Exploring the ‘unexpected’ in internationalisation

Exploring the ‘unexpected’ in internationalisation EAIE Forum

As international educators, we all wear blinders of some sort, be they in the form of geography, language, or the tunnel vision we often develop for our chosen areas of specialisation. What kinds of unexpected developments are taking place in the field, and what are their impacts? Furthermore, what counts as ‘unexpected’ in a field whose perspectives are as diverse as the global society we live and work in? The Winter 2018 issue of Forum magazine grapples with these meaty topics, and today we kick off Forum Week on the blog with some initial thoughts from Forum Editor and EAIE Publications Committee Chair Laura Rumbley.

For many of us in Europe and elsewhere, the end of the calendar year is marked by much-anticipated holiday festivities. These celebrations are replete with tradition – familiar foods, age-old music, annual gatherings in well-known settings. We’ve seen it all before and we’ll see it all again, which is often extremely comforting and reassuring. The same can be true in our professional lives, as well. We’re well acquainted with our constituencies, with our programmes and institutional cultures, with our international counterparts and partners, and (of course) with the challenges of getting it all done. We’re old hands at this!

But the world is a big place and the field of internationalisation in higher education continues to evolve and expand. With these developments, it can be important (and exceedingly stimulating!) to realise that there is much afoot with which we’re not so deeply familiar; there is always more to learn. This kind of realisation is what makes the theme of the newest issue of Forum magazine – ‘unexpected internationalisation’ – so interesting to consider. How widely does our knowledge about current trends and issues in internationalisation really extend? What new developments and insights are pushing the limits on established policy and longstanding practice? Are we aware of what’s currently being tested out and what’s being learned about internationalisation in different countries and in different types of institutions?

A focus on unexpected internationalisation invites us to really open our eyes, to look carefully around, and to be genuinely curious about what’s happening in our field near and far. The articles in this issue of Forum indeed cover wide ground in the quest to capture insights into the ‘unexpected’. Among other things, we’re provided with perspectives on internationalisation efforts and approaches in the universities of Siberia, a region which has traditionally had to contend with an image of isolation and significant distance from other parts of the world. We’re called to consider how universities along the new ‘Silk Road’ across China, Central Asia and beyond may engage internationally in highly dynamic and innovative ways in the coming years. We’re encouraged to explore the unexpectedly wide impact of short-term work placement experiences on students and their sending institutions and communities in Ireland. And we’re tipped off to initiatives in both the Netherlands and Japan, where internationalisation of education is increasingly a focus in primary and secondary education. Who knew, right?

Well, maybe you knew about some of these trends and issues. But another key insight raised by a consideration of ‘unexpected internationalisation’ is that what is unexpected to one person may be completely familiar or unremarkable to another. In this way, we’re reminded once again that our individual perspectives – shaped by context, opportunity, ignorance, privilege and many other factors – need to be questioned and challenged constantly, if we’re serious about cultivating a nimble, 360-degree view of this complex world in which we live and work.

From my perspective, internationalisation – as a process fundamentally linked to the concept of change – is inherently about risk-taking. Risk involves tackling the unknown and dealing with ambiguity. Our interview in this issue touches on these notions of uncertainty by helping us understand some of the contours of the field of science diplomacy, which is focused on the quest to preserve the world’s vast spaces “beyond sovereign jurisdiction”, ie the oceans and atmosphere. Here, even in spaces where there are no national jurisdictions in play, international education – how we educate citizens to think in expansive, inclusive, and globally sensitive ways – really matters. Synergies across the domains of science, diplomacy and international education can offer unexpectedly exciting new ways for us to think about the value of our work to the health of society globally, across a remarkable timeline in the life of the planet.

We hope you’ll find that this issue of Forum magazine offers up some rich food for thought as you move through the familiar motions of wrapping up another eventful year, and that – unexpectedly or not – the new year ahead brings much satisfaction and success in your work to advance responsible, ethical, high impact international education.

Unexpected internationalisation

From South Africa to Siberia, from the Arctic to the high seas, learn more about the most innovative and unexpected instances of internationalisation in the Winter 2018 issue of Forum, the EAIE member magazine.

Laura E. Rumbley
Boston College Center for International Higher Education, USALaura is Associate Director of the Boston College Center for International Higher Education and currently serves as Chair of the EAIE Publications Committee.