in Spanish, Department of European Languages and Cultures
I visited Stockholm University in Sweden on May 2019 to attend an international workshop on the theory and description of pluricentric languages, an incredible training opportunity that I have been able to transfer directly into my teaching and my research.
During my stay I visited the Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism where the workshop was organised as well as the Department of Romance Studies and Classics. I was able to connect with various staff members who teach Spanish Language and Hispanic Linguistics, just like me. We had a very productive series of meetings which have already led to a follow-up visit of a Swedish colleague to our university last September, as well as a submission of a joint research application to explore gender-related and social differences in Spanish language use.
Visiting Sweden for the first time in my life, I have to admit that one of the highlights of my stay was having lunch in the departmental staff room. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming, I felt transported to a toy university in a toy world surrounded by bright spaces, wooden furniture, simple lines, and lots of colours everywhere. I learnt then that these buildings at the university’s Frescati Campus where designed by famous architects such as Ralph Erskine and Gunnar Asplund. It was all very special and I am very glad I had the opportunity to be part of it. You can have a virtual tour of the campus architecture here.
Elizabeth, Rare Books Librarian, Special Collections
When our cataloguer, working on the Blackie Collection of nineteenth-century Greek, discovered an amazing Greek digital books collection at the University of Crete we were keen to know more, so made contact.
As a result, with the support of Erasmus, four members of CRC staff went to visit in May 2019: Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian; Rachel Hosker, Archivist; Susan Pettigrew, Photographer; Norman Rodger, Projects Development Manager.
The visit consisted of a series of meetings with the Library Director and Special Collections and Archives staff. We learnt a great deal about how special collections and digitisation is run in Greece, exchanged information and ideas, and explored ideas for future collaborative projects. We were humbled by their dedication and ingenuity; they work under huge financial and bureaucratic constraints, running the library with a skeleton staff, yet have achieved so much.
The visit has brought immediate benefits: the team in Greece have continued to advise on our cataloguing, and passed on our data to the Greek national bibliography. Their introductions to other Greek institutions, have helped us with other projects. We still hope to be able to host a return visit.
Lee-Anne, Head of HR and Development for Accommodation, Catering and Events
I attended the HR Staff Training Week at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (CFU) in June after seeing the programme advertised by the Edinburgh Global office.
With 15 attendees from across Europe topics of discussion ranged from talent acquisition to well-being and engagement initiatives. Although we all face similar HR challenges it was interesting how we all operated in quite different cultures. It was great to be able to offer ideas and solutions based on my own experience but it was a real eye opener to learn how restrictive and bureaucratic the Italian system is in particular. I was surprised how far ahead we are with HR policy and approach which was a surprise since we are broadly subject to the same types of employment laws across Europe and initiative such as flexible working don’t seem that radical anymore! Yet in Italian universities we were told that part time and flexible working isn’t really allowed as everyone has full time contracts that require them to attend work every day.
A real highlight of the week was meeting Professor Laura Cortellazzo who led a session on the role of empathy and ‘Behavioural Competencies in the Workplace’. In 2012 she was pivotal in creating their internationally recognised competency centre to improve the performance and employability of CFU students. She was hugely inspiring and engaging.
We toured the business and economic campus (in a converted slaughterhouse on the edge of Venice) where they were also building some student residential accommodation but at only 120 rooms is much smaller than our developments. One evening the group rowed the canals of Venice in the University’s Dragonboat which was a fantastic experience even though we set off in Venice ‘rush hour’!
I walked to the University every day and used any spare time in the evening to see as much of Venice as possible – mostly on foot but also by boat or vaperetto. With no buses, cars or bicycles to rely on I clocked up lots of steps each day. By the end of the week I had stopped getting lost in the tiny alleyways and felt like I was living there.
I’ve brought back some ideas for both HR and ACE to support new staff and international students relocating to Edinburgh and to help make UOE an even better place to work. I am also keen to organise a similar training week at Edinburgh in the future. Many of the other delegates expressed an interest in coming to Edinburgh so I believe it would be an attractive proposal and demonstrate our commitment to collaboration with our European colleagues.
Alistair, Global Operations Support Officer, Edinburgh Global
Visiting the University of Oslo provided me with a fresh perspective.
It’s easy to get stuck in your ways when seeking out best practice from within the UK HE sector. That’s why I decided to go further afield and meet with administrative counterparts in an institution with the opposite funding model to us. During my days in Oslo, I learnt about Norwegian perceptions of HE in the UK and some of the practical challenges that factor in to their decision making.
To my delight, there is an entire data visualisation team at UiO who are advancing the practice of graphical communication. Being given a peek under the hood showed me the possibilities of automating quantitative reporting through the generation of statements. A must for anyone responsible for providing figures to management groups.
Overall, I feel that I gained just as much as I gave and expanded my network of contacts. It’s nice to get a fresh set of eyes to open our own sometimes.