Planning a successful exchange week

Every year, in Oulu UAS, a number of international exchange weeks for teachers and staff members are held. So far, the people who took part in these events all said they enjoyed their time and went home with a lot of good memories. Now here is the thing: how to make an exchange week successful? Have you ever experienced cooking with family and/or friends? I would assume you most probably have! Well, it looks like there are five key points that cooking and holding an international exchange week share: planning, communicating, cooperation, balance and flexibility.

Planning: when you cook, you need to make sure ahead of time that you have all the ingredients. In the same manner, there are many things that need to be taken care of and thought through before inviting colleagues from all over the world to come for a visit. They range from administrative paperwork to choosing a nice restaurant, but the most crucial points are offering an interesting programme to the participants, and aiming for the right target people.

Communication and cooperation: of course, not everyone knows how to separate the yolks from the whites, but you can’t have all those who know working on the same egg either. It is therefore important to communicate in order to come up with the best cooperation possible. The first step is definitely internal communication. In fact, although there are often only a handful of people working on the actual organisation of such an event, it requires the cooperation of many other members, ranging from direct colleagues to all kinds of other staff members, such as teachers, communication services… The second step is obviously communicating the good news to the world so as to raise interest from potential participants. The last step is communicating with all these people throughout the whole planning process, during the event, and after the event, so that everyone receives all necessary information on time, which will ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Balance:  sugar is usually necessary in a cake, but if there is too much sugar, the cake is just not edible. Likewise, a programme needs to be well balanced so that everyone is satisfied. Obviously, the main purpose of such events is to work together. However, too much working can be counter-productive, and it is necessary to include some time to relax and to get to know each other. But then again, if there is too much social programme, people will miss out on the real goal of their visit. In the same manner, there should be a good mix in the participants so that you always get more new ideas, more new points of view, more new ways of handling things…

Flexibility: Some of the best recipes were created through mistakes. The same goes for international exchange weeks. The more people are involved in such an event, the more flexibility is needed. As people all have a different background, and in this case even a different culture and language, there is a lot of room for misunderstandings, or simply timetable conflicts. Therefore, organisers need to be ready to slightly change their plans and make compromises so as to accommodate everyone. Also, no matter how well you plan everything, there will always be something that will turn out differently, for better or for worse. Every participant needs to be ready to face these situations, and make the best out of it!

Overall, there is no unique magical recipe, and such events require a lot of work, but they also come with a number of great encounters, funny moments, and amazing memories. The next exchange week will be the International Staff Training Week, which will be held from Tuesday, May 19th to Friday, May 22nd.

Claire Le Parc
Intern from the International Services