Study and Work Away Service

Staff testimonials

Find out more about staff mobility experiences by reading some of our staff testimonials.

You can also read about Go Abroad for Staff on the University'sTeaching Matters blog.

Teaching Matters blog

Kai Wan, Tutor and Demonstrator at the School of GeoSciences

In July 2022, I travelled to Florence Italy for a training on Modern Time Series methods for Public Health and Epidemiology at European Educational Programme in Epidemiology.

This one-week training includes lectures on time series analysis in public health and epidemiology, and demos and practical of using R/RStudio to apply these methods. Unlike traditional time series analysis developed in econometrics for forecasting, the focus of time series analysis in epidemiology is understanding the association between risk factors and health outcomes. In addition to the planned activities, there are plenty of break time when we could ask questions or have discussions with the lecturers and colleagues from other institutions attending this training.

This training was initially planned in summer 2020, but it was cancelled due to COVID19. Luckily, it was held this year and my mobility fund was kept for me. This training was very in time because I was revising a paper using this method, and I realised some of my analysis could be improved using methods from this training. I also got the chance to meet and build networks with the lecturers who are experts on this topic, and other PhD students and colleagues working on similar topics. I would love to share the method I learned and potentially organise a training on it.

Perry WT Chan, Psychotherapist and Tutor in Counselling (School of Health in Social Science)

My trip to Turin, Italy to learn Social Dreaming

This Erasmus+ staff mobility opportunity was an invaluable and inspiring journey for me! I was funded to go to Turin, Italy for a Social Dreaming (SD) training which is a method of inquiry for my research, through this I am exploring the unconscious meanings of the Hong Kong’s recent collective trauma. In a SD Matrix, participants use dream materials to illuminate social processes. By sharing our night dreams and free-associating to the dreams, e.g, images, feelings, gut reactions, memories, thoughts, another dream, fragments of dreams, books, films, poems, etc, we find links, make connections and discover new thoughts. Hence, underlying issues of social systems can be explored. In this trip, I have learnt the theories and practical skills in hosting a SD Matrix. More importantly, I managed to make connections with other trainees, two of whom are interested in my topic and agreed to co-host some matrices with me for my research. This is of great help to my entire research process!

Of course I also arranged some time to travel around Italy. What a beautiful place…with a dreamy quality…not to mention the delicious Italian food! And! The Egyptian museum in Turin (one of the biggest in the world) is definitely the highlight of this trip! Love it so much :D 

Gëzim, Lecturer in Nationalism and Political Sociology (School of Social and Political Science)

I attended Summer School 'Nations and Nationalism in the Contemporary World' in Zadar, June 2022

This was a unique and highly enriching - both personally and academically - experience. The summer school was organised by the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN) and the University of Zadar. The Department of Sociology in Zadar is one of the leading sociology departments in Croatia and the wider region. The event was organised as a rigorous academic interdisciplinary programme structured around lectures, workshops, and conference-oriented presentations of scholarly research. In addition to the local staff from Zadar University, the list of speakers included some of the leading scholars in the field of nationalism and a very talented and diverse group of graduate students from different countries.  

In addition to being a lecturer, I had the opportunity to engage with staff and graduate student participants in active discussions on the theoretical, methodological, and practical issues of research in nationalism studies. This was very beneficial not only in terms of networking but also in terms of developing my pedagogical skills and/or curriculum design skills. Finally, the visit provided a valuable personal inter-cultural experience in the beautiful setting of the ancient city of Zadar, Croatia.

Daisy, Research Services Supervisor, Centre for Research Collections (Edinburgh University Library)

In June, I attended an Erasmus+ International Staff Training Week at Freie Universität Berlin. 

As an early-career librarian and a graduate of UoE, I was keen to expand my professional network beyond the University and was accepted onto an International Staff Training Week at Freie Universität Berlin in 2020. However, my excited anticipation was soon dashed by the pandemic and introduction of travel bans. The staff mobility team were very supportive and safeguarded the Erasmus funding until I was eventually able to attend this year. 

The theme of the week was the globally-relevant topic of Sustainability. Discussions centred on how libraries can make a difference and shape a more sustainable present and future. The topic was thoroughly explored from multiple angles and diverse viewpoints, with some really illuminating sessions. I came to realise that being sustainable means a lot more than implementing the five R’s and switching to greener energy sources, but also encompasses open access policies, managing the digital transition, and user experience research. In a peer-learning session, I gave a short presentation on the work done at the CRC to make the archive of renowned Scottish geologist Sir Charles Lyell available and on the link between accessibility and sustainability in collections work. 

The primary pleasure of the week was in networking with the other participants, both in formal sessions and in more relaxed settings, such as a boat trip and water sport activities. We were 20 library professionals from 16 countries, plus the staff from FUB. Early in the week we took this picture, all standing relative to where we come from on the world map, and it really worked to physically illustrate the journey it had taken to bring us together, especially after the pandemic. 

 

Monique, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (Literatures, Languages and Cultures)

In May, I travelled to Portugal with another teaching office colleague to participate in the Polytechnic of Leiria staff training week focusing on wellbeing in the workplace, focusing on the campus environment.

Monique

This training was timely and relevant given the challenges presented to us over the last few years. The Polytechnic has invested time and human resources into the physical and mental health of their employees and students, which they presented to us in a series of interactive workshops. They had studies of the process and outcome based on their own staff and students, which provided examples of how the suggested practices work in real time.

In addition we had a large number of others to network with from many different institutions all over Europe. It gave us an opportunity to discuss how the year abroad, Erasmus and our own experiences of administration differ. We were able to discuss best practice which was very valuable.

I came back feeling excited to try and implement what I had learned and to share it with my colleagues. We could all benefit from less desk time and more time moving about.   ​​​​​​

Eleanor, SENSE (Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science) (School of Geosciences)

In May 2022 I was lucky enough to attend an international staff week at Universtitat Jaume 1 at Castellon De La Plana in the Valencia region of Spain.

UJ1 is a relatively new university (approx 30 years old) on a fantastic purpose built campus. There were over 40 universities across Europe represented and it was really interesting to hear all about their institutions and the programmes and opportunities they give their students. In addition, we had visits to different departments of the university and heard about the different programmes they offer at the university. Of particular interest to me was a visit to the postgraduate support team where we had some really interesting discussions about their PhD programmes and I was able to share some of our practices in recruitment.

As well as learning about the university and each other the international office team had arranged several social and cultural experiences for the group. Our hosts were amazing and worked tirelessly to ensure we had a good time. A particular highlight was a cycle ride along the Mediterranean coast in glorious sunshine with a stop for a drink at the end in a beautiful hotel overlooking the sea. Chatting to other staff during these sort of activities gave us a chance to expand our networks and get to know other people. These universities are really committed to the programmes they provide for exchange students and there is excellent support available for those that choose to visit.

Eleanor

One of the really quite emotive moments during the trip was a talk from two members of staff from a university in Kyiv Ukraine. They described how their working lives had changed in an instant and the message came across about how proud they were of the students from their university who were involved in the war. They had resumed teaching again online as the feeling was it was better for the students to be focussed and concerned with their studies rather than bad news. They asked us all to keep Ukraine in our thoughts and thanked everyone for the support they have given them.

Something that was mentioned a lot was the desire for a lot of universities to have programmes which are delivered in English and the difficulties of this. For instance at UJ1 it is in the Catalan region of Spain therefore staff are required to be fluent in the local dialect and teaching in English would require high level skills on both. It makes me slightly uncomfortable in that there is such a focus on English whereas in the UK our European language skills are found wanting (my own Spanish is woeful!). Something that was discussed is that some universities require all students who want to go on exchange to study a language course for their chosen country before they go.

The impact of Brexit is another big factor in mobility across Europe and it actually makes me quite angry that so many opportunities may be denied to our students because of this.

Overall I really enjoyed this experience – I do feel that while attending a training week was not totally relevant to the post I am in at the university I did learn a lot of things and really enjoyed meeting people from other universities. Also I am responsible for organising events and the way that the event was run gave me a lot of good ideas for how to do things in the future.

From a personal point of view, I have not really travelled alone since having a family and doing this trip really increased my confidence. It was also lovely to be living and working in a foreign country for a short time and I will really miss my lovely walk through the park in the sunshine to get to the tram stop in the morning and the amazing orange juice!

I would really recommend this experience to anyone and am grateful to have been able to take part in it.

José , Reader in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (Literatures, Languages and Cultures)

Jose

The visit to Alcalá was very interesting. Students in the classes were very participative and I felt really supported by staff there, always keen on lending a hand and interested in my own research. 

Some of the classes I had to deliver were centred on Cervantes, and the Spanish Golden Age, which allowed me to prepare new materials that I would not have done without the input of the colleagues in Alcalá. It was very interesting to create bridges between Spanish Golden Age and Contemporary Literature. The curriculum in Spanish Literature in Spain is based on the classics in the earlier years and this allows projecting the literary styles of the past in the recent literary production. 

Classes are small and students enquiry and ask about the topics discussed, a time asking for clarification or just giving their own views 

The city of Alcalá is located 20 kms. from Madrid, but it hosts one of the oldest universities in Spain and many famous writers were students in the institution. The buildings are beautiful, and it seems that you are walking through a place in another time. 

Michelle, Student Recruitment Officer (School of Social and Political Science)

It was an honour to have the opportunity to participate in the Una Europa “Live my Life” exchange programme.  After applying to the programme, I was matched with a colleague, Pieter, who has a similar role to my own at KU Leuven in Belgium. Una Europa facilitated a number of online sessions which provided an insight into the Una Europa project and introduced the participants, affording us an invaluable opportunity to discuss our roles and professional interests with our partners, setting the scene for our exchange.

Michelle

Pieter’s colleagues welcomed me at KU Leuven in April 2022 and I immediately felt part of the team. It was an incredible week of sharing knowledge, ideas and discussing opportunities for collaborative working with colleagues from across the institution.  My experience definitely resonates with one of KU Leuven’s key messages: Belgium’s best is best for you!

 A highlight was attending the on-campus open day at both Brussels and Leuven campuses, which provided a fascinating insight into the behind scenes planning and delivery of the event. I also attended a virtual working group meeting between the communications teams of the Una Europa member institutions, with colleagues across Europe pleasantly surprised to see an Edinburgh colleague joining live from Leuven.

The greatest outcome of all, however, was that together with colleagues from SSPS and KU Leuven, we developed a proposal for a collaborative project and we are all delighted to be taking it forward.

Overall, I found the “Live my Life” programme to be an incredible opportunity and I would highly recommend it to colleagues. I have returned to Edinburgh with a reinvigorated passion for European collaboration and knowledge sharing, and I am excited to see what the future will bring for Una Europa

Ana, Teaching Fellow in Architecture (ESALA)

Following a very successful Erasmus+ Teaching Mobility undertaken by KIT staff in 2019, I have been invited to expand on this international teaching collaboration by the Chair of Landscape Architecture at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany.

This mobility is part of ongoing efforts to develop an institutional relationship between ESALA and the Faculty of Architecture at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. A series of shared lines of work have been identified at the confluence of Urban Landscape and Urban Design practices exploring the urban contexts of Southern Scotland and the Rhein-Neckar Region. There is a shared interest in interrogating these practices through methodologies and its associated theoretical discourses.

Anna

Weaving my expertise in urban design into the KIT’s teaching curriculum, I have engaged with UG and PG students and studio teaching at the KIT School of Architecture. First, I have participated on field work and site analysis of three sites identified for redevelopment in the periphery of Karlsruhe, where second year students are asked to design master plan proposals. Second, I have accompanied KIT staff and students to international field trip to visit contemporary urban redevelopment in Strasbourg, France. Finally, I have given a lecture and roundtable on my ongoing research about urban vitality, offered to PG cohort at KIT, Chair of Landscape Architecture.

This visit has advanced further teaching competences in international contexts. It has provided a substantial opportunity to work on the theme of urban design and public space development. It has fostered academic research connections concerning urban redevelopment, urban heritage, design research and research-based architectural and urban design practice

Dimitrios, Senior Lecturer and MSc Director (Chemical Engineering)

I visited the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Patras, Greece in early May 2022, under the auspices of an Erasmus+ Staff Training Exchange grant - this was many years after my last visit there as an undergraduate student, and a lot had changed, with impressive infrastructure developments.

My research seminar entitled 'Rigorous Design & Optimisation of Pharma and Drink Manufacturing for Industry 4.0' was hosted in hybrid (in-person and Zoom) format, providing an overview of published advances my group has achieved in the respective sectors, employing Process Systems Engineering (PSE) methodologies. A number of colleagues therein have outstanding expertise in adjacent sectors (thermodynamics, separations, design, control), and the Q+A sessions provided several stimuli to belabour particular aspects of our research, with a late-evening discussion on a possible collaboration in applied

University of Patras, Greece

biochemistry.

I also discussed at length topics in postgraduate curriculum design, innovative active learning strategies, and efficient assessment events (with a focus on MSc programmes targeted at multinational audiences and overseas students). This was a unique knowledge transfer opportunity, following my recent successful experience with the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Accreditation of our MSc in Advanced Chemical Engineering at Edinburgh (the host department also boasts an IChemE-accredited 5-year Dipl. Eng. programme, emphasising advanced design learning outcomes). Moreover, I had the opportunity to visit several chemical engineering labs, attend short presentations by PhD and MEng students, and observe research group meetings (atmospheric chemistry and complex reaction network kinetics, agricultural and biomass waste valorisation).

There were two distinct highlights of this Training Abroad week: the first was the meeting with the Dept. Chair, who advised on industrial collaboration strategies, human resources (staff and student) management challenges, and relevant best practices. The second was a 2-hour session on Statistics for Engineers (a 2nd-year core course), which included a 20-minute test, which I believe I have passed!

Ekaterina, Teaching Fellow in Russian (Literatures, Languages and Cultures)

Ekaterina

A trip to Vienna University has been my third Erasmus+ exchange experience, but the first one during the pandemic.

Navigating between lockdowns and ever changing COVID requirements turned out to be the most challenging aspect of this trip but it was worth all the worries. I would say that setting up and maintaining relationships with other universities, expanding my network of contacts, joining the global academic community as well as appreciating the new culture and language have been the most valuable outcomes of my Erasmus+ exchange trips.

Such trips are enriching at both personal and professional level. I cannot be grateful enough to all the colleagues involved in organizing this trip at very short notice – both at Vienna University and at the University of Edinburgh.

 

Christina, Research Associate Local Energy Systems (School of Engineering)

Christina

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.

Miguel, Senior Lecturer in Anaesthesia & Analgesia (Royal (Dick) School of Vet Studies)

The 5-days GWAS workshop about this specific type of studies in Quantitative Genetics have helped me a lot to understand the type of analysis I am doing at the moment. With the aim to perform a GWAS it is necessary to converge knowledge from genetics and bioinformatics, aiming to work with big data.  My background is completely different than this one, I am Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Anaesthesia at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, with special interest in horses but, at the same time, I am currently joining the Quantitative Genomics in The Roslin Institute with the aim of using this methodology for future genomic studies in horses.

The course covered the basic to understand/perform these types of studies: on Monday and Tuesday we covered some basic genetic concepts (GWAS studies, linkage disequilibrium,…), bioinformatics (basic Linux, server,…) and biostatistics (R, statistical power, population stratification, …). Wednesday was a day in which we were taught how to interpret results from GWAS studies and using them to locate regions in the genome, using websites like Ensemble:

Ensemble website

During Thursday and Friday we could work in groups with other attendees, creating our own pipelines in which very useful sessions, learning from others, other points of view and from our own mistakes.   As a conclusion, this course was useful for me to understand more the reasons for, and the ways to create a pipeline when doing GWAS studies. I really appreciate the financial support of the Erasmus Staff Mobility programme, as I could cover the expenses for the trip to Berlin (Germany), and the costs of the hotel and the course itself.

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 s

Alastair

pecific 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)

Ruth Jenkins

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!

Gothenburg

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!

Lisbon rooftops

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 Aydin

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

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.

Portugal

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 Benova

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

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!

 

Spodek stadium

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.  ​​

 

Riga

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!

Singapore

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!

University of Reims

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.

staff week group image

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

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 Soler Montes

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 at the university of crete

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

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.

Olso University

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.