Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Edinburgh: A Never Ending Festival – Doors Open Day!

25 Sep


This month in our series on the sights, events, and culture to enjoy around Edinburgh, we’ve got Edinburgh Doors Open Day 2014! This weekend (27th & 28th September) many of Edinburgh’s fascinating and magical buildings, which are normally closed to the Public will be open to all!

Whether it’s that curious Church at Cannongate, or the reclusive Gardens on Queen Street, I’m sure there’s loads of interesting places across Edinburgh that you might pass by wondering what’s inside. Well this weekend, and only this weekend, loads of historic buildings, gardens, churches, and more will open their doors to the public!

Be sure to take advantage of a chance to see the breathtaking Playfair Library, or weather permitting enjoy a stroll through the pristine Queen’s Street Garden. For the more adventurous of you, a visit to the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre might be of interest where you can find out a bit more about the creator of the captivating character, Sherlock Holmes.

You can find out all about the venues participating in Edinburgh’s Doors Open Day, their opening times, and how to get there by following this link to: Edinburgh Doors Open Day 2014.


Edinburgh: A Never Ending Festival – Lively Gardens

24 Aug


It’s that time of year again when we say goodbye to the patchwork of artists, actors, comedians, performers, and patrons that descends upon Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival every August. But just because the official festival season has ended does not mean the fun has to end…

My name is André, and I’ll be joining Blythe as Global Assistant this year. Originally born in Germany, I am Portuguese, Irish, and Canadian, and am in the 5th and final year of my MEng in Mechanical Engineering. I’ve definitely got the travel bug and I took the chance to go on exchange to Carleton University in Canada, having an absolute blast while out there. I’m a keen golfer, cook, and photographer (although an amateur at all of these).

Blythe and I will be showing you how Edinburgh is a year round festival of culture, on and off campus. Whether you’re into music, theatre, photography, food, sports, or even air shows, we’ll be keeping you up to date with all the exciting stuff going on in Scotland’s vibrant capital year round.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are just a pleasant 20 min walk from Princes Street, and apart from housing a diverse collection of flora from around the world, they also play host to a wide range of special events, exhibitions, and workshops for all! Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about watching the grass grow, far from it they host photography exhibitions, cooking workshops, arts festivals, and even tours, as well as gardening classes for those who’ve always wanted to grow their own dinner.

There are events held year round, and the best part is many of them are free. You can browse through the full schedule here: Royal Botanic Garden Events.

What Global Citizens are Made of

31 Oct

As part of both my secondment and my work with EUSA Global,  a team of us developed a strand of the Edinburgh Award to recognise and support activities around global citizenship on campus.

The Edinburgh Award works across the University to reward students for taking part in activities alongside their studies like volunteering, part-time work, and getting involved in the University community. It also allows them the opportunity to reflect on the skills they are developing through these particular activities.  There are currently 30 different Edinburgh Awards running across campus and this particular version of the award recognises students who play an active role in empowering others to feel a part of and understand their place in a community of global citizens. You can read more about it here.

Earlier this week, we ran our first session and I was blown away by the activity and passion of the participants.  From student societies and peer support for international students to sustainable development initiatives – these students are busy people making a real impact in their communities, both local and global.

One of the main objectives of the session was to identify the skills of an excellent global citizen.  In classic EUSA Global style, we used post it notes and gold stars to generate ideas. Throughout the course of the award (now till March) they will be assessing their development in terms of these skills, identifying three to reflect upon in more depth.

I wanted to share this fantastic list as I think it’s relevant not only to students, but to people I work with and those across the University.  How do your skills match up to those the group identified? Anything we are missing?

  1. I think about the future and am goal-oriented.
  2. I empathise with and am tolerant of others.
  3. I’m creative and value my imagination.
  4. I’m curious and want to learn new things.
  5. I challenge assumptions held by myself and others.
  6. I am open-minded.
  7. I take advantage of opportunities to collaborate.
  8. I am ambitious and proactive.
  9. I have a positive outlook and see possibility in every situation.
  10. I am warm and approachable.
  11. I respond well in new (and sometimes unexpected) situations.
  12. I recognise when changes in one area might impact on what’s happening in another
  13. I’m flexible in my approach to work and life generally.
  14. I’m self-aware – I recognise how my actions and behaviour impact others both locally and globally.
  15. I can adapt my leadership style to suit different situations.
  16. I am resourceful.
  17. I am adventurous and up for a challenge.
  18. I am patient.
  19. I respect people’s different backgrounds, including those from other cultures.
  20. I have an adaptable communication style – I change it for different audiences and settings.
  21. I am good at communicating my ideas in different and engaging ways.
  22. I am a good listener.
  23. I am organised and efficient with time and deadlines.
  24. I help to bring about change.
  25. I’m aware of my own culture.


Tell your international story

7 Oct

Since the year has begun, I’ve met so many incredible students that are bursting with stories.  A student who escaped a war torn country to come to Edinburgh, a lovely woman who -in her final year- has tapped into her bravery and is getting involved in everything, and many students who have returned after an overseas adventure.

At the University’s Go Abroad event a couple weeks ago, students reflected to a room of nearly 100 people on their experiences in Virginia, Texas, India, and Africa.  I was moved by not only their courage and care for the cultures they visited – but also by their storytelling.

I think this is an important part of any process – the ability to reflect on, see the value, and share stories with others. Storytelling is a real skill – how do we learn how to do this?

As part of my secondment with the Institute for Academic, I’m hoping to create spaces to do this.

To name a few!

International Storytelling Workshop – 9 November, 10 to 1pm at the Pleasance

EUSA Global is hosting a storyteller to work with undergraduate students who have returned from being overseas. This workshop aims to help students create a narrative around their experience. As we are limited to 20 spaces, we ask that students apply online.  To apply, please go here. If you have any questions, please email johanna.holtan@eusa.ed.ac.uk for more information.

Online storytellers wanted!! 

I recently stumbled upon Maptia, an amazing storytelling community which just launched online. I sent a very excited email to their founders begging and pleading for collaboration. They understood what we are trying to do at the University and wanted to help.  They are opening up 20 places for University of Edinburgh students to be their founding storytellers. We are looking for students who are currently overseas and those who have returned from an international adventure. If this sounds like it’s for you, register your interest here. You can read more about Maptia here.  We can’t wait to work with them a bit more.

Third Space Conversations – 1 to 2pm

We all have stories to share so I wanted to create an informal space to do so. Each Monday lunch time (bring your lunch), students are invited to come together to share their cultural adventures in Edinburgh and beyond. Email me at johanna.holtan@eusa.ed.ac.uk for more information.

We can’t wait to hear your story.

A wee “Hello!” from your Global Assistants

21 Sep


Hi Everyone.  My name is Melissa, and I am one half of this year’s EUSA Global Assistant duo :-).  A little bit about myself– I am a second year PhD student at Moray House, from the USA and Jamaica, and enjoy traveling, art, & dancing.  So far it is very nice to call Edinburgh my current home.

I am very excited working with Jo and Mari, in helping to plan this year’s EUSA global events, coordinating with societies and meeting new people on campus!  I hope that my efforts this year as a Global Assistant will help to provide fun and engaging events for our student body.  Currently, I am helping to plan our annual Black History Month Festival coming up the end of October, hope to see you there!  I must add that Fresher’s Week was so much fun for me, and I enjoyed meeting incoming and returning students.  If you see me on campus, and remember my face, feel free to come up to me and say “hi” or have a chat!

Also, stay tuned for more updates from me on our blog site.


So here it is. My first blogpost in years. It does take some time to overcome the fear of putting things up on the internet. I mean, posts that are longer than Twitter’s 140 characters. The whole concept of putting yourself out there is a bit daunting. Then again, what is the university experience for, if it isn’t about throwing yourself into the unknown, challenge yourself and reap the benefits of new experiences? So here I am – I’ve finally bursted the blog bubble and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me from now on!



So yes, hi, hello! My name is Mari. I’m a fourth year doing International Relations, from Norway, and I am the other half of this year’s EUSA Global Assistant- duo, as Melissa so neatly put it (I really like the ‘duo’-bit!). So far, working with our great EUSA Global-team (Jo and Melissa, and whoever else has been helping out – especially Mimi from Peer Support, Exchange 360 and the ISC!) has been nothing but fun and I’m very excited for the upcoming weeks and months. Throughout the year I’ll be working on our great Tandem- program  (come along to our Saturday Language Café this afternoon, guys!), as well as our Edinburgh Buddies-project, among other things. As Melissa has already pointed out, our Black History Month-festival is coming up and it looks fantastic – so save the dates! We’re also planning a lot of other fun events for this upcoming year, all in the name of enhancing the student experience on campus; both for international and domestic students.

As Melissa said, please feel free to contact me, add me on Facebook or simply come up to me and have a chat! I really enjoy meeting new people, so don’t be shy.

See you!(:

EUSA Global meets Freshers’ Week

13 Sep

What a week! While planning for Freshers’ Week can be daunting, it’s always a pleasure once it comes around. The EUSA Global Team (Mari and Melissa will be introducing themselves soon) was busy from the start.

On Sunday, we were part of the International Day team which welcomed students from overseas. The morning was full of practical sessions on banking, accommodation, and other useful information. I helped out in the English Language Teaching Centre’s session on English language support and highlighted Tandem and Peer Proofreading.  Loads of students were asking more about these schemes so – no doubt – they will be popular again this year.

The lovely Societies Team ran the Society Variety in the afternoon and showcased 20 student groups.

2013-09-08 12.22.55

My favourite part was the student panels in the afternoon where current students were able to share their top tips on making the most of their time at University and coping with culture shock.  Max Greenberg – EUSA’s International Student Representative – made a great statement. In addition to the activities already happening, he said that this place offers the opportunity for students to ‘make their own community’.  It’s a lovely thought and a sentiment EUSA Global shares.

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On Tuesday, Tandem Language Programme hosted over 200 students in Teviot – all keen to share language and culture (and a bit of wine too).

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On Wednesday, our Edinburgh Buddies finally met!! Edinburgh Buddies – a collaborative venture between EUSA Global and EUSA Peer Support – matches new visiting international students with current students. It’s a great peer support scheme that runs in September and January.  It’s always a heaving event and Teviot’s Dining Room was full of students.

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At the Societies Fair, TEDx had a stall in the Sustainability Marque and was asking students their ideas worth sharing. In addition to a big long list of volunteers, the team got a sense of what students care about.  I look forward to see how they use all the great images!

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I had the chance to walk around and talk with a few societies about their work.  It was great to hear about new societies and meet some old friends as well.

I found a panda who loves languages.

2013-09-12 12.20.15

I stopped by the fantastic Exchange 360’s stall – they are a social and support society for Edinburgh University students who are on, pre, or post international exchange. They had a map capturing all the cities students were studying in.  At some point in my career, I must have marked my home town of Fargo, North Dakota.  Unless someone was there?  If so, come find me!

2013-09-12 13.17.55

I met with these guys from Engineers without Borders, a student society who focus on removing barriers to development using engineering.  They do some amazing work in Ghana – check them out here. They made this wind turbine from scraps!

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I also ran into these two lovely ladies from the North American Society. Briana – on the right – started at the University when I started at EUSA. In her fourth year (yikes!), she’s now the President of the North American Society and is moving and shaking on campus, as always.

2013-09-12 13.53.24

Semester 1 always flies by and soon enough, it will be Christmas! But in the meantime, I will take advantage of this opportunity to shamelessly plug some of our fantastic programmes running through this semester.

  • Tandem – Tandem is EUSA’s popular language exchange programme and is designed to help you meet people and learn languages in a fun, relaxed, social environment without tutors, exams or lectures. There are weekly language cafes, an English Language Cafe, a languages database, and monthly Speed Lingua events.
  • Free Taster Language Courses – Whether you want credit for your language studies or prefer a non-credit bearing route, we offer a bit of everything. Short free ‘taster’ courses, formal classes, a Language Café and regular language networking events – with over 70 languages spoken here at Edinburgh University there are plenty of language learning possibilities!
  • Black History Month – We are unveiling our new brand and launching Black History Month this October. Events and activities will be updated shortly!
  • Welcome Home – Many of our students have studied, volunteered, or worked abroad this past year.  We are running a series of events to welcome them home this semester starting with a Welcome Home Party on 3 October (in the Informatics Forum, not the Dining Room).  Registration will open shortly!
  • Edinburgh Buddies – We love Buddies! Edinburgh Buddies is a peer support scheme for visiting international students. We match new students with current students who have returned from studying abroad.
  • I’m also busy with my secondment over at the Institute for Academic Development. Lots of good things are happening – keep up to date with my progress here!

I should also note that EUSA Global was also mentioned in the Guardian this week (thanks to the great Daniel Stevens – the International Officer from NUS). Check it out!

What I Already Know – Part 1

5 Aug

So my secondment has begun! I have an office, my name on the door, a calendar of meetings, and already am feeling that we are onto something big.

As part of my first couple weeks here – and in addition to mapping out activity already happening within the University – I’m making a list.   What do I already know about students, reflection, and the international experience. Equipped with post-it notes, flipchart paper, and an open mind – this list could fill a book.

Students are mobile in all kinds of ways.

We know that students go overseas in all sorts of ways – formal networks such as Erasmus, for field work relevant to their research, to volunteer on projects in communities, work placements, programme electives international conferences, the list goes on. Postgraduates, undergraduates – everyone is doing it. The International Office found that 2,066 students went overseas last year through formal networks.  While this number doesn’t include the informal adventures our students undertake (such as the fantastic opportunities through Edinburgh Global Partnerships), it’s clear that this number will increase year upon year.

Check out this video from our recent Welcome Home event showcasing some of these international experiences

The majority of students have a positive experience while overseas.

We meet loads of students through Edinburgh Buddies, Tandem, Peer Proofreading, various student society activities, and our new Welcome Home series that have been away and are transformed by their international experience.  While there is always a twist of hardship, culture shock, challenge, and sometimes intrigue – these guys demonstrate that even the difficult stories play an important role in a positive experience.

It’s difficult to know how to move beyond personal anecdotes to a narrative that is meaningful to other audiences.

Articulating transformative overseas experiences into coherent narrative is hard.  During the recruitment process of our EUSA Global Assistants, I’ve met great students who have just returned from being overseas and are keen to get involved in our projects. While they speak loads of different languages and have travelled all over the world – they struggle with acknowledging the cold hard skills they have gained.  It’s clear they are competent for the job, but they can’t tell me how their international experience has shaped them and given them the skills to be a Global Assistant. I get the sense they don’t know how they have transformed.  From my work with EUSA Global over the past three years, I can see this pattern.


We assume students have the tools to reflect on their experiences.

I think we assume that without reflection, students will be fine and that they will find some way to make the most of it.  And you know what? I think they will. But I do think that without reflection, something of the experience will be unexplored, lost, and eventually forgotten. Students should leave university with lots of skills – the ability to write for a number of different audiences, the capacity to persuade through public speaking, to demonstrate technical knowledge, the confidence to ask for help, and the list continues.  But I think that without a suite of tools to reflect on their gained skills, culture and experiences – they lose a great opportunity to develop in a really valuable way.  I think this is where global citizenship can be encouraged, nurtured, and developed.

And one size doesn’t fit all.  While on the Study America trip this past April with ten pretty outstanding undergraduate students, I learned a lot about the reflection process.  While in America, we talked a lot about culture, differences, similarities, etc and it was amazing to see how they all processed these experiences in different ways. Drawing, journaling, radio documentaries, talking, blogging, emailing, observing, asking questions. It’s important to acknowledge that each of the students’ cultural toolbox varied in a way which suited them.


Students have stories to share.

From bed bugs to car accidents (they were OK!) to amazing community projects, students have some wild stories to tell.  They are telling each other through societies, friends and families – but wouldn’t it be cool to have a structure where they could tell us as well? I hope to create this across the University through Welcome Home and other activities on the horizon, but I think local events (like the folks in Physics run) are also very important.


I look forward to sharing insights with you as this list grows and evolves. I can’t wait to meet more people around the University doing this kind of work already and figure out ways to collaborate. Watch this space!

Just returned from an overseas adventure?

23 Jul
So you have had an amazing year overseas. We want to hear all about it.
You have challenged yourself, tried unknown foods, spoken a new language, explored unfamiliar cities, and done things that scare you. You have a long list of stories who are dying to tell your friends  (and some you might just keep to yourself).
In any case, you have been transformed and it’s OK to feel a bit nervous about coming back to Edinburgh. Things will probably feel the same, despite all the changes you have experienced. EUSA Global hopes to help in this tough transition through signposting cool activities and maybe helping you organise a few yourself.
Help new international students!  Edinburgh Buddies is one of our favourite projects. This initiative uses the experience of current students to help new international students adjust to life at the University of Edinburgh.  This will help new students to navigate the support system and with your help, transition into student life more efficiently. Students who have returned from studying overseas are eligible to be a volunteer.  Register today at www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/buddies
Welcome Home! EUSA is also running quite a few activities for students who have returned from volunteering, working and studying overseas – including our Welcome Home series. There are loads of activities to help you adjust to life back in Edinburgh including a party, workshops on telling your international story, and others.  Keep up to date with these activities and others at www.facebook.com/eusawelcomehome.
Work with us! Want to shape the support and activities we run for returned students who have been away working, volunteering, and studying?  Be a part of EUSA’s Returned Student Steering Group – find out more information at www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/welcomehome
There are a lot of other activities on campus which might also interest you including –
  • Exchange 360 is an amazing student society which runs social and support activities for students who are on, pre, or post international exchange. Check out their activities here – http://exchange360.org/
  • Tandem also provides a great opportunity to practice your language skills.  There is an online database, a weekly Language Café, and a very fun monthly Speed Lingua event.  Visit us here – www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/tandem
  • iSPYE was created by an Edinburgh graduate and is a fun and unique way to explore and share the world around you. You can find it here – http://ispye.net/.
  • The International Student Centre also provides a great resource for students who have had international experiences. Read more about them here – http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/international/student-life/isc.
We can’t wait to hear all your great stories.  Until then!