Tag Archives: internationalisation

Putting the Tools into the Cultural Toolboxes

16 Apr


I am putting together our cultural toolboxes for the Third Space Bon Voyage Retreat this weekend.  Each toolbox contains amazing activities to get students (40 preparing for their third year abroad) out and exploring their new communities.

Check out all the activities here

2014-04-16 14.42.30


Reflections on the Clinton Global Initiative University 2014

10 Apr

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education”

Reflections on the Clinton Global Initiative University 2014

Paul Iannetta


In March 2014, the partnerships that exist between 30 Scottish and Tanzanian schools (see http://www.twendepamoja.org.uk/education for details) were highlighted at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) in Phoenix, Arizona.

CGIU was launched by President Bill Clinton in 2007. It is, to use the website’s own words, “a meeting where students, youth organisations, topic experts and celebrities come together to discuss and develop solutions to global challenges”. Students are chosen to attend based on the “commitment to action” they develop. Commitments must be new, specific and measurable means of addressing a global challenge. The University of Edinburgh joined the network of universities whose students attend CGIU in 2014 and my commitment was one of four chosen from Edinburgh.


You may be wondering what my commitment was.

First, let me explain the background to it. I visited Tanzania in 2008, left Holy Rood High School in 2009 and have remained involved with Twende Pamoja (Swahili: Let us Walk Together) since then. It is unusual for so many schools across both the primary and secondary sectors to both link with schools in another country and work together. In the last few years, pupils have connected by letter, live video and exchange visits in both directions. Young people in every partner primary and secondary school and community have together created their global vision of how they would like the world to be. Over 13,000 young people have now been involved in this process, many through a variety of seminars and workshops. All of these activities, meetings and gatherings help raise awareness in very practical and personal ways of what life is like on another continent and within another culture. School partnerships can make an effective contribution to global education and in encouraging young people to see themselves as global citizens.

There are two significant obstacles that can contribute to school partnerships working less effectively: lack of time and ever-changing personnel. Students have increasing amounts of coursework and examinations every few months and consequently find their free time limited. Staff face the demands of teaching, curriculum development and assessment as well as pursuing their own personal commitments and interests. Students who have been involved with school partnerships eventually leave school and may pursue other activities in other cities. Staff may move on or retire. A challenge I have become very aware of is to find ways for staff and students to effectively pass on their knowledge and experience to ensure the ongoing development and sustainability of the partnership. Where this does not happen the benefits of a partnership may not be fully realised and the relationship itself may even be lost.

It is with this in mind that I have committed to the creation of a partnership pack for Scottish and Tanzanian schools. The partnership pack will draw on and bring together the best practice from each school in both countries. Therefore, when a school comes to fundraise for a trip to Tanzania by way of a sponsored bag pack, for example, it will know exactly which supermarkets have participated in the past, how much was raised and who to contact to arrange it. A partnership pack would also contain the contact details of students, in Scotland and in Tanzania, who have participated in a trip in the past and are willing to visit a school and speak or answer questions. A partnership pack for a Tanzanian school might contain an international SIM card and iPad-type device to allow for video calls between students in both countries. In short, a partnership pack is designed to provide resources, ideas and advice to keep school partnerships strong even though the people in them may change.

The pack is very much still in the development phase at present but was well received by others attending CGIU. My priority now is to secure funding for the project and to conduct research into content in both Scotland and Tanzania.

As for the CGIU conference itself, it was hard not to be inspired to act listening to Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, political heavyweights John McCain and Gabrielle Giffords, the Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales and women’s rights activist, Manal al-Sharif, to name but a few. The event was also a unique opportunity to meet some of the 1000 other students from 80 countries, some of whose commitments to action also featured Tanzania. Many business cards were exchanged and e-mails sent afterwards. All the sessions were recorded and can be viewed at http://new.livestream.com/CGI/CGIU2014.

One of the speakers was Bunker Roy of India’s Barefoot College. He quoted Mark Twain in response to a question he was asked that weekend – ‘don’t let schooling interfere with your education’, he said. As can be seen from the picture below, this quotation made an impression on a few of us attending CGIU. Education can often appear to be driven by the requirements of the examination system. The Scottish vision of education identifies the 4 capacities, which all centres of learning must work to nurture. As well as producing successful learners they must also produce confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. It is my experience as a school pupil and as a student that partnerships between schools and other educational institutions in different countries can make a significant contribution to this process and the quality of the learner’s experience.

If this partnership pack, even in a small sense, helps Scottish and Tanzanian young people become global citizens, contributes to their development of a global vision and supports those leading partnerships to sustain their growth it will have been a success.


Paul Iannetta

April 2014









Back & rethinking global citizenship

17 Mar

It was a great couple days at the U21 conference and I’m finally back in Scotland – grateful for the cooler air and getting out of the hotel routine, but inspired by the people I met and the discussions shared.


Rethinking mobility.  Most institutions approach international experiences from a study abroad perspective and I think that this can be really limiting, as there were some great points addressed regarding accessibility. Not everyone can spare a year (or the cash for it!) to go overseas to study.  While it’s important to create opportunities at home for students to become global citizens – there are loads of other ways to gain international experiences.  At the University of Edinburgh, many of our students participate in student-led schemes such as Edinburgh Global Partnerships and Project Mongolia. Many students also partake in work experiences in other countries – often in the summer. We can’t be rigid about this but instead, find ways to acknowledge these activities such as the Edinburgh Award in International Experiences.

I also think that staff mobility plays a large role. My time on the Study America trip with ten students at the University of Virginia changed the way I work and gave me some great ideas which I have taken back with me.  We shouldn’t limit mobility to our students, but include staff in the target community as well. If you create a culture of empowered staff, students will reap the benefits.

Rethink our community. At some points of the workshop, we talked about getting student buy-in for opportunities, services, and projects.  Instead of designing a project and then asking for student feedback. Why don’t we design it together from the start? This requires time, love and often times letting go of the original vision – but the process and end product will be more meaningful and no doubt, more effective.  By the end, more conference attendees were talking about co-designing together with students.

Rethinking employability.  When thinking global citizenship and employability, the conversation seems to focus on opportunities within big businesses overseas, often multi-national companies.  While we identified the values of a global citizen (community focused, action based, empowered by impact of choices, adventurous, risk takers, caring, etc) – I’m uncomfortable with the lack of pushing social enterprise, entrepreneurial opportunities, careers for the creative arts, and other socially-minded careers as part of the global citizenship agenda.  For example, the University of Edinburgh recently launched the Creative  Cultural Careers Festival and I think this is a really positive step.

Rethinking the definition global citizenship. Over the conference, we struggled in defining global citizenship.  But as one speaker suggested, do we really need to define it?  As our student communities change and grow and internationalisation opportunities increase, maybe our definition should be fluid and shift. Maybe it’s our job to provide a platform for these conversations to brew and a space to act on them.

Be a global citizen. If we want to promote global citizenship alongside our students – we need to operate as global citizens.  As institutions and organisations, we need to find solutions outside of the box, pull together partners and collaborate on problems together. We need to think about where we get and spend our money, how sustainable are our practices, what is the impact of our research, how we recruit students – especially from those from developing countries, and the list goes on.

If we require our students to be global graduates, how do our global citizenship practices align with this ethos?

I ran a session early in the workshop and you can find my presentation here.  Thanks to Mihaela Bodlovic and Chris Rubey for many of the photos.

Day 2 in Malaysia

13 Mar

After the first day of the U21 workshop on global citizenship (despite another 4am jet lagged morning), it’s easy to feel inspired by the possibility of what institutions can do alongside students regarding global citizenship. We seem to face similar barriers and questions regarding the topic, so it was useful to get around the table to discuss solutions at the network level.

I’m excited to see the role that technology can play in this. It was great to talk about what we are doing through EUSA Global as well and despite a few technical problems, we launched a film I’ve been working on alongside the very talented Chris Rubey.

It was great to work with Chris on this as I learned a lot about the filming process, but it also confirmed my belief that we have a massive pool of skills and solutions right on our doors step.


What is Global Citizenship? from Chris Rubey on Vimeo.

Third Space is born!

12 Feb

For the past few months, I have been working with people from University to develop a project for students preparing for an international adventure.

It’s been such a pleasure to talk with students about their time overseas and hear their ideas on how to better support and prepare for their cultural encounters.  I’ve enjoyed meeting staff who specialise in counselling, ethnography, storytelling, and intercultural communication to see how we could design something really meaningful.

It has been like putting together a puzzle where you know all the pieces are meant to fit, it’s just a matter of getting them into a room together.

From all this hard work has come Third Space, a new series of activities which wrap around students’ international experiences giving them the tools to explore, reflect, engage, and share culture during the different stages of their time away. Simply put, third space refers to when one culture meets another culture – something new is created. With so many students moving between countries and cultures, I feel the university environment can often be a third space and I see this project as something that can help students make the most of that.

You can read more about Third Space here. There will be a pre-departure retreat, a workbook full of cultural explorations, and returnees conference.  Students will even be eligible for the Edinburgh Award.

So, I’m asking you for two things:

1. If you are a student preparing for your third-year abroad, apply to be part of this special project. I promise that it will not only change your life, but can also be included on your Higher Education Achievement Record through the Edinburgh Award. You will enhance your cultural toolbox and meet some lovely people.

2. We need your strategies, activities, things to do while away, among many other things in a new cultural context.  We are filling the workbook (both physical and online) with these activities to encourage students to fully, openly and thoughtfully engage in the ongoing life of the place they are visiting. While it is inspired by ethnographic research methods, it is not meant to be a “how to do ethnography” book.  It is a collection of ethnographically inflected tips, notions and things to do.

For example, one could suggest that they find out what the most popular street food is? Then they could ask someone who cooks it for a living how to show them how it is done? Then they could have a go at trying to cook it themselves?

Alongside a brilliant illustrator, we will produce a workbook which is playful, engaging, and hopefully – useful. After a year, this will be their portfolio of cultural adventures and something they can treasure for a long time. You can email ideas to me at johanna.holtan@eusa.ed.ac.uk.

It’s an exciting project to be a part of and I feel everyone behind it really cares about the ethos of Third Space. Watch this space!

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.

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!(:


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


Reflecting on Culture (or Jo Goes Next Door)

12 Jul

Over here at EUSA Global, we are all about trying new things. After three years working on all things international, I’m putting a new twist on my job and going on secondment. For two days a week for the next year, I’ll be next door at the Institute for Academic Development.

Let me tell you a bit about what I will be doing.

So, we know that working, volunteering, and studying overseas plays an important role in the personal development of our students.  The University is keen to create more and more opportunities for students to go overseas – this is a fantastic initiative which we fully support. However, does travel alone create a culture of global citizens? Does simply going overseas mean you will be transformed and changed for the better?

New cultures are tough and without reflection, I don’t think going abroad equals internationalisation.  In addition to reflection, I think community-building, especially on return, also plays an important role.

EUSA Global has learned a lot about the process of internationalisation this year – from our Global Citizenship workshop, the student-led Understanding Internationalisation Academic Conference, the Study America project,  to our work with Careers Service on their Taking Advantage of Time Away online resource. We have learned about the importance of tools which assist students in reflecting on their experiences and building community both here and overseas. I want to take the next year to explore and understand this and alongside students and the University, design our next steps.

And I think the students are the best part of the deal. I’ve met some amazing ones (you guys have to meet Fran!) through EUSA Global that are in the midst of this process – as international students here, fundraising to volunteer overseas, currently away, thinking about going away, etc. I’m looking forward to spending the next year listening to their stories and co-designing some great ideas.

I think that this project is very relevant to me, as well. After living in six different countries and experiencing the world through many different lens – from typing divorce petitions at a legal Aid Clinic in downtown Kingston, Jamaica to working with doctors in rural areas of the former Soviet country Georgia – I like collecting cultural stories.  Originally from America and now settled in Scotland, conversations on reflection really mean something to me. Each day I’m reminded of my own culture and my new one. My international education (both formal and not) have transformed me not just because they have happened, but because I was given the tools to process these experiences thanks to Juniata College and my mom (she’s an intercultural communication professor, folks!). Without hard-working reflection, I think I would struggle.

I look forward to working with students, the Institute of Academic Development, the Careers Service, International Office, and other partners to take a proper look at the overseas experience. I also look forward to using this space to share insights and capture yours (both big and small) throughout the year.

– Jo

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