Friday, December 14, 2018

EURASIAN CHAPTER’s 2018: public diplomacy, trainings and more…

This year was rich of activities, yet difficult for many reasons. Namely, the community portal has not been working since April, due to the change of EMA’s service provider, which made it mpossible for us to contact our chapter’s members and access to the mailing lists per countries or per chapter. If you are our chapter’s member and haven’t heard from us for a while, this is the reason why. At present, we can only contact members registered in our Facebook groups (EMA Eurasian chapter and various countries’ groups) and those who have personally been in contact with us. Besides, no EMA/ESAA budget was available this year, so we had to rely exclusively on our local partners to fund all the events. Nevertheless, over 40 events were organised across our chapter in 2018. This is a non-exhaustive overview of the main directions of our activities this year.

Public diplomacy [JB emphasis] and internationalisation of higher education
In June, four chapter representatives, including three current board members (Natalia Bichurina, President, Armen Grigoryan and Meerim Karybaeva), as well as the former President Kateryna Shalayeva, were invited to participate in a meeting at the European Commission DG EAC headquarters in Brussels. The meeting brought together the representatives of the DG EAC, several EU delegations worldwide and several EMA members. It was aimed at sharing good practice and innovative ideas on Erasmus+ activities and on wider public diplomacy initiatives. At the meeting, Natalia Bichurina and Kateryna Shalayeva gave presentations, drawing on Chapter’s successful activities. (For more details click here)
Focus on Central Asia: in preliminary surveys carried out by the Chapter in 2016-2017, Central Asia was identified as one of the key regions where EMA activities are needed. In March, a survey consisting of a series of interviews and discussions held by Natalia Bichurina with current CRs from Central Asian countries (Adiba Muminova, Firdavs Badalov, Madina Karsakpayeva and Meerim Karybaeva) allowed to specify the problematic issues existing in these countries in relation to the higher education. Indeed, students who participated in Erasmus Mundus programmes can provide meaningful comparative feedback, as they are acquainted with various higher education systems, in Central Asia (in their home countries, usually for their first university degree), and in several EU countries (for their Mundus Masters or PhD degrees). This comparison allowed identifying areas for improvement in higher education across Central Asia and in Europe, focusing on the link between education and professional development.

On 14-16 March 2018, Natalia gave two presentations in Warsaw at the Central Asia Education Platform (CAEP) Regional Conference. The Conference was hosted by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Poland, and brought together representatives from the European Commission, Ministers or high representatives from Ministries of education and Ministries of labour of five Central Asian Countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and experts (for more details click here). On 8 and 9 October, Meerim Karybaeva represented the Chapter in Istanbul at the Central Asia contact seminar, which brought together HEIs from Erasmus+ Programme Countries and Central Asian countries (for more details click here).

Eastern Partnership countries: as in the previous years, the Eurasian chapter follows the work of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. This year, Chapter’s representative Sofiia Tretiak was selected by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum as an official observer for 2018-2019 for the Working group 4 “Contacts between people.” At national level, on September 19, the alumna Olga Novikova participated at the Regional Conference in Dnipro Eurointegration: Power of Opportunities, as a key-note speaker jointly with the Vice-Prime Minister of Ukraine.

Pre-Departure Orientation events
The Eurasian chapter strongly insists on organising in-person Pre-Departure Orientation seminars (PDOs) in as many countries throughout our region as possible, as such events are an exceptional opportunity not only for transmitting knowledge and experience, but also for strengthening the EMA community. Besides, recent alumni state that such events are an important step for their reintegration after coming back home from their Erasmus Mundus experience.

This year five in-person PDOs were held throughout our chapter’s region, including two two-day event, in Russia and Ukraine, which allowed for a variety of workshops and seminars:
  • Kyrgyzstan on June 30 (organised by Meerim Karybaeva),
  • Ukraine on July 6-7 (by Oleksandr Ivanov): two-days PDO with 27 newly selected students and 13 alumni (including virtual participation from Switzerland, France and Japan), representatives of several Embassies of the EU member-states and the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine.
  • Armenia on July 13 (by Armen Grigoryan):  attended by 10 newly selected students, in cooperation with the National Erasmus+ Office in Armenia and with the participation of the head of Consular section of the Embassy of Czech Republic in Armenia.
  • Belarus on July 13 (by Anna Novitskaya): attended by 7 newly selected students and 1 alumna (the PDO was organised in Belarus for the first time).
  • Russia on 9-10 August (by Natalia Bichurina): an intensive two-days PDO in Moscow, including trainings, seminars and interactive sessions held by EMA members with 52 newly selected students and 10 alumni, coming from 18 cities throughout Russia; lectures and social events with the EU Ambassador to Russia and EUD representatives, as well as meetings with the representatives of several Embassies of the EU member-states.

Where possible, the Chapter insists on the importance of inviting alumni coming r om outside the capital cities: the experience of participating in the PDO can empower them to become active EMA representatives locally and initiate their own projects. PDOs in other countries were unfortunately impossible this time, mainly due to the lack of information regarding newly-selected students.

Trainings and workshops

The Chapter organises various types of trainings throughout the region. One type of them is specifically aimed at students willing to apply for studying abroad scholarships, in order to promote the internationalisation of higher education and youth mobility. These workshops provide tips on successful application for Erasmus+ programmes, including writing motivation letters, research projects etc. Another type is an interactive intercultural training based on concrete experience of the Erasmus+ alumni and situations of miscommunication that they encountered (based on a preliminary survey and filmed interviews by Natalia Bichurina). This year, on April 23 two such trainings were held by Natalia in Saint- Petersburg, Russia, at the premises of the Institut français (opened by the Consul General of France and the Director of the Institut français). On July 9-10, she delivered two workshops in Ekaterinburg, where 38 students from the Urals region and Siberia were taking part in a five-days European study week.

Besides, workshops on mobility across the EU were delivered by Oleksandr Ivanov at the EU Study Days in Kherson, on June 15, and the EU Study Days in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, on July 12. He also moderated the EU Ambassador's meeting with EU Study Days Alumni at the EU Study Days II Alumni Forum on September 14-15 in Kyiv. Another workshop on Erasmus Mundus opportunities was held by Oleksandr on September 19.
On November 6-7 Erasmus+ Information Days were held in Armenia, where Armen Grigoryan and Edith Soghomonyan presented the Erasmus+ programme and application process.  A part from such workshops, a practical webinar was held for six newly elected regional chapter boards, where Natalia shared the Eurasian chapter’s approach on building a consistent and informed chapter’s strategy and organising chapter’s work.

EMA members also participated in Higher education fairs in seven cities across our Chapter’s region, in cooperation with the European Commission (coordinated by Sofiia Tretiak, board member, and Natalia Bichurina): in Astana on 29 September; Almaty on 30 September; Bishkek on 2 October; Shymkent on 4 October; Tbilisi on 13 October; Baku on 14 October; and Kyiv on 16 October.

Many other activities can be found in the Chapter’s report for 2018 (write to board.eurasian.chapter(at)em-a(dot)eu)

Video reports from our events:
PDO in Ukraine:

PDO in Moscow: In-person PDO allowed for media coverage of Erasmus+ alumni experience in general (video testimonials in Russian):

Report by: Natalia bichurina, President of EMA Eurasian Chapter.

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