Member stories: a journey to managing an international office

Member stories: a journey to managing an international office

Next up in our series is Elisabeth Brunner-Sobanski, one of the newest Steering group members of the EAIE Expert Community, Internationalisation at Home (IaH). From Russia to Hungary to Austria, Elisabeth has had many experiences studying and working abroad. Read about her motivation for working in the international higher education field and what she finds most rewarding about her job.


What is your role at your institution?

For the last five years I am working as the Head of the International office at the University of Applied Sciences bfi Vienna. As a centralised office we are mainly responsible for counselling the management and the study programmes on strategic aspects of internationalisation. We support and look after incoming and outgoing students, lecturers and staff. Furthermore we are responsible for developing and implementing international projects and providing support for curriculum internationalisation. Our office is also the central contact point for our international partners and potential new partners.

Why did you decide to start working in the field of international higher education?

I studied abroad (Saint Petersburg State University, Russia), taught and lived abroad (Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary) and worked on several international projects. I always considered these experiences as life enhancing, which helped me to further develop. I am convinced that an international education can significantly contribute to a better understanding between people, a better awareness of ourselves and a curiosity to learn as much as possible about the world around us. Therefore I consider myself fortunate that I have the opportunity to work in international education, a professional field which is worth its efforts.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Students returning from their study abroad semester being excited about their experiences, students working together in international projects and learning from each other and a committed Erasmus Student Network where students internationalise at home are important drivers for my work. Also, I like the dynamic working environment of an international office, where you have to adapt to new challenges and situations while keeping the bigger picture in mind. Developing and exchanging new ideas with international partners and colleagues, sharing experiences and bringing ideas to life is a rewarding task.

What words of wisdom do you have for those starting in the higher education field?

Pushing international education forward at your institution needs a long breath, strategic thinking, diplomatic skills and a lot of energy. Sometimes there might be drawbacks and moments of frustration but then you get a small ball rolling and it gets bigger and bigger and suddenly you can feel the impact of your work. The rewards also include students and staff who experience internationalisation as an enrichment of their personal and professional life and who further develop their mindsets and cosmopolitan thinking.

What is a little known fact about you?

My passion for Taekwondo.