Tag Archives: university of edinburgh

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



Bon Voyage Retreat a success!

25 Apr

There is nothing more amazing than when an idea becomes something real.  From the cultural toolboxes to the Bon Voyage retreat – this week was full of Third Space realisations.

The first day was full of practical sessions on encountering a new culture and storytelling, in addition to a great talk on how to be an explorer in a new place.  We finished the day with an Edinburgh Award session on the skills of a good global citizen overseas.


On Sunday, students were given a challenge, split into teams, and sent out into the city.  There challenge was to try out some of the approaches they might use to get to know the place they are moving to by exploring in a novel manner a place with which they already familiar: Edinburgh.  Using the activities from the toolbox, they went out into the city and presented back their reflections that evening.




Some of the facilitators waiting on presentations

Some of the facilitators waiting on presentations

You can see more on their presentations here.  It was a fantastic weekend and I can’t wait to see where the toolbox, new skills, and year overseas takes these students! I’m also looking forward to identifying ways to help Third Space grow to accommodate more students.




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.

He has enabled us to know what we can become

9 Dec

In addition to being a Professor of African and Development Studies, Acting Director of the Centre of African Studies, and Director of the Global Development Academy, James Smith is a great friend to EUSA Global.  While in South Africa, he shares his thoughts on the country, the impact of going away, and Nelson Mandela.

– – –

I boarded a plane in Johannesburg late on Thursday night. In the morning I discovered Nelson Mandela had died.

Two days before I had driven more or less past his house in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. 18 years before that I had travelled to Johannesburg, to Africa, for the very first time, to become an international student. It changed me, as it must.  In the years since there hasn’t been a day, or moment, which hasn’t been refracted through that experience. It shaped me as a person, honed my values and led me to where I am and what I do now.

I moved to South Africa at the end of 1995 just a year after South Africa’s first democratic government had come to power, led by Mandela. I went there to study for an MSc at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg; basically because it seemed an amazing opportunity to be in South Africa when everything was changing and everything was so essential. I didn’t intend to stay more than a couple of years but I ended up staying for several, completing a PhD, a postdoctoral fellowship and working for a handful of development organisations.

Its difficult to write a blog post like this without it simply becoming a string of fish-out-of-water, self-deprecating anecdotes; especially when I have such a good stock of them. In my first week I managed to find myself living in a YMCA in Hillbrow, which is one of Johannesburg’s least salubrious (translation: dangerous) suburbs. Midnight gunfire turned out to be celebrations for a win for the national football team and not a coup. I learnt that relief is measured on a different scale so far from home. A few months later I succeeded in getting a very small and old car stuck in a sandy track in Zambia’s biggest nature reserve. I was saved by US missionaries, strictly in the physical sense. I caught malaria once, twice, three times. I ended up the subject of an academic article by an excited Dundee GP long before I wrote my own.

I was in Mandela’s presence once, or technically I suppose he was in mine. He was present in the audience at my masters graduation in 1998 as one of his granddaughters was also graduating. The slow burn realization of the audience was something not easily forgotten and is something that Edinburgh hasn’t quite managed to match despite repeated invocations to John Knox’s breeks. Apologies to the Principal for that.

The thing is, strings of anecdotes on paper or screen only scratch the surface of the transformation within. I went there as one person and came back as another. Life isn’t so linear and predictable that counterfactual life courses might not have been equally transformational but the transformation I can trace is the one that I own. Rian Malan, in his extraordinary My Traitor’s Heart, quotes Neil Alcock, an idealist who lived and died trying to improve life in rural KwaZulu-Natal: “To live anywhere in the world, you must know how to live in Africa”. I don’t think that is necessarily true; to live in the world, you have to know how others live. Elsewhere, everywhere.

My own transformation, shaped by my experience in what seemed another world was at least in part sparked by the transformation Mandela dreamed of for South Africa. After all, what could be a more inspiring place to live, work and study a blink of history after the fall of Apartheid?

I was more upset than I had imagined I would be when I heard the news of Mandela’s death, but that sadness transformed too, into gratitude for the inspiration that sparked an international adventure that led to a lifelong commitment and connection. My (almost) final thought is actually Desmond Tutu’s, leading a prayer in memory of Mandela: “he has enabled us to know what we can become”. That’s the beauty of inspiration, of an international perspective, of a global connection; is helps each of us know what we can become. Hamba kahle Madiba. Ngiyabonga kakhulu.


The Apartheid memorial in Edinburgh (down Lothian Road) where people have left flowers and tributes


The hall at Wits University where James had his own encounter with Nelson Mandela

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.



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!(: