On 21 March, EUSA Global organized and hosted its annual Understanding Internationalisation Conference at Informatics Forum. As a part of the week-long Gather Festival, the Conference’s main objectives were to bring together people with differing perspectives and to examine what internationalisation means. Ultimately, six university students were short-listed, based on the quality of their research and its connection with the related conference themes. University staff and PhD students were invited to serve as panellists in order to provide questions and feedback to the presenters. Also, the Conference was open to any University staff and students who were interested and curious about attending.
The half day conference commenced with a warm welcome and lunch for our presenters, panellist and guests. After lunch the keynote speaker, Dr Theresa McKinven, took to the floor. Dr McKinven is currently the Head of the Postgraduate Office in the College of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Edinburgh. Her talk reflected her many years of professional and personal experience of working with university students. She probed listeners to examine how the student body and individuals view themselves and others. Through the analytical scope of culture and internationalisation, she discussed the different ways in which university students engage. Furthermore, Dr McKinven critiqued notions and stereotypes that exist within terms like ‘integration’ and ‘assimilation’.
Dr McKinven’s insightful talk was followed by student presentations. The diversity of the group was reflected in their research topics, differing levels of study as well as country of origin. Such diversity of topics embodied the main conference themes of: Global Citizenship; Student Mobility; Integration and Local Communities; Languages; and related themes. Specifically, research topics ranged from international perspectives within personal living spaces and public, company spaces to experiences of international students within the UK. Additionally, presentations looked at governmental and geo-political issues within China and beyond. With closer reflection, the presentations brought to light some emergent, cross-cutting themes, for instance, how personal and cultural identity is shaped and how our status within relationships affects the way we interpret experiences. The range of topics enabled listeners to engage, while learning new information and perspectives.
The Conference ended with a bit a fun when panellists judged and selected three winners for the following categories: Best Speaker; Most Innovative Topic; and Best Presentation. Winners went home with a hand-made certificate and prize. Of equal importance, every presenter went home happy with some EUSA and University gifts. These gestures were to share overall gratitude for their participation and earnest interest in the event.
Overall, the Conference was amicable and constructive. There were moments of laughter as well as quality discussion, and it provided a great opportunity to meet new people. Students felt comfortable in sharing their academic and personal research, while answering questions and feedback directed to them. Guests added texture to the conference experience by joining in with questions of interest to the presenters. Furthermore, the conference ‘gathering’ provided participants with an opportunity to hear about the breadth of research being pursued by University of Edinburgh students. Additionally, it provided a supportive forum for presenters to share developments and ideas within their research. The 2014 Understanding Internationalisation Conference was a great success, and already people are looking forward to what next year has to offer.