Go Abroad Staff Programme Experience
A growing number of staff are taking the opportunity to go abroad to develop skills and enjoy new experiences. We spoke to staff in different roles from around the University about their experience of the Go Abroad Staff programme.
The Go Abroad Staff programme has seen applications doubling year on year since it was first introduced. The scheme gives all members of staff the opportunity to undertake teaching or training at other institutions across the globe, enabling them to enhance skills, exchange knowledge and create lasting connections with others in similar areas.
Staff can find out about opportunities through the Erasmus+ website, through their own connections or by organising their own visit to an institution. Training opportunities can take a variety of forms such as job shadowing, attending workshops or attending a European staff training week.
What is a trip like?
There have been some very successful visits over the past year, and often each is different from one another.
Kelly Hall, Learning Technology Advisory, Learning, Teaching and Web Services, visited the University of Connecticut where she job shadowed two other learning technologists. She said the staff were friendly and happy to answer any questions she had.
I felt like I was working there, like I was a part of it.”
Janet Forbes, UDRC Project Manager, School of Engineering, took part in a training event at Polytechnic of Leiria in Portugal consisting of workshops focusing on data regulations and marketing where she was able to network with staff from other institutions.
There are also opportunities to participate in activities that are dedicated to certain role types. Hillary Cementina, Senior Visiting Student Advisor, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, took part in a training week in Valencia, specifically designed for international officers. She took part in large interactive lectures, discussions and teambuilding sessions.
Some visits consist solely of meetings in order to find out more about the institution and to gain insights as to what can be done differently here at the University. Russell Bartlett, for example, met with academics and students at Delhi University to try to understand the best way to communicate with potential students.
Jan Gardiner, Assistant Director - Development, Student Disability Service, visited Barcelona to find out more about their disability support services. She told us that she “wanted to use [her] time in Barcelona to visit multiple universities within the city as they were all so different and [she] was interested to know how they supported disabled students.” She found that due to severe budget cuts the universities had to become more innovative, such as the Polytechnic University of Catalonia who created an interactive map on social media where students, staff and residents could add any areas around the campus that were inaccessible.
The fund can also be used to take up invitations to be a visiting academic. Following an invitation to be a research fellow at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, Maria Fusco, Reader at Edinburgh College of Art, was able to use the Go Abroad scheme to help facilitate this.
Expanding on her time at the university, she said: “In a workshop context, I worked with Masters and PhD students in the department, and further was invited to keynote at a large-scale public event which was held in central Amsterdam.”
On her most recent Go Abroad Staff trip, Nicola Galloway, Lecturer at the School of Education, visited Thailand where she gave a lecture to their PhD students and a talk to the Master’s students who are studying the same course that she teaches on here at Edinburgh.
Nicola said: “It was really nice to see how we deliver the same content in a different context and to very different students.”
How Go Abroad Staff benefits the University
By visiting other institutions, you can develop new ideas, use new skills and pass on the knowledge gained to other team members.
Kelly gained ideas on how to update the training they offer within Information Services on the virtual learning environment Learn. She said: “They did [Learn] training online which we don’t do here so that’s something I want to implement…we’ll definitely change the way we do our training.”
Jan found out that there were many shared experiences. She said: “Overall, what I learned was how striking the similarities and the differences are, because we’re all seeking to do the same thing but we all do it in lots of different ways.”
It also allows for skill and practises to be enhanced and shared with other members of the team here in Edinburgh.
Russell believes what he learned in India can be passed onto other members of staff here. He said: “I have a much better understanding of what we need to do as a university to attract students from India and because I sit within CAM (Communications and Marketing) am able to tell the right people in the right way how we might change or adapt our practices, or at least give them the information on which to base decisions.
Nicola feels that what she learned on her trip will help to inform the curriculum development on the Master’s course she teaches on.
Lasting connections with international staff
Taking part in the Go Abroad Staff programme helps to establish lasting connections with other universities; creating further development opportunities both for staff here in Edinburgh and for staff from other universities.
Janet found that networking with others at the event was a good way to find out about procedures at other institutions, she said: “It was really interesting to meet the other people...I learnt a lot from them when hearing how their Universities do things and their individual interests.
The contacts that Maria had made during her time in Amsterdam have allowed her to create an exchange of students and Early Career Research (ECR) colleagues which will soon take place in Edinburgh and Amsterdam.
Jan is hoping that the staff she met in Spain will be able to come to Edinburgh to see how the University supports disabled students.
Why they’d recommend it
The staff we spoke to feel that they have benefited from their experience and would recommend that others take the opportunity too.
Maria felt that the scheme was a great way to create new contacts and said: “I can't recommend the Go Abroad Staff programme highly enough. “It is a generous, imaginative scheme, which directly facilitates new experiences and relationships.
Russell thinks that the Go Abroad programme is a great way to exchange ideas. He said: “It has been galvanising to experience the culture of another organisation for a week…Being able to solely focus on one project for an entire week felt like a great luxury, which has helped my productivity in the other areas of my work too.”
Some feel that taking part is a great way to understand how other institutions work, Kelly said: “I would recommend it, personally I think it’s been really good to just get away and see somewhere else and see what it’s like.
Professionally that’s been good as well to just meet new people and to see how another university functions, which is just so important and we don’t really get that opportunity to see what’s happening outside some times.”
Reflecting on her visit to Portugal Janet said: “It’s a great way to meet other people and create collaborations and to understand how different institutions work.”
Jan felt inspired by the work that was being done and highly believes other members of staff especially those working in support services could learn a lot from their experience.
She said: “I would certainly encourage staff who are working in the support services to consider it as a wonderful opportunity.”
After taking part in the scheme for the second time Nicola said: “It really boosted my self morale…I like meeting people, meeting students and I’ve made a lot of contacts through it.”
Hillary would also recommend taking part in the Go Abroad scheme and said: “The University made it so easy to apply for…it was just really easy and straight forward and a great opportunity that would be a waste not to participate in.”
If you’re interested in taking part in the Go Abroad Staff programme you can find out more about it on the Staff Mobility page.