Facilitating study abroad opportunities for incoming students

Photo credit: Unsplash and Pixaby CC0, remix by Joséphine Foucher

In this post, Lucy Coull discusses her role in supporting incoming Visiting Students at the University of Edinburgh, and how the new eTandem Global programme enabled students to experience meaningful language exchanges during the pandemic. This is the eighth post of the Learning and Teaching Enhancement theme: ‘Focus on the Internationalization of Teaching & Learning.’

As the Study Abroad Administrator, I work with incoming Visiting Students to the University of Edinburgh. After studying abroad at university myself, I am passionate about the endless advantages and opportunities that studying abroad brings. From improving your language skills, learning about a new culture, improving your confidence and experiencing new styles of teaching and learning, I am proud to assist in welcoming over 2000 Visiting Students to the University of Edinburgh every year. I’m pleased to say that each year 92%-96% of students say they would recommend the University of Edinburgh to others and many return for Postgraduate Study.

At the University of Edinburgh, we currently welcome Visiting Students on Erasmus Exchange, International Exchange and the Study Abroad programme. The University of Edinburgh will continue to participate in the current Erasmus+ programme during the 2020/21 and 2021/22 academic years whilst we await confirmation of the UK’s association with the future Erasmus programme. For Erasmus Exchange, we have agreements with many universities across Europe and for International Exchange we have agreements with many institutions outside of Europe. Study Abroad applications apply independently, outside of an Exchange Agreement. The University of Edinburgh has European exchange agreements with around 180 universities in more than 20 countries and over 100 worldwide partners in around 18 countries, so we welcome students coming from all over the world to study in Edinburgh. My job is to support the students from pre-application, throughout their application process and until they arrive in Edinburgh. Once they are here, they work with the Visiting Student Offices throughout their period of study. Once Visiting Students have finished their studies at the University of Edinburgh, they become part of our Alumni and belong to a global community of over 300,000 people. This professional and social network provides a lifetime of support with clubs and contacts across the world, along with a range of groups and resources online.

The University of Edinburgh is proud to have a diverse student body, including over 14,600 international students from more than 150 countries. Visiting Students choose Edinburgh for a variety of reasons, the culture and history of the city and the university ranking being some of the reasons. We also pride ourselves on our Student Union, with over 280 social and sports clubs to join. We’re really proud of our student-run Erasmus Student Network Edinburgh, which is a great place to socialise and have a coffee with fellow students. The Erasmus Student Network Edinburgh also organises events and subsidised trips for international students, which are a great way to explore Scotland and parts of the UK.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented times for studying abroad. Whilst many students have been unable to physically travel, we have been working to find alternative ways for students to still experience an international mobility virtually.  The eTandem Global programme launched in 2020 to offer students a practical language exchange in the wake of restrictions introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme, coordinated by the Study and Work Away team, is a fully digital opportunity for Edinburgh students to partner with students from other institutions around the world. The aim was to facilitate students to develop their language skills in a meaningful way, as well as to provide a space for social and cultural exchange, during major disruptions that have affected physical student mobility. The programme launched semester 1 2020 and has been continued for Semester 2. It saw around 350 students from Edinburgh signing-up and pairing with students from 50 other universities who were invited to participate. There are 13 languages being practiced by the participants including Arabic, Norwegian and Japanese; the most popular have been French, Spanish and Chinese.

The pandemic has shown us that students still have a real appetite for virtual opportunities that still offer a first-hand experience of another culture. Adapting to these difficult times has been tough, but virtual exchanges such as eTandem have allowed ‘study abroad’ opportunities to continue, allowing students all over the world experience the benefits of experiencing an international mobility.

Lucy Coull

Lucy works in the Study Abroad department, with Visiting Students coming to study at the University of Edinburgh. After going on Erasmus Exchange herself, she is passionate about studying abroad and the lifelong benefits it provides!

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