2023 Summer Forum call for submissions: Well-being without borders

2023 Summer Forum call for submissions EAIE Forum

The 2023 Summer edition of EAIE Forum magazine is now accepting submissions! This blog post elaborates on the issue theme of ‘Well-being without borders’ and explores a few topics and angles that will be well-suited for inclusion in the edition. Submit your article for consideration by 13 March. 

International experiences are all about venturing beyond our comfort zones to learn and grow – but no one ever said it was easy. Be it a full semester abroad, a COIL unit at our home institution, or bearing responsibility for hosting international staff or supporting students in far-away locations, it is precisely the differences and challenges encountered that lead students and staff participating in international activities to develop new skills and perspectives. At the same time, we know that these challenges also come with their share of stress.

International students are broadly considered a vulnerable group when it comes to mental health, with a higher risk of demonstrating signs of depression, anxiety or culture shock, and often tend to avoid psychological services on campus for a variety of reasons, such as fear of stigmatisation or language and cultural barriers. Additionally, staff at higher education institutions – whether participating in mobility themselves, or shepherding students through their own experiences – face a unique set of stressors. 

How can higher education institutions ensure environments that foster health and wellness among students and staff, and in what ways can international experiences themselves be leveraged to facilitate emotional resilience? These are the questions which the 2023 Summer edition of Forum magazine seeks to answer. This theme can be approached from a number of different angles, but the Publications Committee will be especially interested to receive submissions addressing some of the following topics.

Fostering a healthy campus environment

In recent years our collective awareness of the importance of fostering mental health, particularly among international students, has steadily grown, including recognition of what is often referred to as a ‘crisis’ in campus mental health. In light of this need, what is the role of higher education institutions, and what tools are at their disposal?

As pertains to not only international students but culturally diverse student bodies in general, how can HEIs build culturally-appropriate interventions that support positive coping and resilience? Similarly, what impact does an inclusive campus environment (or lack thereof) have on the mental health of not only students but other HEI stakeholders? How do language and language policy impact mental health among students and staff? Are there particular language policies that can be applied to highly international/multicultural campuses in order to make mental health services more accessible to all? Are there examples of institutional and/or curricular approaches to fostering mental health and well-being for all on campus?

Additionally, well-being is broader than mental and emotional health. In what ways can international educators better take into account holistic well-being with attention to aspects like physical wellness, social connections and sense of belonging? For example, how do organised sports, clubs and hobby groups, accommodation arrangements and amenities and wider community engagement play a role in addressing well-being for international students and staff? Are there other overlooked aspects of holistic well-being that HEIs should be attuned to? Submissions addressing one or more of these aspects of creating healthy environments in higher education will make a valuable contribution to this edition of Forum magazine.

Lessons learned from recent crises

While concerns about (international) student health and well-being have grown gradually over the years, recent history has confronted us with two acute crises with heavy implications in this area: the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With the pandemic in many ways behind us (or at least a ‘known quantity’ in our current understanding of things), and the conflict in Ukraine reaching its first anniversary, reflection on these two emergency situations is fertile ground for thinking about health and well-being.

What have HEIs, student counsellors and psychologists learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of student and staff mental health? Are there emerging best practices for addressing mental health and well-being among international students? What are the repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine for physical and mental health? How can HEIs generally, and relevant staff specialists specifically, support the well-being of those directly or indirectly affected by the conflict? Reflections on lessons learned from these and other recent sector-wide challenges, and how these lessons can be applied to fostering health and well-being among students and staff, are welcome in this issue of Forum.

Conflict and physical safety

The conflict in Ukraine is, unfortunately, only the most recent in a long list of violent conflicts in recent years which have threatened the safety of students and scholars. In many cases these conflicts have resulted in people seeking refuge in European countries and higher education institutions, and in others they have had significant implications for those on the ground in conflict regions, be they students on exchange or scholars whose academic and personal freedom have come under threat.

In light of all we’ve learned as a sector in the last 7–8 years of cultivating expertise around supporting refugees at home, what are the particular mental health needs of displaced persons, and how can HEIs work to address them? What particular support is needed for students and staff seeking refuge from the conflict in Ukraine? Additionally, what work must be done to ensure the physical and mental health of scholars pursuing their work in conflict zones or under oppressive regimes? These considerations form a key aspect of ‘Well-being without borders’.

What about staff?

Academic and professional staff serve as important custodians of well-being on campus in good times and bad. What roles do various professionals play in ensuring a safe and positive learning and living environment? For example, what is the role of the mobility advisor in encouraging mental health and positive coping among students? Staff teaching in the health and welfare professions are also well-positioned to influence these fields – what role can they play in the broader conversation around well-being in higher education? How can an internationalised and multicultural approach to health and welfare education effect positive change? 

Last but not least, it is important to acknowledge HEI staff as not only facilitators of health and wellness, but also as individuals whose own well-being is deserving of consideration. Indeed, HEI staff are subject to their own unique sets of health stressors that require attention. What are the biggest obstacles to mental health among staff working in international education and other areas of our institutions that support this work? Are there issues in terms of staff mental health that are under-addressed? How has the pandemic impacted administrative work at HEIs, and how are staff responding to these new working conditions? 

EAIE members and non-members alike can submit their 800–1200 word article to publications@eaie.org by 13 March 2023. For more information on the issue theme, examples of article topics and guidelines for writing, see our page on Writing for the EAIE.