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.

Chinese History Learning and Voluntary Teaching Programs

The program is divided into two parts: one is about China’s past, the other is about China’s present. Chinese History Learning Program will be conducted by Center for Liberal Education of Tsinghua University from July 1st to July 8th. Students from the United Kingdom and other countries will be grouped with Chinese students from Tsinghua University to learn Chinese History and culture. They will visit the Museum of Emperor Qinshihuang and see Terra-Cotta Warriors in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province and visit other museums in Luoyang, Henan Province.

Voluntary Teaching Program is designed to recognize the contemporary China and it will start from July 8th and finish on July 23th. , Students of the same groups will teach English and/or provide culture talks and intercultural communication exercises to primary school pupils in remote areas in China. International volunteers are supposed to prepare teaching plans and materials such as English movies, stories, pictures and etc. or prepare talks to introduce their countries, hometowns and universities to expand the locals’ horizon of the world.

Tsinghua University and Tseng Hin Pei Charity Fund will provide accommodation, meals and transportation for participants during the programs in China. Accommodation would be basic, i.e. typical Chinese student dormitories and student canteens. Bedding, mosquito netting, and other basic necessities will be provided.

Find out more on Monday 21st January in Palmer 108 at 12pm. Sign up here https://reading.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/tsinghua-university

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

What have the Romans ever done for us?

What have the Romans ever done for us? Amongst many other things, provided the opportunity for me to participate in an Erasmus+ Staff Mobility Week for libraries and learning centres at Sapienza – Università di Roma in June 2018.

The theme of the week was Libraries ⇆ Research, comprising two interconnected strands: what libraries do to support research and how libraries do research, with each attendee contributing to the programme. As well as a series of presentations, the programme for the week afforded plenty of opportunities for sharing experiences with colleagues from institutions across Europe, with participants from Slovenia, Romania, Lithuania, Sweden, Portugal, Germany and France among them.

As well as interacting with European academic library colleagues the Erasmus+ week organisers also provided opportunities for us to experience a variety of different venues across the city, reflecting the expansion of Sapienza as it continues to grow beyond its extensive purpose built campus in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. Founded as the Studium Urbis in 1303, the university moved to larger premises in downtown Rome in 1660 (now the church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza) before finally relocating to its present site in 1935. Designed by Marcello PIacentini, the campus footprint is apparently based upon the Vitruvian Man, with the imposing Rectorate Building at the ‘head’.

The university has a student population of c.112,500, with 3,500 academic staff and over 55 libraries, the majority serving specific faculties and departments, co-ordinated centrally by the ‘Sapienza Library System’, whilst maintaining some degree of autonomy. Over five days we heard about the various initiatives and services offered by the Library System and discussed common challenges around data curation and digitisation workflows, increasing engagement with institutional repositories, open journal systems and promoting widening access to important archival material.

The added benefit of a week like this is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of another university. Highlights included an evening concert specially organised for us by Coro Musa, a choir comprising staff and students from the university; a visit to the beautiful garden of the Japanese Cultural Institute in Rome; a relaxing group dinner in a local family-run trattoria in San Lorenzo; and a visit – in our morning coffee break – to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli (just a few metres away from the Faculty of Engineering Building) to see Michelangelo’s majestic, though slightly grumpy looking, Moses.  The Faculty of Engineering is actually only a few minutes’ walk away from the Colosseum and Roman Forum, and a free afternoon scheduled for the same day enabled me to spend a fascinating few hours (in the sweltering heat) trying to make sense of it all, much aided by Matthew Nicholls’ excellent Virtual Rome Open Online Course.

I have really valued the opportunity to participate in this programme through Erasmus+ scheme funding, and the support provided by both the host institution and the Study Abroad Office at Reading made the practicalities of attending this event very easy to arrange. The week long programme provided me with greater insight into the collaborative partnerships and innovations being developed at other HEIs across Europe, as well as the reassurance that, in many areas, we are all offering similar services and support for researchers to meet current and future needs. There was also a collective recognition that we are also facing many common challenges. In general, library professionals have a willingness to openly share good practice and innovation and my week spent at Sapienza demonstrated this without exception. I now intend to follow up on some of the contacts I have made, to continue these fruitful discussions, share best practice and, in partnership with my European colleagues, collaborate further on developing mutually beneficial resources and the sharing of local initiatives in support of research at our respective institutions.

Kerry Webb

Associate Director (Academic Liaison & Support), University of Reading Library

 

Erasmus+ Staff Mobility: Dr Dan Jones (Groningen)

Erasmus+ Staff mobility

The Erasmus & Study Abroad Office also facilitates and administers opportunities for staff at Reading via the Erasmus+ programme. Read about Dr Dan Jones’ Erasmus+ Staff Mobility experience at the University of Groningen – Internationalization at Home (April 2018)

In April 2018, I attended the University of Groningen Erasmus+ Staff Week on the theme ‘Internationalisation at Home’. My motivation for attending the event was driven by my role as International Tutor in the School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences. Having recently taken on the position I felt that there was room in the School to make improvements to the experience of our international cohort. Having heard about the staff exchange opportunities that the Erasmus& Study Abroad office fund, I was keen to make the most of them.
The week was extremely informative, learning from academics, professional staff, and even students, about the value and benefits of the international experience at the University of Groningen. Themes included, language and culture policy, intercultural competency, the international classroom and how to engage students and staff in the advantages that internationalisation and diversity can bring to higher education – a particular focus was on how internationalisation can benefit both home and international students.

By sharing effective, evidence-based practice, this staff week was invaluable, providing a new perspective and insight into this area. The week was beneficial not only for my own CPD, but, by contributing to the formation of my role as International Tutor, is likely to benefit PCLS as well. On the back of this Staff Week I have successfully secured an internal T&L grant to run and deliver a project to assess and develop the international experience in PCLS, from both a student and staff perspective – the knowledge acquired during this event, in my opinion, has created a much stronger project and maximised the impact that it can potentially have on practice in the School.

I thank the Erasmus+ Programme for the funding that enabled me the opportunity to visit the University of Groningen for this Staff Week – I cannot recommend these events enough. I am already looking forward to my next Erasmus+ Staff Week and what further developments it can bring to my own CPD, as well as benefit to the University.

Dr Dan Jones is a Lecturer, International Tutor and Erasmus+ & Study Abroad Coordinator in the School of Psychology & Clinical Languages (http://www.reading.ac.uk/Psychology/About/staff/d-jones6.aspx ).

For more information about Erasmus+ Staff Mobility please visit: www.reading.ac.uk/erasmus or contact studyabroad@reading.ac.uk

Goooooo Gators

I had the exciting opportunity to study at University of Florida for Fall Semester 2017. I arrived in Gainesville, Florida late on 14th August after meeting (little did I know at the time) my soon-to-be best friend, Julia a post-graduate exchange student from Germany, at Gainesville Airport. I remember looking out of the window of the hotel I would spend the night in and repeating to myself in awe that I was in America and about to start a four month adventure.

The next couple of days after I moved into Weaver Hall, the accommodation block specifically for exchange students from around the world and American students interested in meeting non-Americans, were a complete blur of meeting new people, attending introductory meetings, and exploring the beautiful campus. I had arrived at Weaver a couple of days before the official check-in day, so had the opportunity to get acquainted with my surroundings before the influx of other internationals, and my room-mate, Hallie, moved in. Looking back, it is unbelievable how quickly I clicked with everyone, and got involved in my Florida experience; within my first week of arriving, I had gone to clubs and bars in Downtown and Midtown, gone to a house party, and attended a pep rally which involved the Gator Band and cheerleaders.

Classes started on the second week and I quickly got into the routine of two classes a day every day: one class of American History before the Civil War and another after the Civil War, a class on the History of Human Rights, and a class about Nuclear History. All of my professors were passionate about their specialities, and later proved themselves to be extremely accommodating to the new pressures I faced under a new education system and, ultimately, different way of learning.

I did not realise how many new situations I would be in while moving to America – it was like when I first moved to Reading, but with a different culture that I had not experienced first-hand before. There was a new bus system, a different currency, taxes added onto purchases, and accents that were completely new to me; all in a country where I was on my own and with a negative five hour time difference to my family. This could have scared me, and I definitely felt this sensation creep over me now and again at the beginning of my time in America, but ultimately I was excited and amazed that I was living and studying on my own in a different country.

After the first week of school, I attended my first Gator volleyball event, spent the day at Lake Wauburg, and went to the mall with Julia. On Labor Day, Julia, Sam, and I went tubing (using big, rented, inflatable rings) in Ichetucknee Springs. The springs were the most beautiful place I have been in my life, and I had my first glimpse at baby alligators. I also had three dragonflies land on me as I drifted lazily down the springs. I was overwhelmed at the beauty I had only seen in nature programmes on television, and could not believe I was experiencing such wonders myself. The first few weeks at University of Florida taught me how important it is to balance school and fun, as I attended events and met friends who would remain close to me throughout my stay in Gainesville. Although I am writing this in retrospect, I hoped this experience would remain as joyful as it had been so far – and do you know what, although there were difficulties at times, it did.

 

Winter is Cold

Melbourne in winter is cold. But if you stand in the intense sunlight, it’s not too bad by my English standards. It hasn’t stopped me, and a group of other exchange students I met, from visiting the beach to enjoy bright vistas, or visiting the zoo to see the kangaroos and koalas first-hand. In fact, our first few weeks here have been very busy, with all of the orientation activities that Monash University planned for us. These included not only information sessions about the university, but also an array of social events.

The nights do feel like winter, with many establishments celebrating ‘Christmas in July’, and in fact the Queen Victoria markets, which we visited in orientation, were putting on an attempt at a Christmas market. It was very festive and cosy and even though it was winter and under a shelter, the Australians were not deterred from barbequing, so it did get a bit smoky! Monash is also in on this BBQ culture, and seems to have one every week on campus, if you are part of one of their many societies.

I have so far tried out the badminton society, which is extremely friendly and enjoyable, and will be joining the ultimate frisbee society next week. I have been told that the frisbee society is especially social, with regular BBQs, hikes and camping trips, so I am looking forward to it. There is also an outdoors society for this kind of thing, which I am hoping will help in my mission to see as much of Australia as I can before my exchange comes to an end. So far, it is going well, but I intend to make plans soon for wider travels. Australia is a big country!

So far I have been very lucky with my travels, as my family has been able to show me around and recommend some places. My cousin has even taken me to see some of Melbourne’s best street art, and Melbourne is a very artistic place. It is also very laid-back and friendly; everyone really is your ‘mate’. I think I will like it here.

MADA, or Monash Art, Design and Architecture, runs quite differently to the art department in Reading. You can choose elective units from anywhere in the department, if you’re an art student like I am, or from anywhere in the university, if you’re from a different Reading department, I believe. This allows us to be exposed to a range of different skills! I am learning about photography, illustration, coding, and film. So I will have no problem filling my time with assignments, as well as with all of the travelling I intend to do. Time is going by so quickly!

The Beautiful City of Uppsala

Uppsala is a beautiful city, and Sweden a beautiful country, and almost three weeks after I arrived I still think about how lucky I am to be here. After picking up the keys to my room and going to the Nordic Languages Department to register for my Basic Intensive Swedish class, I was struck by how international this place was. Students were here from all over the world, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Taiwan, South Korea and many other European students, and it wasn’t until a couple of days later that I met another English person! I was immediately made to feel welcome in this city as everybody spoke great English, although I was looking forward to immersing myself more into the Swedish culture by learning the language – more o  n this later.

After leaving the hotel with all my luggage and arriving at my new flat, I was shocked at how dirty the place was – it had certainly not been cleaned as I had expected. The place seemed a long way out of the city and was very quiet – I did not get the same warm welcome that I felt in the city. I decided to head to the Housing Office to request to be moved. The housing guide stated that moves are not possible, but I thought ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’, right? They allowed me to move into the city centre accommodation two weeks later, which was originally my first choice – success!

The next day I bought a bike to cycle from my accommodation to class and around the city – this really made me feel Swedish. There are bike racks everywhere and many people cycle here, although the feeling to me was more nostalgic than typical, given that I hadn’t ridden a bike since my early teens. Later that week it was my birthday and the first time I have ever had to go to ‘school’ – one blessing of being an August baby! After the Swedish class, I went to an elk farm and saw a moose for the first time. Upon our return, it was time to head to the Systembolaget, the only place where you can by alcohol with an ABV of more than 3.5%. I was surprised by the cashier with what I thought was a small bottle of wine, until I got home and realised it was de-alcoholised.

Later I headed to Flogsta, where most of the exchange students who arrived early for the Swedish course were living, for a great corridor party. One thing I wish I’d done before my move was to photograph some of my important documents, including my passport and EHIC card. It wasn’t until the next day when I fell off my bike riding through the woods that I realised this. I had to go to the medical centre in the city centre to get a large stone removed from the palm of my hand, but without my EHIC card I had to return the next day with it to avoid a hefty medical fee!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Sweden so far and am sure even greater times will come. I have found the Swedish language course much harder than expected. I aim to really practice what I’ve learnt in class and try to avoid speaking English in the supermarket, cafes and shops, and hope to make a good improvement by the end of the first semester. Every day I find new places, see new things and meet new people, and I think this all adds to the excitement of an exchange. I am looking forward to starting my Law modules and explore more of what Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia has to offer!

My First Week

Aarhus has recently been declared the cultural capital of Europe, and this is evident in the mass portrayal and acceptance of many different countries cuisine. This is apparent in the Aarhus “street food” market which contains all different types of food, ranging from ‘Jamaican Jerk Chicken’, ‘Mexican Burritos’, ‘Chinese Duck’, curries and French Crepes. This is a really wide variety of food that shows the wealth of culture present in Aarhus. But to top off this creativity the whole market is built inside an un-used bus station. The stalls themselves are built and set up inside old ship yard containers. This means the theme of the Aarhus “street food” market is to not only re-cycle but to re-use old things and provide back for the public. The food as well was really cheap about 30 krona which exchanges to roughly £3.00. This makes it an ideal place for a student to grab a quick and easy lunch and when you are done, you have to wipe your own table with the disinfectant and towels dotted around the seating area.

The houses here have a cottage feel as they are small and are packed with essentials from the university such as pans, plates, cutlery to chopping boards and cups. I did not need to buy anything apart from food as it was all provided by the University! It’s not as cold as you think it is here, all though many will disagree but if you come prepared like I did by bringing a thermal coat, hat and scarf you can easily survive the cold weather. There are many nationalities that come to Aarhus to study but in my house I have 2 Canadians one Australian and one American. So the university put me with fellow English speaker which made it easier to talk and joke with each other.

My lectures at the university were not what I was expecting. I thought I would be in a class of all international students, and this belief was further enforced by the fact my lecture was in English, so I assumed the class of 24 students in my literature course had different nationalities and they were learning in the common language of English. So when I got put in a group I asked them if they were German as I heard them speaking to each other. They looked at me shocked and one of them said “no, we are Danish”. I was, and still am, shocked to learn that I was in a Danish majority English Literature class, with only 4 other international students. The fact the students were all conversing with the lecturer in English for an English literature module shows the high level of language skills many of the Danish actually possess.

This is a short blog of my time so far in Denmark, I have only been here for one week but I have already learnt so much about the culture of Denmark and its history. I expect I will learn much more in my weeks to come.