Tag Archives: EUSA

Buddies Newsletter – October 2014

2 Nov

What a month it has been! After a massive welcome into October with the Frankenstein’s pub quiz, the Buddies events team pulled it off again with a trip to Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura. The museum is dedicated to all things visual and photographic, with all kinds of illusions involving lights, dark tunnels, and photo machines. With 6 floors of hands-on activities, it’s a treasure trove. One October Wednesday  afternoon, Buddies stuck their heads into various boxes, got lost in a mirror maze and were almost blown away on the roof. In a place like the Camera Obscura, picture taking is obligatory, and there were tons of excellent photographs on all kinds of social media (#edbuddies).

Buddies battling the wind at Edinburgh's Camera Obscura

Buddies battling the wind at Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura

Secondly, welcome to November – and week 8! Time is going so fast. With the announcement of exam dates and the ensuing revision stress, a quick coffee with your Buddies is always a sure-fire way to slow down and enjoy the rest of the semester.

November events are set to include a board games night on 12th November in Teviot – keep a look out on our Facebook and Instagram pages for information closer to the time.

Remember, remember…the 5th of November! If you’re feeling full of fireworks this Wednesday, 5th November is bonfire night, a historical evening dating back to when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up British parliament. Four hundred years on, we still commemorate this day by wrapping up warmly, eating bonfire toffee and letting off fireworks. Exchange 360, an Edinburgh University society for both international students and returners, are planning to climb up Carlton Hill to watch the fireworks. They are meeting just in front of Teviot on Wednesday at 6pm. Sparklers provided before everything kicks off! (For more info see their Facebook page).

Hope you all enjoyed a very Scottish Halloween. See you very soooooon.


EUSA Global Farewell

30 Sep

Four years ago, I started working at EUSA. My remit – supporting student-led internationalisation.  I was new to the UK, the University, and in all honesty – I had to practice saying internationalisation in front of a mirror before my interview for this job.  It’s difficult to say and –as I’ve learned- even more difficult to define. But I’ve tried my best over the past few years and learned a million lessons along the way.

And now I’m moving on.  In a couple weeks, I’ll be working with the Institute for Academic Development on projects around student engagement, curriculum, and innovation.  I’m really excited for the change and the opportunity, but sad to be leaving EUSA.  There have been countless times here when I’ve stepped back and thought ‘man, I love my job’.  I’m so grateful for the bag of lessons and experiences that EUSA and the people I have worked with have given me. Thinking back – there are a few that stand out.


TEDx changed things for me. I was lucky to be part of the group which started TEDx University of Edinburgh back in 2012. When we started, I had no real experience in putting on a production and from scratch. If it wasn’t for the patience of people like Celia (who I think is a bit like a magician), Maggie, Andrew, Sarah, Roger and the rest of the team – it wouldn’t have happened.

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I learned so much from the students involved and came to appreciate that the process is much more meaningful than the end product – it’s not always about the big show.  The night before I remember thinking that if it all goes wrong, it has been one of the most amazing things to be involved with. And it didn’t go all wrong – it was perfect.

And now, we have a legacy and are onto our second student committee. Thanks to the imagination, dedication, and just pure brilliant organisation – Maggie, Theo, Andie, and Alina have owned TEDx and delivered it in a way I never could.  These teams have shown me the potential that lives within our community – we have filmmakers, event managers, inventors, graphic designers, animators, stage managers, speakers, light specialists, community developers, comperes, kick butt volunteer coordinators (I could go on…really). I’m excited not only to continue to support these initiatives, but to also be able to work alongside these talented people.

EUSA Global Assistants

When I started working at EUSA – there was no EUSA Global and no Global Assistants to help run all the great projects we have created.  Two years ago, Sophie and Rob were recruited and the EUSA Global Team was born.  It sounds a bit like a superhero gang and looking back – we kind of were. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing students on EUSA Global – Melissa, Mari, and now Andre and Blythe.  I’ve learned so much from these teams and I think they really demonstrate an approach the University should be doing more of.  Have faith in students and more times than not, they will deliver in a big way.


Study America

For the past two years, I have had the amazing opportunity to lead a group of students to North America. A group of us identified a need to create more international experience opportunities for students who entered university through the Widening Participation programme. For the pilot, I went with 10 students to Charlottesville to visit the University of Virginia.  We spent two weeks going to classes, learning more about the area and the culture of Virginia, visiting DC, doing American things, and hanging out with local students.  I think the trip had a great deal of impact on the students, but I wasn’t expecting to be so transformed by the experience.  It was a special opportunity to see how young people can flourish and be bold in different cultural contexts.


EUSA staff

There hasn’t been one day when I haven’t wanted to come into work. I’m constantly inspired by the passion, care, and creativity of the EUSA staff.  This is an incredibly dynamic group of people who support one another, see the possibility in every challenge, and know how to play a game of darts (OK, well not really).  It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you. And Phil, sorry for making fun of the way you say book. But you do say it funny.

This is Phil.


Last year, we had an idea.  We wanted to change the way the University celebrates culture. I had the pleasure to work with Lorna and Kirsty from the International Office on this and I think it takes some pretty cool people to work hard on an idea when you don’t know where it will take you.  After countless conversations and a workshop – we realised that the University talks about community, culture, and global citizenship in similar ways.


From these findings, we created the Gather Festival and launched it for the first time in March 2014. The amazing Maria (a very talented postgraduate design student) created a brand and a series of beautiful illustrations. In the end, we had 52 events run by staff, students, and people in the city and we reached nearly 2,500 people.  Global Assistant Mari did amazing work mobilising events.  I’m so proud of what we achieved and thanks to our first year, our team and support from the University is growing. I’m so sad to be leaving the Gather team, but I’m excited to see it grow. It taught me a lot about the power of possibility and creating a team of talented people who really care about what they do.


So thank you EUSA.

Thank you for giving me space to find my feet, make mistakes, order too much wine for events on countless occasions, let me be imaginative and a bit rogue, and teach me how to work with different communities.  Thank you for your patience when I show yet another Baby Berta video (seriously though, look at that face), buy giant maps and cork boards, or make you play rounders in Bristo Square…again.

Baby Berta

Baby Berta

Thank you to the University for supporting my projects, embracing collaboration and new ideas, and acknowledging the good work of the students I have worked closely with. Thank you for the opportunity.

But most all, thanks to the students I have had the pleasure to work with. Thanks for coming to events where you had no idea what you were signing up for, volunteering to help each other, participating in yet another pilot project, asking questions, and coming up with some pretty fantastic ideas.  I’m in constant awe of your enthusiasm and dedication to do good. You have been a real influential force over how I operate over the past four years.  I look forward to working with you in a new way.

My job is up for grabs and if you are keen on working with amazing students, staff, and picking up some great projects – you should apply. Otherwise, you can find me at the Institute for Academic Development and no doubt, I’ll see you around.

It’s been an absolute pleasure, Johanna


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.


Welcome Home Party is sold out!

1 Oct

Welcome Home Party is sold out!

We are throwing a party for all students who have been away over the past year – studying, volunteering or working. Over 150 students have registered and we can’t wait to meet them all.

The EUSA Global team has been busy preparing for the evening (i.e. cutting out over 200 conversation bubbles!).

If you can’t make the event, don’t worry! We will be sure to post updates and let you know of the cool activities which we will be launching that night.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!


Planning Black History Month

24 Jul


The Black History Month Team Skype with the African Caribbean Society and EUSA’s Liberation Groups to plan for upcoming October activities. Watch this space for more information!

Planning Black History Month


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!