It’s a sunny January morning in Nicosia, my hometown. I feel the hard Mediterranean sun on my skin as I am sipping on the perfect iced coffee and thinking about my New Year’s resolutions that I will not keep. I share pictures of the blue skies with my friends in Groningen. ‘You are living the international academic dream’, one of them says. What dream?
2020 was the year of national lockdowns. It was then that I realized that there is nothing romantic about being inter-national and the idea that anyone is free to be mobile is an illusion. Academic mobility comes with the cost of always being in between countries and time zones. We sometimes stick with places and other times we are stuck in places in ways that make ‘home’ so blurred that we don’t even know what it feels like anymore.
We are constantly oscillating between ‘here’ and ‘somewhere else’ – the words that best define an abstract distance. Being an international academic means always trying to figure out how to pronounce words in a new language, how to sustain long-distance relationships, and how to dress for a winter you never experienced; all while trying to form a new professional identity.
There is nothing romantic about being inter-national and the idea that anyone is free to be mobile is an illusion
2021 and 2022 were the years of hybrid work. It was then that I realized that I can get by with half of the meetings that I normally find myself sitting in, I can teach most of my courses online, and I can work from anywhere as long as there is good music. I found out that it is quite easy to reduce my carbon footprint by attending some conferences online, I can eat healthier and move even more which makes me more productive, and I can focus better while working on balconies at the crack of dawn.
2023 is the year to build on the momentum of hybrid higher education and transform the university to better serve those who are ‘here’ and ‘somewhere else’ as well as those who are not free to be mobile and always present. How will we orchestrate an ecosystem to offer accessible and high-quality education? Will we embrace the potential of digital technologies?
We need to re-imagine the university of the future in ways that are inclusive, sustainable, and accessible for all staff and students. What could that look like? Flexible study programs that combine on-campus and online learning, individualized learning and working paths, more use of VR and AI, more remote work, and a healthier academic culture before we get crushed by the uncertain future.
Re-imagining the future of the international university. That is a New Year’s resolution I could keep, I think to myself, as I check in for my flight back home.