Seville, mid-September 36 degrees (about 97 Fahrenheit), and the sun is beating down from a cloudless sky. Unfortunately, we are not here to sit in the shade and drink Sangria. On the other hand, who would complain about being able to participate in Europe’s largest conference on higher education – the European Association for International Education (EAIE)? We are among the lucky few of over 6,000 participants from 95 countries to attend this year.
The EAIE is truly a tongue twister over which many of the conference speakers regularly stumble to the amusement of the audience. Despite the awkward abbreviation, the association and the conference are of great importance to anyone working towards the internationalisation of higher education.
Representatives from ETH Zurich’s Student Exchange Office participate in EAIE each year, even though the timing of the conference – scheduled around the start of the busy Fall Semester in Switzerland – is less than ideal.
“Although it has been said many times before, despite all of the modern communication technologies available, we feel that there isn’t anything that can replace direct, face-to-face contact when building and maintaining strong partnerships.”
During EAIE, our schedule is crammed with meetings with representatives from ETH Zurich’s exchange partner universities. We exchange new developments, information, and ideas, as well as, discuss some of the mutual challenges we face. Our goals are to improve the information and services for exchange students, decrease obstacles to student mobility, and expand and deepen the cooperation with our partners.
In between meetings, we manage to attend a few of the sessions and workshops, some very informative, others a bit less so. Highly inspiring and relevant to the topic of international mobility is writer, Taiye Selasi’s keynote speech. Even in an auditorium filled with 2000 people, her personality practically leaps off the stage capturing the audience’s attention. Watch her TED talk here:
With her diverse background, she is also a perfect illustration for this year’s conference motto, “A Mosaic of Cultures.” Spectacularly beautiful Seville, with its equally diverse heritage, was obviously an inspiration for this motto.
Spectacularly beautiful Seville
We also put in a couple of hours at the booth of Swiss universities booth, where the Swiss higher education institutions and system are show cased. Unfortunately, Spanish Customs confiscated the Swiss chocolate – a well-known and universally beloved feature of the Swiss booth drawing many visitors. We speculate that it probably melted in a hot warehouse or became a midday snack for some of the customs officers. We consoled all of the disappointed booth visitors by encouraging them to attend next year’s EAIE, which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland in September 2018.
One of the highlights of the conference week was the Swiss reception. The Swiss Embassy for Spain and Andorra in Madrid hosted the reception in a beautiful location on the banks of the river Guadalquivir. The Swiss higher education institutions invited their closest partner universities to the reception creating a wonderful networking opportunity and the opportunity to thank partners for all of their invitations.
“The sauna was certainly included free of charge in this year’s conference…,” said EAIE president Markus Laitinen – a native of Finland, referring to the hot and humid weather in Seville in his closing speech. For our team, the heat was just a minor factor contributing to our exhaustion at the end of the week, to the point where we could hardly keep our eyes open on the flight back to Zurich on Friday evening. Mostly, it was the many meetings, the long days starting with breakfast meetings at 8 a.m. and ending with receptions after 10 p.m., all the new information to absorb, and the noise of thousands of people in the conference venue. Yes, okay, maybe it was also a little bit due to the Sangria we enjoyed at some of the receptions.
Though the work did not finish with the end of the conference, we can certainly say that it was a very successful EAIE and we look forward to the 2018 edition. The conference location in Geneva will be a great opportunity for all Swiss higher education institution to present themselves at their best. https://www.eaie.org/geneva.html
By Andrea Rothenbühler and Patrick Bisang
Andrea Rothenbühler works at the Student Exchange Office of ETH Zurich. She is responsible for the outgoing exchange students and staff mobility in the Swiss-European Mobility Programme as well as for the incoming and outgoing students of the IDEA League Student Grant.
Patrick Bisang works at the Student Exchange Office of ETH Zurich. He is responsible for the incoming exchange students in the Swiss-European Mobility Programme as well as for the incoming and outgoing students doing an exchange within Switzerland.