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A special perk of being a Goldsmiths student: the Go Abroad programme!

Antonia Morena Olivares, a BA Politics & International Relations student, writes about the Go Abroad opportunities she has participated in as a Goldsmiths student – and why you should get involved!

Dear friend,

Now that you are starting a new academic year at Goldsmiths, I want you to know about a special perk that the uni offers.  So you can enjoy Uni as much as possible, especially during these unconventional times. This perk is The Go Abroad Programme.

I am Antonia, a recent graduate from Politics and International Relations. And I participated in this programme this summer. I am a little bit frustrated because I only got to know about the programme during my last year at Goldsmiths, I wish I knew about it earlier. But to be honest, it came at the perfect timing: lockdown. During quarantine, I made more international friends from the comfort of my couch, than I probably did before covid-19. And this is thanks to the virtual global opportunities offered by Goldsmiths.

Let me tell you a little bit about the Go Abroad Programme. Its aim is for students to acquire international experience, either through volunteering, studying or working abroad. Usually, students apply for funding to study for a semester abroad on an Erasmus placement or study, work or volunteer during the summer holidays in another country. However due to Covid-19, these opportunities have transformed into an accessible and diverse virtual environment.

The Global Virtual Opportunities https://www.gold.ac.uk/students/go-abroad/virtually/ range from Erasmus Virtual Exchanges to fully funded scholarships by Santander  for  summer  courses at universities such as Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

I actually engaged in these two. I signed up for an Erasmus Virtual Exchange on the topic of Countering Hate Speech. Over 6 weeks I learned about it from The Sharing Perspectives Foundation in Germany and I met people from all around the world each Saturday on the virtual learning space to discuss and dialogue about it. I talk more in depth about this experience in this Instagram live https://www.instagram.com/p/CE4BCE1HnIy/. In this live, I talk about this experience with Roxana, my new friend, we met in this exchange.  While I was in quarantine in London, she was joining the course from Italy.

However, my experience did not end there. I also ventured into the Santander Scholarships programme that was promoted by the Global Virtual Opportunities. I applied to complete a short course at Georgetown University called Social Innovation and Enhancing Financial Inclusion in the Digital Age. The process to apply was surprisingly easy for such a competitive opportunity. I first created an account on the Santander Becas Portal  https://www.becas-santander.com and applied directly to the university. For the application I needed: my grades , my C.V, a professor’s letter of recommendation and a 500 words essay on why this course was significant to me.

I must agree that it might be a little bit intimidating to ask a professor for a recommendation letter. Especially because in the current situation we do not connect with professors as much as we would do if we had face to face lectures, but do not be shy, email different professors explaining what you are applying for, why is it is important to you and if they could kindly write a letter of recommendation for you as it is a requisite to apply. In my case, I emailed the professor of one of my best modules. I often participated in her seminar and therefore she knew me well. This allowed her to write a more complete and honest letter. Don’t by shy! Opportunities like this are worth it!

A couple of months later I was notified that I had been granted one of the 52 global scholarships. Each scholarship granted was carefully selected from many applications from people all around the world. My colleges were from Spain, Argentina, Chile, the UK, Colombia, and other countries. We all had different academic backgrounds, from economists to doctors.

For me, the most significant part of participating in this virtual global opportunity is that I got a global perspective on global issues. By this I mean, learning about social innovation and financial inclusion from such diverse group of people, including professors who were leaders in their field, gave me a very complete perspective of the issues we face and the possible solutions I could be part of! In a globalised world, having a global perspective of global issues is invaluable. Among my colleagues were people both from the developed world as well as developing countries, they were doctors, economists, financial experts, computer scientists, app developers, mathematicians and entrepreneurs. Together, we thought of well-rounded solutions to global issues. This is invaluable but difficult to achieve, as it is not every day that you can have a global environment with leaders on these fields in the same place for the same purpose. This is why I really insist you take advance of the global virtual opportunities Goldsmiths facilitates for you.

My first advice to you is to organise your term time early and participate in a Erasmus virtual exchange (free and accessible to everybody) that enrich the topics of your favourite module! It will enrich your seminars and help you write better essays as well as making new friends.

My second advice to you, is to plan your summer term in advance and apply early for those opportunities that you require funding for! The timing prior your exams, right before summer, you will be too busy to do so!

All yours,

Antonia

P.D: good luck! You got this!

You can find out about the latest opportunities to gain international experience at Goldsmiths at www.gold.ac.uk/students/go-abroad/ or contact goabroad@gold.ac.uk

To check out the Santander funded opportunities visit: https://www.becas-santander.com/en

To find out more about Santander Universities visit: https://www.santander.co.uk/universities

‘Countering Hate Speech’ – an Erasmus virtual experience

Antonia Morena Olivares, a BA Politics & International Relations student, has completed an Erasmus+ virtual experience over the summer holidays. ‘Countering Hate Speech’ is a 5-week interactive online course where participants engage with online content and meet with others to discuss and exchange ideas.

The course is centred on understanding what hate speech is, the forms it can take, its causes and consequences, how it is regulated, and what place it takes in our societies. Crucially, the course is designed to provide participants with strategies on how to counter hate speech and promote an open society.

Antonia discusses her experience with fellow participant Roxana on her Instagram Live: instagram.com/p/CE4BCE1HnIy/

Mapping COVID-19 pandemic response apps

Yanyi Lu, an MA Computational Arts student, has completed a virtual research project at the University of Amsterdam Digital Methods School. This project brought together participants from across the globe to research the role that mobile apps play in the COVID-19 pandemic response. Yanyi received funding of £355 from Goldsmiths to cover the costs of the placement.

Check out Yanyi’s Instagram post for an overview of the project: instagram.com/p/CEFeEj9nNtA/

Read Yanyi’s blog on the project on her website: yanyilu.wordpress.com/2020/08/19/mapping-apps/

See Yanyi’s Instagram post about useful tools when conducting a social science research project: instagram.com/p/CEFdv0THEdm/

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual summer school in Mindfulness and Compassion

Davy Yong, MA Art Psychotherapy student, completed a virtual summer school at the University of Amsterdam. Davy received a grant of £225 to cover the cost of the placement, and has written a series of insightful blog posts about the experience. 

Hi there! My name is Davy, a MA in Art Psychotherapy student at Goldsmiths – University of London. This summer my university offered me a GoAbroad grant for the chance to experience a virtual exchange or study abroad (virtual global opportunity). In a few interactive blogs, I will be sharing some of my experiences with you, just to give some insight into what it was like to (virtually) study ‘abroad’.

When, due to COVID-19, the University closed for face-to-face lectures, and my internship came to an abrupt ending, I was glad the global opportunity came along. While in my final stages of training to become an Art Psychotherapist, I expanded on my interests to implement more contemplative practices into my future profession. That’s why it was an easy choice to follow a Summer School Course in Mindfulness and Compassion at UvA (University of Amsterdam).

To read Davy’s blog posts, please visit linktr.ee/davyyong, or find links to the individual posts below. 

Blog #1: Summer School in Mindfulness & Compassion

Blog #2: Emotion Regulation

Blog #3: Myths & Practice of Mindfulness

Blog #4: Experiencing & Sharing Compassion

Blog #5: Mindfulness-based Art Therapy

Featured Artwork: ‘Roaring Fire’ (2020)

A Global Opportunity from my Living Room

Maisie Goulsbra, a BA English & Media graduate, is completing a free online summer school at the University of Cologne titled ‘Perspectives and Visions on Virtual Societies’. Maisie is writing a series of blog posts about her experience of completing a virtual global opportunity.  

I have to admit, I’m entering this experience with my heart slightly broken. Sitting at the dinner table, in my student house, in London. If it were not for lockdown, I would be in Cologne. Two weeks before the summer school begins, we meet via Zoom for a tutorial on how to use Discord, the platform on which all interaction outside of lectures will take place. In the Cologne Summer School Discord channel, are private chat rooms that we, the students, can make use of to have discussions and ‘socialise’. There is a virtual ‘playground’, and even a digi bar which will act as a substitute for going to the pub together. I can’t help imagining the sweetness of German wheat beer on my tongue as the digi bar sits and awaits me.

Read Maisie’s full post: ‘A Global Opportunity from my Living Room’

Blog number two: ‘Introversion and the internet’. The illustration in this blog post has been created by Molly Rafferty – check out their Instagram at instagram.com/r.afferty/

Blog number three: ‘Data privacy

Find Maisie’s website at maisiegoulsbra.com.

Studying abroad in Berlin during Covid-19

Sam Sweeting, a BA Anthropology and Visual Practice student, studied abroad through the Erasmus+ programme at Freie Universität Berlin during the lockdown period of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

My exchange experience took place in Berlin over the lockdown of Covid-19. I had a very different exchange experience to the one I was imagining, but by the end it felt normal. People are quick to adapt. It was almost the case that I didn’t complete the exchange, as it was cancelled when lockdown began in the UK. By chance, I had travelled to Berlin for work before Goldsmiths ended its face to face teaching. Everything happened quickly and European countries rapidly closed their borders, Germany being ahead of the UK in that decision. I found myself living under the German government’s advice to stay home and self isolate. I decided, given the fact that I was safe and staying with friends in Berlin, and that my family is in Australia and I wasn’t going to be able to go back, that it was right for me to stay in Berlin. Thanks to the Erasmus team at Goldsmiths consideration of personal circumstances, I was able to carry on with the exchange and receive my Erasmus funding as planned.

Freie Universität were adaptive and considerate, and overhauled their summer semester quickly so that it was feasible to run online. Because of the short notice of an online semester, the format was slightly different. Instead of taking a strictly anthropological subject as per my degree, I was able to select a suitable subject from a pool of many across parallel disciplines. I ended up choosing a subject grounded in literature and theory that was still relevant to my degree in Anthropology – ‘Reading the City’. While ‘reading’ the city in a physical and tangible way wasn’t always easy, it was great to be able to learn about Berlin in depth through text and film while living there. It added a layer to my experience of the city, even if it was unconventional and abstract.

I found community building difficult, mostly for personal reasons/preference. I was staying with old good friends, so I felt like I already had an intimate community and due to Covid-19 it wasn’t the right time to be fostering new connections. As time has passed and restrictions have relaxed it has been easier to facilitate community building, however, I have remained far less social than usual. I found having existing friends in the city really helpful given the circumstances, making it easier to remain connected, even if only via phone during lockdown. Freie Universität put together a great semester in terms of considering widely varying personal circumstances, offering optional workshops for those who might want or need a form of community building through an online platform. Germany as a whole, felt a safe and responsive place to be through lockdown. There seemed to be a general feeling of trust in the guidelines, and people collectively respected rules such as mask wearing indoors and social distancing.

The hardest challenge for me was coming to terms with engaging with a new city at a time when the city was not really prepared to open up to you. This definitely felt strange at times, being away from the UK, however not at all attached to Berlin either. But many people have experienced something similar at this time, feeling the effect of limbo. While it wasn’t what I had imagined, it has been an experience I would definitely recommend to future students. The fact that it was online actually allowed for a lot of flexibility and freedom. I bought a bike, and spent a lot of time cycling and learning the city in a spatially engaged way, even if it was a more socially distanced experience, it was worthwhile.

Interning Remotely in South Africa

Malikah Ullah, an undergraduate Psychology student, is currently completing a remote internship with South African non-profit, Ikamva Labantwana. She was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement. Malikah is blogging about her experience of interning virtually – read part one below. Part two and three are available on Malikah’s blog, malikahsblog.co.uk

Since June, I have been an intern at South Africa’s Ikamva Labantwana which means ‘our children’s future’ in Xhosa. As a centre for at-risk children, I identify with the beliefs of Ikamva strongly; especially on the importance of education. By providing local young people who are out-of-school or need support after-school with informative and practical modules, they allow students to keep learning and not be held back by geography or circumstance. Not only is Ikamva a learning space, it is a safe haven for kids and a productive use of their time.

This internship was organised by VACorps who worked swiftly to secure me an internship that suited my personality. I was looking for something that would involve people and helping people, which Ikamva focus on. It was a perfect match! Not only was internship a quick and easy match, I was supported by #SantanderUniUK who provided funding making sure finance didn’t put me off.

I think the opportunity to do a remote internship has been one positive to come from COVID (maybe the only good thing!). Due to travel restrictions, internships in South Africa’s townships have been made possible which were otherwise too rural to reach. Not only has working at Ikamva been rewarding, but I’ve learnt a ton about how to conduct research and make raw data and information both engaging and teachable. As a psychology student, this internship has allowed me real-life experience conducting research on sensitive subjects, including sexual violence, in order to create a final informative yet understanding piece which could be communicated to young girls. This is not unlike producing lab reports or communicating research products to the public as we do in my course.

A part of this research was attending a Zoom talk about how COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affecting women in Africa. It was hosted by Africa.com and attended by the awesome politician and humanitarian Graca Machel and philanthropist Melinda Gates. Both women had great ideas about how having a seat at the table on all levels of the government and policy-making boards will benefit all women up as they become a part of the decision-making process. This was actually an opportunity that was put on my radar by my supervisor at Ikamva; it was excellent to see how far women supporting women can get you.

For one of my tasks, I had the challenge of creating a life skills module just for girls aged 10-17 years old on issues that they felt were neglected in school including bullying, consent and having tangible female role models. I took this responsibility extremely seriously and worked hard to find black women who had done great work and changed all of our lives in some way – to which there were many! I wanted to select a few who could inspire the girls and show them that there is no limit to what they could do and become. One problem that the girls fed back was feeling underappreciated and having achievement go unrewarded. At Ikamva, they created an annual showcase for the girls’ work in response to this. This aptly sums up how Ikamva is there to help and develop the youth.

By working with such an ethos, it follows suit that the staff are lovely and very accommodating. It’s been nice to have prompt communication and feedback especially now that my first year at university has concluded. Keeping busy is also important since I have been shielding at home since March! In this sense, remotely interning in a country with a different society and other languages than mine has been a great opportunity that I definitely didn’t want to pass up.

Meetings via Zoom have posed their own challenges with timing differences and issues with connectivity, but it always works out in the end. Technology is really the thing that made this internship possible. I feel privileged to intern at a place that keeps in contact, check in on me and that provides proper support.

Maybe next year I will be in South Africa in person but for now, I’m super happy to work around my own schedule and I am enjoying working from home.

For part two and three, please visit malikahsblog.co.uk.

Interning at the Rivendell Art and Retreat Center in The Canary Islands

Isabella Jones, a Design student, interned at the Rivendell Art and Retreat Center in La Palma, The Canary Islands for her Erasmus Traineeship. 

Obtaining my placement

I was offered an internship at the Rivendell Art and Retreat Center in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. It is an eco-center with a theatrical twist that invites groups to host workshops related to creative and ecological topics, as well as wellbeing. I sourced this placement through networking within the areas of my interest.

My Design brief consisted of two parts. My first task was the designing of a promotional campaign.

I started with Photography to have a base and feel for the campaign.

Here are some examples of graphics created. Signs had been made ready to start the promotion by resident artists. This allowed me to translate an existing aesthetic into graphics.

 

 

The second part of my design brief was to design a water and therapy pool. 

A Tea Bag Project 

Below is an art project I also helped create with dyed recycled teabag material. This is the most fancy tool box I have ever worked on!

Challenges and learning points

The challenges at Rivendell included remaining focused with an array of jobs, visitors and animals all needing attention. However, I am confident that both my skills as a promoter and as a photographer as developed during my internship have armed me for my final year at Goldsmiths.

The whole point of a placement abroad is to submerge oneself into a different routine and culture. Enriching not only ones personal and academic work but also adding textures and memories that can open up new pathways and thoughts. I never know where my feet will take me, but where ever I go, I record my story with a visual diary. Creating visual poetry and capturing not just the views but feelings
of a place, the good and less positive aspects as well.

My visual diary

I always feel like I can thoroughly soak myself in a place through my camera lens and even when I decide to leave my camera at home, that attention to detail allows me to discover stories within the wood of an old peeling door, a barking dog in a remote backyard or a dusty volcanic rock. The following photos are examples of my visual diary. Its not just the photos, but the combination of feelings caused when they are placed together.

The archaeology of the island

I am fascinated by experimental archeology and La Palma is an island with a turbulent political and historic past. From the natives on the island, the ‘Benahoritas’ with their advanced knowledge in astronomy and mysterious rock engravings, to the Spanish conquest in the 14th Century. It’s amazing to study traces of these past cultures within the architecture of the cities and the wild places of the islands, and through the many legends and stories.

 

Experimental Workshops

As well as exploring the volcanic landscape, I also organized a role playing event in the local valley. One moment that delighted me was when I met a lady who had worked as a telescope software programmer (The island has a world famous astronomical observatory) and I led an experimental workshop creating
cardboard shields with runic and Elven inscriptions. I translated “Cat” into runes for my new friend. It goes to show, no matter your job, creating a low-res designed object can bring out the playfulness that we all hold inside of us and that really defines for me, the joy of being at Rivendell. After an epic battle with biodegradable water balloons, the ‘Elven’ queen beat the ‘Ringwraith’ king and we restored peace to the valley once more (The passing tourist’s faces were priceless).

Volunteering as a English and German Teacher in Greece

Giulia, a Media and Communications student, volunteered as an English and German teacher for a non-governmental organisation called Respect for Greece in Athens, Greece for her Erasmus+ Traineeship.  

How did you source your placement? 

At the beginning, I applied for the European Solidarity Corps – a website suggested by the Go Abroad Team – but unfortunately I did not receive a response. Nonetheless, the Go Abroad Team gave some helpful tips on how to continue searching for placements. In the end, I found my placement online by googling ‘Volunteer work in Greece’.

What were the highlights of your experience abroad?

One highlight of my experience abroad was the day I said goodbye to my language teaching organisation. Not because I was leaving – on the contrary – but because I was surprised me with a goodbye party by my colleagues. We had a delicious Arabic barbecue and we danced traditional Greek and Arabic dances all night. In addition, meeting wonderful and brave people from all over the world (mostly the Middle East) was a privilege. We shared personal stories with each other and taught each other phrases from our respective languages. This was an important shared experience.

What was your daily routine and how did it differ from being at home?

Apart from Mondays, which I usually used to prepare my classes or write the reports for my managers, I worked every day during the working week for between four and seven hours. My work included giving English and German lessons, facilitating a weekly animation workshop and organizing activities for a local women’s shelter. I also, participated in a lot of other activities in my free time, such as volunteer meetings, psychology or child protection workshops and festivals. It was great to work and live with other volunteers because we were like a family.

The experience was different from being at home as I was always surrounded by and interacting with other people. At home, I have more time to organically think about my daily experiences so in Greece I had to actively be conscious of making time for myself to do that. Also working with vulnerable people everyday made me have to become flexible in my approach to work, something that I did not have to contend with before.

What were your top challenges while abroad?

The way in which my organisation was structured led to a lot of challenges. Upon arrival, there was no introductory workshop on how to look after refugees that have suffered from traumatic experiences. This resulted in an uncomfortable experience in which my supervisors left me and another inexperienced volunteer on our own with a group of twenty kids including a child in a wheelchair. A child with special needs cried and screamed a lot, and we didn’t know how to help or what to do and we couldn’t communicate with them because of the language barrier. I made it my duty to communicate this issue in feedback sessions, which resulted in the social workers creating much needed workshops to prepare volunteers for such potentially stress-filled scenarios.

What did you gain from your experience abroad? 

There were many times when I wanted to quit the placement, but I learnt how to stay strong, how to make the best out of certain situations and to be optimistic. Also, this experience made me think about my daily problems that now seem so small compared to the things that asylum seekers experience. As a result I am trying to find a way in which I can use my privilege to make the world a better place.

In addition, working with professional social workers and psychologists has improved my understanding of theories of inclusion and integration; having in person training has allowed me to put these these theories into practice, to the extent that I have learnt how to intervene when someone is struggling with depression or the memories of traumatic experiences.

When it comes to my teaching, I know now that a good structure and organisation is key to everything. In Greece, structuring my lessons with the kids was the best decision as I couldn’t do things spontaneously like other volunteers sometimes did. Though my experience also highlighted the benefit of a spontaneous, solely student guided approach that is often present when you are working with vulnerable people who don’t have a structured life.

What are your top tips for students about to go abroad?

The first tip is to never give up. As cheesy as it sounds, you will feel so good at the end when everything is over because you achieved something you can be proud of. It’s almost impossible not to struggle when being abroad, but the hard times will pass. You will learn so much more about the world, different cultures and yourself.  My second tip is: be open-minded. Try things you’ve never done before, go and meet locals and discover hidden spots in the city. Just live with an open heart and mind and try to get to know as many people from as many different cultures as you can. Don’t let stereotypes or fear stop you from doing things.

Volunteering at MEMPROW SA in Johannesburg, South Africa

This Fine Art student volunteered at a women’s empowerment and enabling organisation called MEMPROW SA, in South Africa. She was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement. 

How did you find your placement?

I visited South Africa to implement Healing and Empowering Art workshops for Women. I was employed by an organisation called MEMPROW SA, a women’s empowerment and enabling organisation who aim to combat sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). MEMPROW have a base at a drop-in centre called Sithand’Izingane Care project in Tsakane Township, Johannesburg, South Africa which supports residents who may be unemployed by providing short courses and skills to get them into work. 

My involvement with the organisation began in 2018 when I was part of a team that was implementing workshops within the centre. Later on, I was asked to go back to continue the much needed work. Luckily, the Goldsmiths Go Abroad Scheme funded the workshops in 2019, so I was able to implement an elevated set of workshops with more women at Sithand’Izingane Care Project.  The workshops were 4 days long, and consisted of poetry and spoken word, life drawing, self-reflective sculpture and an Exhibition on the final day where the community would come to see the work and contribute to the conversation surrounding SGBV and women’s empowerment through art.  

What was the highlight of your experience volunteering abroad? 

The highlight of the experience was the exhibition where all the women opened the dialogue about the work that they had made and the positive impact the workshops had on them. We had a screening of videos from the previous 3 days of the workshop so that the visitors could see the process as well as the finished products. 

What was your daily routine like and how did this differ from being at home? 

My daily routine was as follows: 

7.30 am  8.30 am 

  • Rise and breakfast  
  • Take agenda for the day’s workshop and necessary materials and equipment 

8.30am – 10.00 am  

  • Arrive on site Sithand’Izingane 
  •  Prepare the space with appropriate materialsequipment and presentation for the arrival of participants 

10.00 am  

  • Arrival of participants and icebreaker activities 
  • Begin implementation of workshop activities

This is very different from my routine at home which has less structure and doesn’t include presenting and teaching groups of women. One thing that I found challenging was witnessing the oppression of women first-hand and feeling like my safety was at risk at some points because of the high rates of sexual violence and abuse of women. 

What did you gain from your experience abroad? 

Professionally speaking, my ability to teach people in a clear and focused manner so that they can be properly motivated within my workshops has improved immensely. On an academic note, the experience affirmed my understanding of the intricacies of SGBV in South Africa; namely the different factors that lead to it such as poverty and colonisation. Personally, the experience also taught me to have more gratitude for the privileges I have such as  basic human necessities that others don’t have access to

What tips do you have for students who are about to go abroad? 

I do recommend for anyone who is planning on going aboard to volunteer that they do their research, speak to the people you are volunteering with and be open. Ask the community what they need or what you can do for them and keep in mind that what applies in UK cannot always be readily applied to other countries.