As the postgraduate research administrator for the School, this time last year I got the exciting opportunity to participate in the staff Erasmus exchange programme to Germany. What better time to share my experience with you than German Culture Week!
Many of you may be aware of Erasmus students, but the University also has funding for staff to undertake Erasmus exchange. I was lucky enough to gain funding for a ‘Staff Week’ hosted by the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) in Germany with the support of SBS. The week consisted of a range of activities from cultural awareness to job shadowing my counterpart at UDE. I chose this University to visit, as it was founded in 2003 and I felt it would be nice to gain perspective on how a modern University was run in comparison to our historic institution (est. 1495). My main goal from this trip was to learn best practice and to broaden my thinking in order to shape my own role into something that is truly beneficial to the research students I support. The fact that the famous German Chistmas markets coincided with my trip and hotel location was pure luck!
The week kicked off with an ice breaker session with the other participants and UDE staff (actually, the week kicked off with me getting lost in a German subway station!). It was obvious from the introduction that UDE were a forward thinking and engaging University. We were asked to film a small video of us in our office, with an introduction to our role to be played before the whole room of roughly 40 participants (from various EU higher education institutions). As you can imagine I think this had everyone sweating, but it proved to be a very engaging, and somewhat hilarious ice breaker that made everyone immediately comfortable with one another.
After an embarrassing German language survival session (me being picked on as the only Scottish unilingual person in a room full of cultured bilingual Europeans!) the week continued with an action-packed programme. To summarise- this trip was a great way to feel unified whilst working in the field of higher education. It was obvious that we all shared similar experiences and indeed frustrations, and to be able to connect to so many institutions and share knowledge was invaluable at a time where our own climate is so uncertain. The week wrapped up with a session on ‘intercultural training’ which gave us the opportunity to discuss bias and communication nuances between cultures. I can honestly say this is one of the best work-based sessions I have ever attended, and it has certainly enabled me to improve my own work-based communication strategies to fit different audiences. I returned home from this Erasmus exchange invigorated and excited about my role (and, with a belly full of Glühwein!).
Erasmus+ Staff Mobility Programme: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/staffnet/working-here/erasmus-8445.php#panel8450
University Duisburg-Essen: https://www.uni-due.de/en/
A fascinating industrial park we visited, voted by the Guardian as one of the top 10 parks in the world: https://www.landschaftspark.de/en/