32 participants from 12 universities based in 6 countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - this was the setting of the ARISE (ASEAN Region International Student Engagement) Training & Conference, held this May at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).
Organised by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and inspired by the success of the European Union's longstanding Erasmus+ programme, ARISE is a pilot initiative to empower students to facilitate internationalisation at their home universities, and to support international students studying in countries of Southeast Asia.
ESN survey reports have shown that challenges like the lack of financial resources or the fear of losing touch with one's personal circle are still important obstacles to international student mobility. For these students, IaH (Internationalisation at Home) presents important solutions. Through different initiatives, local students can experience an international environment without leaving their campus, they can develop - to some extent - the same characteristics as their mobile peers and create long lasting relationships with them.
The conference began on the morning of Thursday, 4th May, with an encouraging opening speech by Ambassador Barbara PLINKERT, the Ambassador of the European Union to Singapore. In his welcome speech, ASEF's Executive Director Ambassador Karsten WARNECKE highlighted the relevance of the conference for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Process, particularly for the 7th ASEF Rectors' Conference and Students' Forum and the 7th ASEM Education Ministers' Meeting which both took place within the same months.
Following the opening speeches, a panel discussion on the topic of Internationalisation at Home in Asia was hosted, featuring representatives from the Erasmus Student Network, National University of Singapore, University Kebangsaan Malaysia and the SHARE Programme. Our panellists discussed that creating an environment conducive to IaH is a difficult task for HEIs since its implementation occurs mostly outside of the classrooms.
In most of Europe, however, student-led organisations support IaH through local students who volunteer in organizing activities to welcome and integrate their international peers in the local context. As the experience for exchange students increases in quality and their social expectations are more easily met, they become ambassadors of their host university, further promoting it as a destination for other students and sometimes they even return for a full degree. Thus, this project is about highlighting the importance of IaH in Southeast Asia and empowering students and their HEIs to implement this model.
With this in mind, the event then took on a more practical tone with a training, led by ESN trainers. Among the topics covered were Quality Mobility, Mobility Programmes in Southeast Asia, Cultural Integration and Student Support Services through non-formal education methodologies. The 3-day programme saw the exchange of practices across Asia and Europe, with participants and trainers sharing their experiences in interacting with international students and running volunteer-led organisations that support them, as well as collaborations between university staff and students.
All in all, ARISE was a successful pilot in spreading Erasmus+ and strengthening the quality of higher education, particularly in terms of internationalisation, by building the capacity of university staff and students alike. In addition, the diverse cultural backgrounds of our participants led to a shared understanding of the importance of intercultural collaboration.
ARISE was organised by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) in partnership with the Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association (EMA) and the OCEANS (Organisation for the Cooperation, Exchange and Networking Among Students and Alumni) Network. The event was supported by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and funded by the Erasmus+ Student and Alumni Alliance (ESAA).