“The mobility experience allows you to immerse yourself in another's culture, experience their food, streets and transport system, and see first-hand how their university operates," says administrative officer Michelle Masango-Plato. She was was one of seven Stellenbosch University International (SU International) staff members who attended a training week at Sabanci University in Turkey in July.
The programme explored the potential for partnerships with Sabanci University and exposed staff to their peers abroad. SU International believes that this kind of exposure enables staff to assess and align their standard of work with global best practices. The travellers return as internationalisation catalysts, propelling the internationalisation agenda throughout SU.
Here is what some of the staff members have to say about their Turkish adventure:
What did this opportunity mean for your role as internationalisation practitioner?
Michelle, who works in Short-Term Mobility, reflects: “The experience made me extremely proud to be an internationalisation practitioner. It gave me a new-found appreciation for my job and the strides we have made as an office to translate our plans into action. We have so much to learn, and at the same time, we are so good at what we do."
Arlynn Fielies, an administrative officer responsible for housing international students and visiting academics, echoes Michelle's sentiments: “The visit was an eye-opener, offering a first-hand glimpse into the operational dynamics of another university's international office. It made me realise that our office stands shoulder to shoulder with our global counterparts, excelling in the services we provide to international students. Remarkably, we often go beyond the call of duty to ensure proper integration once they arrive."
Why is it important for professional support services staff to participate in staff exchange programmes?
“An exchange gives you access to new knowledge, skills and views on your development, while the participating university improves its capacity for research and innovation," says Meneshia Koopman, administrative officer working at SU International's reception. “Staff exchange trips often provide opportunities to learn from different work cultures, gain fresh perspectives, and bring back valuable insights to improve your own work environment."
She adds: “For instance, thanks to the communication skills I gained, my self-confidence improved, which, in turn, helped me build a professional network through the interactions there."
What is your most significant takeaway from the experience?
“Even though I could not directly incorporate everything I learned at Sabanci because of differences in their system and structure, I was able to learn a lot from their office in terms of the processes they followed before students arrive at the university," says Arlynn. Another highlight was the opportunity to experience the city's bustling energy and to visit the attractions that she had previously only seen in pictures.
To Michelle, too, immersing herself physically in the entire experience was exciting and enlightening. “My highlight was the opportunity to experience Turkey's metro, vibrant streets, and the captivating Cappadocia region."
This was Meneshia's first time abroad, and she was grateful to experience it with her colleagues. “At the end of the trip, I felt as if I had stepped out of my comfort zone completely and was able to embrace new opportunities for my personal and professional growth. A definite highlight was to discover places such as the Hagia Sophia Mosque."