Posts in the staff exchange category

 

Text and photos: Henri Annala, Kirsi Jokipakka, Tarja Kalliomäki-Linnas, Sanna Laiho

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Team TAMK

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.

The opening reception

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.

FIBES, the conference venue

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.

Sanna giving a poster session

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.

Plaza de España

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.

Between the 17th and 21st November I spent a week with many colleagues from TAMK using an Erasmus + Training exchange. As part of an ongoing collaboration where we have been discussing a variety of opportunities, my visit was specifically based around improving my knowledge of how TAMK (where Erasmus exchanges are successfully embedded in the university culture) implements the Erasmus programme and how they administer it.

Adam Hall

At Staffordshire University, we have always participated in Erasmus exchanges but have lacked a central overview and direction due to a variety of reasons and contextual issues. The central administration of Erasmus + exchanges has recently moved under my remit so it provides an ideal moment to learn key lessons surrounding the implementation of the programme to allow us to further build on the way in which we engage with Erasmus.

Before I had even arrived, I was already learning signs of good practise with the professional and efficient communication provided by Matti Pietilä in explaining my proposed schedule, hotel and travel advice and some history regarding Tampere. When I did arrive, Matti came to meet me with a warm welcome and we continued where we left off with our conversations when we recently met in Prague at the EAIE conference.

The schedule involved meetings with all the key people involved in providing an excellent service to both incoming and outgoing students and staff through Erasmus exchanges at TAMK.

Overall, the visit has been excellent and particularly useful for me to learn good practise in Erasmus administration. We have many areas of common ground; one in particular is either ends of the issue of attracting UK students to engage in exchange. It seems we can both work together to show these students the benefits of exchanges which will hopefully lead to a balanced and sustainable exchange in the future. The visit has helped to validate areas I was already implementing whilst also giving me some new ideas. I hope also that I was able to add a slightly different perspective to your work which you may have found useful and hope to maintain this mutually beneficial exchanging of experience and knowledge into future work.

More than anything, it was a great pleasure to meet such nice people who gave up their time when I know how busy they are. You are all a credit to TAMK and I look forward to welcoming your staff to Staffordshire in the future.

In particular I would like to thank Matti for developing an excellent schedule for my visit and for ensuring I found my way to each meeting.

Thank you all again.

Text: Adam Hall, International Progression Partnerships Manager, Staffordshire University
Picture: Matti Pietilä