Collaborating with Edinburgh University Students’ Association
Laura Jiménez, International Engagement Coordinator at the Students’ Association, discusses her role and projects she’s working on alongside Edinburgh Global.
Community is one of our key strategic themes at Edinburgh Global, it underpins much of the work we carry out independently and in collaboration with a range of departments and student groups. One of our most important internal partners is the Students’ Association. Laura Jiménez’s role as International Engagement Coordinator provides a crucial link to share information, promote activities and support initiatives that aim to achieve our shared goals of supporting the global community and advancing internationalisation.
We spoke with Laura about her role, the projects that she’s working on with Edinburgh Global and the significance of the Students’ Association’s collaboration with us.
The programmes that I supervise keep student life vivid and allow everyone at The University of Edinburgh to feel that they belong to a wider community. I especially enjoy working with a wide variety of student volunteers, they are fantastic! I have built a strong partnership with Edinburgh Global and I know that by working together we can drastically improve student experience. Our collaboration has made possible the launch of the Global Community Fund, which is a great way to encourage students to organise global-themed and community building events.
Tell us a little about Edinburgh University Students’ Association?
Edinburgh University Students’ Association is the students’ union at The University of Edinburgh, and as a whole we work very closely with the University in aiding student experience here. Each new student is automatically a member of the Students’ Association and has access to a wide range of services, representation and welfare support, including over 340+ societies, the Advice Place, and Peer Learning and Support. Everything we do aims to ensure student members have the best possible experience at the University; our main purpose being to enhance student life by providing representation, a wide variety of services, activities and support.
Our Global Students work began as a way to bring home and international students together, and encourage all students at the University to feel part of and celebrate an internationalised student community. Global Students is part of the Student Opportunities Team at the Students’ Association, which also is responsible for supporting societies, student volunteering and peer learning and support.
What are you currently working on with Edinburgh Global?
The Students’ Association collaborates with Edinburgh Global on a wide range of projects and programmes. A key project just now is the management of the Global Community Fund which supports events showcasing culture and diversity of the University community. We have supported some fantastic student-led events and projects already, like a Refugee and Asylum Seeker Panel event, the BME Welcome Guide, a short course on Decolonialism, Blackness & Diaspora, Culture and Power, and a workshop on ‘African Enslavement, Reparatory Justice and Educational Repairs in and beyond The University of Edinburgh’.
Our objective is to give students the power and resources to run the events they want to see and to create a sense of community. People don’t come here just to study for a degree, they want to have an experience that allows them to grow, learn from a new environment and develop their skills. We can help them to make the most of the international community and make them feel that they belong in Edinburgh. These events can also celebrate the diversity of cultures, encourage conversations on global issues and promote the integration between home and international students. Events keep student life running!
The collaboration between the Students’ Association and Edinburgh Global works really well. Together with Inga Ackermann, Global Community Coordinator at Edinburgh Global, we review applications to the Global Community Fund. We often find we have common perspectives on the events which students have proposed, which facilitates a really positive working relationship. Our common interest focuses around developing projects and events which allow people to come together regardless of differences, and which are accessible to everyone. We then work with the Communications team in Edinburgh Global and the Marketing team in Students Association to promote the Fund and highlight successful events.
Our hopes for this project are that more students get to know about the funding available to them, encourage more applications from a diverse range of students, leading to impactful projects. Inga Ackermann said: “Every time we review applications, I am amazed by the creativity of ideas and student leadership skills. This shared project has opened new channels of communication with students for the Global Community team and I am delighted about the collaboration with the Students’ Association. We share a common vision in that we want to create a sense of belonging for all students.”
Can you tell us about any other projects you currently work on?
Yes - the Students’ Association run many services that support students and integration on campus and it’s my job to help run or promote the following:
Global Buddies is a peer support scheme for visiting students coming to the University for one or two semesters. It’s a great way for these students to meet new people, share experiences and again make the most of their time at the University of Edinburgh. The scheme matches groups of visiting students with current students already studying here. The work is supported by a Student Committee whose role it is to hold events, build wider community activities and facilitate cultural conversations. The Global Buddies programme really helps new students feel welcome and creates an easier transition for students moving to a new country.
Tandem consists of language café events. While Tandem is not a language teaching programme, it offers students another way of meeting new people and trying different languages in a fun and informal setting. These free events also help non-native English speakers practise their English, offering a sociable and accessible language exchange programme. They are open to everyone, staff too!
Free Language Tasters
These are run in collaboration between the Students’ Association, the Centre of Open Learning and the Confucius Institute. They are open to all students and run over a six-week period. Classes we offer include Arabic, British Sign Language, French, Gaelic, German, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Chinese. There’s always a huge demand for these events!
How to you work with Edinburgh Global on current international issues?
There are a range of issues we collaborate on, and because we have such a diverse student body we frequently have to respond quickly when we see potential impacts to life on campus; for example we’re collaborating with Edinburgh Global on a strategy to help make Chinese students feel welcome and supported through the Coronavirus outbreak and we’ve been working for some time to ensure EU students continue to feel welcomed and supported through Brexit. Previously, we’ve collaborated on ‘Europe Week’. This week of social and cultural events aimed to highlight and celebrate European diversity and to offer opportunities for community building.
I’ve also had the privilege to work closely with student representatives from our Una Europa partner institutions. Una Europa is a prestigious new European alliance of eight leading universities which Edinburgh joined last year and which aims to provide many new opportunities for students. I attended the first Una Europa student congress in Leuven with one of our current sabbatical officers (Andrew Wilson, student president). We were very involved in the initial conversations about student representation and leadership and I am really happy to see that Andrew is really engaged and will continue representing our students in Una Europa’s student board.
The UNA Europa alliance provides an exciting opportunity for students and comes at an important time, when students and young people are looking across the globe for collaboration. An innovative project like this can only benefit students and staff at Edinburgh, and I hope they will embrace it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I hope that the Students’ Association and Edinburgh Global can continue to seek more projects to collaborate successfully on in the future!
Find out more about the services offered by Edinburgh University Students’ Association