A Visit to Tübingen

In June Wendy Smith and I spent three days in Tübingen as part of the Staff Mobility programme run by Marcus Dowse of the Study Abroad Office. We had made contact with relevant staff at the Vivat Lingua! language school a couple of months earlier and had found them both helpful and welcoming. This continued when we met, and we were able to spend time with various tutors and the head of the school, and to observe classes at a variety of levels. On occasion we were allowed to join in! We were impressed by the teaching and by the friendly and welcoming atmosphere. We also looked in detail into the possibility of courses for students studying German with IWLP in Reading; the Vivat Lingua! language school offers 3-week courses throughout the year for students studying German as a foreign language, with about 20 hours of language tuition per week in the mornings. There are some outings organised in the afternoons, and students are also free to explore the lovely old town of Tübingen and the surrounding area.

Tübingen is in southwest Germany and is home to one of Europe’s oldest universities. Wendy and I enjoyed wandering through the large pedestrian centre with its maze of old streets full of beautiful old wooden-beamed houses, some displaying old paintings or ornate wrought-iron signs. The weather was hot so we were grateful for the Eiscafés! We walked up to the castle with its wonderful views, where there is a museum of ancient culture, and took the bus to the lovely medieval abbey of Bebenhausen.

We now feel confident in recommending the courses at Vivat Lingua! to our IWLP students and are sure that they would benefit academically and have a very enjoyable stay.

Alison Fenner

German, English and Russian Co-ordinator

Institution Wide Language Programme

Erasmus+ Staff Training Week at Tampere University of Applied Sciences (Finland)

My hosts at Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) definitely rolled out the welcome mat during their Erasmus+ staff training week on the topic of “The Secret of Innovative Partnerships”! Colleagues from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Palestinian Territories, Slovenia, Spain and the UK came together with our Finnish hosts for three days of activities from 11 – 14 March.

After an introduction to higher education in Finland, including touching on the recent partial merger of TAMK with the University of Tampere, we were given a tour of the campus buildings. Thankfully we did not need to head outside during the tour, for as can be seen there was snow and ice accompanied by a temperature 10 Celsius lower than that I’d left in Reading! It was hence a relief not to have to wrap up and head outdoors! The tour included the Library (home of many origami birds made by TAMK students and staff), student Service Street (home of the Erasmus+ student and staff exchange offices), and the cafeteria. It was also interesting to see some students working on 3D printing projects, including getting the chance to sit on a 3D printed chair they had made (no, I didn’t break it…).

In the afternoon, we split up into two workshop streams. I had decided to join the Research, Development & Innovation stream, mainly as an opportunity to learn about an area of international partnerships I did not know much about beforehand. The first session focused on our institutions’ general research themes and areas of interest, with the second and third sessions over the following two days looking at turning project ideas into viable working projects and boosting our international networks. Building on the latter, if you are not connected with me on LinkedIn already, you are more than welcome to via https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisbonham11/! I had been slightly nervous that coming from a non-research focused role at Reading that I would not be able to get much from the workshops. However, I was proven wrong with the help of the workshop leaders and other participants, and definitely hope to build more support of research focused mobility into my role going forward.

The programme put together by TAMK colleagues also included a discussion of the use of social media in our marketing activities, and an introduction to the Y-campus, an incubator for student-led enterprises. In the social media discussion, it was especially interesting to learn about social media platforms not much used in the UK. These included Jodel, which allows users to post public messages anonymously to other users in their local area, and VKontakte, the most popular social network in Russia and hence used by TAMK colleagues to promote their programmes to prospective students from there.

All in all, my few days in Tampere were great. If you would like information about how you can participate in an Erasmus+ staff mobility, please drop by the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office (Edith Morley 203) or email studyabroad@reading.ac.uk.

Erasmus+ Staff Training week at Aarhus University (Denmark)

Having encouraged 100’s of UoR members of staff to participate on the Erasmus+ staff mobility programme over the years I realised that I had never properly participated myself.

So when Aarhus University (AU) emailed to highlight their Staff Week, with a very short application deadline, I speculatively applied. There was a lingering doubt as to the relevance for an ‘old timer’ like me, but when informed of my selection almost immediately there was no easy way to back out (thankfully!). Did I really have the time to take a week away from work? Not really, but too late…

Was it worth it? Absolutely – 100%.

The 4 day programme consisted of some fantastic sessions run by AU colleagues & external speakers covering a wide range of mobility and internationalisation topics. These included the ‘staples’ of any Erasmus / Study Abroad office e.g. Orientation & Welcome programmes (analysis / innovation); Study Abroad Promotion, pre-departure & re-entry activities etc. There were intriguing sessions about Danish Education and the plethora of ongoing national educational reforms, AU’s ongoing internationalisation plans, institutional priorities and ambitions. There were Faculty lead introductions, campus tours and sharing of detailed local-level information and insights. All very useful and thought provoking. However it was the non-standard content that was truly engaging, including:

– an informative session about Behavioural Design, provoking a lot of group discussion as to its relevance to and appropriateness for Study Abroad activities;

– the HR Director of LEGO – preaching to the converted – noting that Study Abroad demonstrates curiosity, which is the main attribute LEGO looks for in its recruitment of new staff. Study Abroad = International Mindset = Open Mindset = Curiosity. It’s nice to feel validated.

The highlight (for me at least) however was a very passionate talk by an Aarhusian (?) who had set up the Warm Welcome Society – a citizen led initiative to welcome all new arrivals to Aarhus – Danes, students, workers, immigrants etc. He explained the rationale, the history and its development, and how citizens had worked outside of and recently with the municipality in helping to try to make Aarhus one of the most ‘stranger’ friendly cities in Europe. Best described as GIVEISM, there was now an established network in place to help make all new arrivals welcomed in Aarhus and giving them the opportunity to truly be part of their local communities. I think he polarised opinions, but I loved his view that we need to THINK BIG to make any meaningful change! Relevance to Study Abroad? Loads – so many ideas to plunder, but it generated and inspired tangents that will hopefully help ESAO further develop our activities.

On top of the formal sessions there was plenty of networking and discussions with the 28 other participants from all over Europe, the USA, Peru, China and Japan. Each had their own stories, expertise, experience and opinions – I learnt something from everyone, in different ways.

In conclusion, I would massively encourage anyone who is eligible and interested to participate on an Erasmus+ staff mobility week, if you have the opportunity (look at IMotion Erasmus Staff week to see if there is something that interests you!). If the advertised content appears relevant, and you are willing to get involved, then there could be a wonderful learning opportunity awaiting!

Contact us in the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office ESAO (studyabroad@reading.ac.uk ) if you would like any further info about Erasmus+ Staff Mobility.

 

Marcus Dowse

Erasmus & Study Abroad Manager