Marie Rakova works at the International Relations Office, Rectorate, Palacký University Olomouc, the Czech Republic as a Traineeship Abroad Coordinator. She is responsible for Intercultural Communication courses in Foreign Languages that Palacky University Olomouc offers its students before their traineeship abroad. Ms Rakova is a Palacký University alumnus, with majors English and German Philology. In order to enhance her professional profile, she started studying the MSc Human Resource Management at the University of London.
"I very much appreciate Aurora’s concept and its aspirations in Learning for Societal Impact, Engaging Communities and Sustainability, that perfectly reflect current social developments and expectations, to be achieved by exchanging best practices within an international network of university leaders, academics, administrators, students and external stakeholders. I am happy to be part of this network."- Marie Rakova says.
She continues to say that the WP 3.1.2 team's current focus is on the situational and needs analysis. The findings shall be used to design a one-day training on How to Assure Quality of International Traineeships which is planned to be delivered in June-September 2021. In June 2021, the group will also start with integrating traineeships in the curriculum of involved Aurora university partners, setting up a network of host organizations and publishing traineeship offers. Further, in April 2021, they intend to launch the Aurora International Traineeship Programme to recruit future Aurora trainees, and in September 2021, first traineeships abroad shall take place. We have some busy months ahead :)
As a recent trend, Marie notices a change in dynamics when it comes to traineeship opportunities. She says, "Until 2019, we could observe a constant increase in international traineeships. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic halted traineeship opportunities for many students. With experts predicting the worst recession since the Great Depression for the global economy, the future will prove to be challenging for the current crop of trainees. Blended or virtual traineeships seem to be a possible solution."
For the WP 3.1.2 to be formed, Aurora Alliance Institutional Coordinators appointed a central IRO international traineeship officer who would contribute to the task team. Further, with the help of Kees Kouwenaar, they involved associate partners, AIESEC local chapters and Randstad, a Dutch multinational human resource consulting company. Lately, the group has welcomed a student champion who will be actively participating in their task team.
Callum Perry is the Aurora Student President and is also the Undergraduate Education Officer at UEA Students’ Union for two years. He also sits on various academic quality boards in UK Higher Education Bodies.
"Aurora epitomises what is great about Higher Education when we collaborate and share practices. The strength of our collective ambition to further the quality and experiences of students across the world empowers me to fight for education where we care about our footprint, culture and diversity, inclusion and enriched learning through partnering; to name a few," says Callum Perry.
He continues by saying that the student council has set up new communication forms and strengthened and empowered their relationships with other groups within the alliance. The Aurora Student council has expanded student representation through the Aurora Student Champions Scheme. There are 32 Student Champions and that all have multiple stakeholders in all of the Work Packages in 3, 4 and 5. All our Student Champions have been trained and are working towards ‘champion’ status, which will look desirable to employers and showcase their skills development due to being involved in Aurora. They are now creating an ambassador scheme for students to engage in a light-touch way and support work in their own university. And lastly, the Aurora Student council will be organizing a student conference ‘Care and Compassion’ in March, which will showcase accessible routes for students to participate in the Alliance work and promote the values of Aurora.
As a recent trend, Callum notices that student voice and activism are at an all-time high in some areas across collective student bodies. He says that "students are engaging in conversations around the quality of teaching, and their experiences of inclusion and diversity (exacerbated by COVID-19). Further to this, our student council are increasingly interested in sustainability and the interest from our champions to be part of this, or to evidence their work in this area, has been shown in volume." To add to this, students' sense of voice and importance in forming new practice and policy are increasingly growing. As an ambitious network and alliance, we have a duty to create the foundations for this positive work.
Barbara Tasser is the Head of International Services at the University of Innsbruck. She is a formerly trained archaeologist with a multilingual background (German, Italian, English) and is responsible for the Aurora Borderless Learning – Recognition and Mobility (WP3.3.1) task team.
Barbara believes that Aurora is a great and dedicated community. Barbara notes that the first year of the Aurora European University Alliance program will be very much about getting to know each other and the different conditions and circumstances at the respective institutions and the project structure and the larger community. She believes that Aurora can play a key role in testing and implementing structured mobility within the Aurora Alliance so that students and staff can train their international competences as borderless and well-serviced as possible. This year, the group plans to develop the Aurora Mobility & Recognition Action, the definition of objectives, tasks, responsibilities and results, the development of concepts for virtual, short-term and blended mobility formats as well as the elaboration of a concept for a short-term mobility fund and a respective housing mechanism.
Lastly, Barbara shares that the Aurora Alliance project's goal reflects the trends that have occurred due to the pandemic. She says that students are provided with an alternative international learning experience format, such as virtual, short-term and blended mobility initiatives, in addition to semester-based mobility abroad.