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Intercultural Inspiration

The ERASMUS+ exchange program paves the way for university administrative and technical staff to experience stays abroad

Freiburg, Jun 12, 2017

The European exchange program ERASMUS+ is not just designed to enable students and teachers to experience stays abroad. Since 2007 the EU Office of the University of Freiburg has helped university administrative and technical staff as well to benefit from the program. In line with its slogan, "From trainee to president," the program is open to everyone employed at the university.

Discovering Europe: ERASMUS+ is open to all staff of the University of Freiburg.
Graphics: ChristianChan/CanStockPhoto. Photos and layout: Sandra Meyndt

Potential participants basically have two options. Firstly, many European universities offer "Staff Training Weeks." As their name indicates, these are courses that usually focus on a specific topic, last up to one week and are designed for university staff from specific fields. By contrast, "Work Shadowing," the second option, demands slightly more planning and initiative on the part of the staff member. Once they have applied successfully to their own university to take part in the program, they set off for up to five days abroad with a "Work Plan" – an individual working arrangement made in advance with the relevant host university – in their luggage. The criteria for a successful application include knowledge of the language of the host country, contact with the prospective university, and a willingness to host a visit in return. Once accommodation has been found in the host country, it's all systems go!

Enriching exchange

An administration assistant at the university's Faculty of Engineering, Marlis Jost, took part in a "Staff Training Week" at the Polytechnic University in Valencia, Spain, in March 2017. "It gave me valuable insight into work at other universities – both through campus life in Valencia and working with the international participants. I found the intercultural exchange very enriching and intense," she reports. A stay abroad offers staff the opportunity to make contacts throughout Europe as well. "We have formed an international network of hosts and participants, and will be keeping in contact," says Jost.

The value of an international exchange to campus life can also be seen from the experience of Berit Brauer, another administration assistant at the Faculty of Engineering. She undertook "Work Shadowing" in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2013. For her, their project Medarbetarskap – or "Personnel" in English – was especially inspiring as its aim was to create the best possible working environment for university staff. Reports Brauer, "It made me notice how alert, creative and productive work was there – to be excellent you also need excellent work conditions; it's about getting on together. Since this concept of the working environment made sense to me, it made me think about what I could change for us on campus in the Faculty of Engineering." Now, she is coordinating the foodtruck scene on campus, which started in 2014 with the Ape-Café and other mobile providers. "It often brings life to the faculty at midday – people meet to drink coffee and have a chat, play frisbee in the summer – activity and communication, what more could you want?" she says.

Funding is provided for the stay abroad. Currently it is paid for under the federal state's law on travel expenses for business trips. In future, subsidies will be based on the cost of living in the relevant host countries. For instance, a subsidy of 100 euros per day will be paid for countries such as Croatia and Lithuania. Stays abroad in countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, or Sweden will be subsidized at a rate of 160 euros per day. Participants also receive payment towards travel expenses, depending on distance. A stay abroad can also count towards the "Intercultural Skills" certificate for university administrative and technical staff.

Lars Kirchberg

Contact and more information

EU Office of the University of Freiburg
Catherine Müller
Tel.: +49 (0)761 203 67472