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Tech in Berlin: conference and Hackathon

BSc Computer Science student, Jheng-Hao Lin, travelled to Berlin for a week to participate in a conference and a Hackathon. He received £500 of funding to support his experience.


Thanks to Santander’s Go International Bursary, I had the chance to travel to Berlin and attend two interesting tech events: ‘Berlin Buzzwords Conference’ and ‘Talk to me, Berlin’.

‘Berlin Buzzwords’ was a conference on storing, processing and searching large amounts of digital data. The attendants were either data scientists, data engineers or researchers who were experts in the domain. As a novice in the data science area, I worked as a volunteer to assist the event and tried to absorb some knowledge.

For the last three days, I attended a hackathon named ‘Talk to me, Berlin’. It was sponsored by the Amazon Alexa team, Google and other companies related voice interface technologies.

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Virtual Summer School in Cologne

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.

Remote South African NGO Internship

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.


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 Malikah’s blog.

Volunteering at MEMPROW SA in Johannesburg

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.  

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Writing Course at Humboldt University, Berlin

Sean, a Visual Cultures student, attended a four-week writing course at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. He was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of his placement.


I became aware of the Go Abroad programme when a peer on my course notified me that funding for placements abroad over the summer were available. Upon hearing this information, I immediately searched through the Go Abroad website for opportunities. I was delighted to find that placements in Berlin were available on writing so I applied for a course at Humboldt University.

I loved everything about my experience abroad, but I especially enjoyed the privilege of getting to live in such a busy city in the centre of Europe in the middle of a hot summer! Berlin itself is amazingly vibrant, as it is a leading figure of many trends in contemporary culture and immersed in history. The character of Berlin itself was a major influence on my experience abroad and taught me so much about the history of Europe and obviously the history of Berlin as a bordered city.

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Data Science Summer School in Wrocław, Poland

Sam, a Media and Communications student, attended a two-week data science summer school in Wrocław, Poland. He was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of his placement.


I decided I wanted to take advantage of the Go Abroad programme but came to the idea quite late. Looking around on the internet, I came across the Data Science summer school in Wrocław. I’d always wanted to try and work on my computer programming skills after several aborted attempts at self-education throughout my adulthood, and I’d never been to Poland but I knew that it has a fascinating history, so I took the plunge.

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Peer-Coaching in Ljubljana, Slovenia

This ICCE student completed an eight-day peer-coaching course in Ljubljana, Slovenia. They were awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of their placement.


In August of 2019 I travelled to Ljubljana in Slovenia for an 8-day peer-coaching course. I found the course through the Erasmus website, and it seemed to be one of the only peer-coaching training programmes in Europe. The course was organised by a company called Primera, and they are one of the kindest, most thoughtful training providers I’ve ever worked with. There were so many little details – they bought us croissants every morning, they organised a trip to show us less well-known parts of Slovenia, they adapted the training to suit each person’s needs, at one point the trainer even offered to lend one of my course mates her car!

Although the training was academically very useful for me and has progressed my understanding of the topic, the highlight for me was working closely with so many Europeans (I was the only British person on the course). It enabled me to understand how open, multi-cultural, and outward looking a lot of European people are, and I noticed a real difference in their outlook as compared to British citizens. I have tried to take this new perspective home with me, and to take more of an interest in things happening outside my immediate bubble. Another highlight was the food! I had a few absolutely incredible meals there, normally in restaurants recommended by the training providers or people on my course.

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Studying French at the Alliance Française de Toulouse

Serena Yang, a International ICCE student, completed a two-week French course at the Alliance Française of Toulouse in France. She was awarded funding by Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement.


How did you find your placement?

I discovered that I could receive funding to go abroad when I saw some information about the programme in the Goldsmiths app, where, at the team had been making a concerted effort to showcase global opportunities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the programme is open to students from non-Eu countries, so I booked a meeting with the global opportunities team. It was during this meeting that I decided to apply for a place on a two week French course at the Alliance Française de Toulouse.

What were the highlights of your experience abroad? 

My two-week French class at the Alliance Française Language School in Toulouse allowed me to learn not only the language but also the local culture. I was able to truly immerse myself in the language because I was consistently surrounded and influenced by the city’s linguistic practices. In addition, my classmates were made up of individuals from all over the world, which meant that I was able to gain an insight into the various linguistic approaches of people from other nations, as we were all grappling with French in our own unique way. Through this process, I created many close connections, especially with a fellow classmate from South Africa.

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Volunteering as an Au Pair in Spain

Madeleine, a History student, volunteered as an au pair for a Spanish family in Madrid, Spain. She was awarded funding by Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement.


At the beginning of August 2019, I hopped on a train from Yorkshire and just over a day later I arrived in Madrid, Spain. I made use of the Go Abroad funding by purchasing an interrail ticket and using trains instead of planes to reduce my carbon footprint. After having studied Spanish for just 7 months I was eager to use it in practice, but didn’t want this experience to cost the earth! Through the organization AuPairWorld, I found a host family online who I would be staying with for the next month in return for helping their children with English.

The highlights of my time abroad range from the feeling as huge as being whisked into Madrid’s mountains on an old rickety train, to engaging in Spanish conversation at a coffee shop. Spain has such a variety of landscapes on offer, from poolside paradises to luscious green forests. It was such a thrill every time to be able to hear the Spanish language all around me!

a young blonde woman jumping in the air against the backdrop of a multi-colour painted wall

My daily routine involved getting up with the family to help the kids start their day and then learn English through play. We baked scones, read stories and even watched the Chuckle brothers! In the evenings I set out to my Spanish classes where I improved my understanding of tenses and demystified many lexical definitions. Lesson learnt: ‘embarazada’ means pregnant…not embarrassed! My daily routine differed from being at home as the lifestyle was centered around being outdoors. The sun was almost always shining which meant that the children had much more freedom to enjoy nature and be active!

My top challenge whilst being abroad was staying in tune with the Spanish language. It was so easy to switch off and let the language wash over me, instead of truly participating. I was prepared for the fast pace of native speakers, but did not anticipate that it becomes tiring to be actively listening and digging deep into my brain to produce an unfamiliar language. But this is also something I improved at over time by spotting commonly used phrases and making note of them, to try and embed them deeper into my own vocabulary.

From my experience abroad I learnt a lot about myself and my interactions with other cultures. I gained a better understanding of Spanish politics and how this is influenced by their culture and history, which like any European country, plays a strong role in forming the Spanish identity. Professionally I reaffirmed the lesson that you should always give 100% to everything you do otherwise you will live in regret. This is especially important when working with children as they require so much encouragement, and you are forming lifelong memories. In an academic sense, I learnt that becoming fluent in a language is an all-encompassing task which requires huge reserves of patience and an ability to laugh at yourself and your mistakes!

My top tips for students about to go abroad would be to make the most of your location and get to know it from top to bottom. Take lots of photos and talk to the locals – they will point you in the direction that Trip Advisor cannot. I had the most incredible trip thanks to the fund, if I was eligible to go again I would do it in a heartbeat!

 

Summer School in Helsinki

Benjamin Morran, a PGCE student, attended a summer school on Finnish education at the University of Helsinki. They were awarded a £800 Santander Universities Go Abroad bursary to help cover their costs.


I first found out about Goldsmith’s Go Abroad programme through the language partner programme on the VLE. At first, I thought that I might apply to a language school to work on my Russian but, when I looked through the list of Goldsmith’s partner institutions, I spotted the University of Helsinki, which gave me an even better idea. Finland, in recent years, has come to be highly regarded for its education system on account of world-class PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results. As I was, at that time, halfway through my teacher training year, I decided to check the University of Helsinki’s summer school catalogue to see if they were offering a course on education and, sure enough, they were: Finnish education system through social justice and diversities, to be exact. This course, I thought, could really broaden my horizons as a new teacher and so I decided to apply to Goldsmiths for funding.

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