Text and photos: Henri Annala, Kirsi Jokipakka, Tarja Kalliomäki-Linnas, Sanna Laiho
The EAIE Conference is the biggest event in Europe within the context of higher education, and this year it was organised under the scorching sun of Seville, Spain. Taking place on 12-15 September, it was the 29th EAIE conference ever organised, and it hosted a record number of 6,000 participants from 95 countries. TAMK sent a team of four people to attend, and in this blog post we try to crystallise some of the ideas and insights raised by the event.
Henri Annala, International Coordinator for the Language Centre and Social Services, attended the conference for the first time and felt it was a really immersive experience in many ways. Besides attending a number of very interesting and relevant sessions on topics such as online collaboration, internationalisation at home and internationalising university strategy, the week offered plenty of chances for ever so crucial networking.
This proved to be the most significant benefit the conference could offer: as a result of several meetings, receptions and negotiations, there are now many new contacts and ideas for collaboration both in the field of languages and social services. In addition to creating new contacts, it was of course also really important to meet with the already existing partners (for example the Hague University of Applied Sciences) and strengthen TAMK’s collaboration with them.
Henri would definitely recommend the event for staff wanting to kill several birds with one stone in terms of networking and relationship building – instead of attending a single international week hosted by a partner university, you could go to EAIE and meet almost all your partners at once. In addition, Seville proved to be a really beautiful and hot venue for the conference.
Kirsi Jokipakka, Head of the International Services, had visited the annual conference already several times before. One of the main insights for her was that the top management of the university needs justifications why internationalisation is so important, and the International Services staff is responsible of providing enough useful information to them.
In terms of international co-operation, staff training is key for success, and we need enough individualised training for our staff. In addition, it became very clear to Kirsi during the week that the International Services is the bridge between partners and university community.
Sanna Laiho, International Coordinator for Health Care, attended the conference for the first time and it was a memorable and worthwhile experience for her as well. The conference programme offered various opportunities with hundreds of different activities; to mention a few, lectures and sessions concerning internationalisation, online learning and intercultural competence. They offered a good insight into the current situation in European higher education.
The conference was an excellent opportunity for networking, arranging meetings with partners and gaining new collaboration opportunities. Sanna also had a great opportunity to have a poster session presenting the outcomes of an Erasmus+ project where TAMK had a role as one of the partners. The poster session was a unique chance to introduce not only the project, but also TAMK and its Health Care unit to new possible contacts and future cooperation possibilities.
Last but not least, this visit to beautiful and sunny Seville was a great opportunity to share experiences and make future plans with your own colleagues from TAMK; going to an intensive conference trip together is a great way to get to know the people you work with.
Tarja Kalliomäki-Linnas, Head of Study Services, attended the conference for the first time, too. Her point of view was maybe slightly administrative, but it was interesting for her to take part in sessions concerning how smaller regional universities compete and how to prepare for international work and study experience. In addition, all the poster sessions were like spices in the conference soup – many interesting projects were presented.
Furthermore, both exhibition halls were really huge! Tarja also had the opportunity to take part in the discussions with TAMK’s partner university MUAS (Munich University of Applied Sciences) with Kirsi. The discussion topics ranged from the upcoming academic year to the double degree students’ studies. In Tarja’s view, it was really great to have a possibility to meet people and colleagues face-to-face.
Tarja also visited Pablo de Olavide University (founded 1997) which is Seville’s second public university and one of the youngest state universities in Spain. With a student population of over 11,000, Pablo de Olavide University offers over 30 degrees in areas such as law, economics, business administration, social and natural sciences, nutrition, technology, the humanities, sports science and many others.
Mind full or mindful? Tarja attended plenty of interesting sessions concerning ideas to support staff and faculty in dealing with international students and mental health, the efficient, effective and culturally sensitive use of e-mail, managing stress, and being more productive among others.
The conference experience has definitely opened up new viewpoints for the participants. All the interesting discussions with the representatives of partner universities and other participants were thought-provoking and unforgettable. To sum it up: it was a most memorable and enjoyable lesson on internationalisation.