Interview to David Dueñas, winner of the URV’s teaching quality prize and researcher at the SBRlab, who went on a mobility visit to to Grigol Robakidze University in Georgia from March to April, within the framework of the Erasmus Mundus EMINENCE II Mobility for Academic Staff Programme
Why did you want to participate in this mobility visit? Why did you choose this university?
My main reason for participating was the chance to gain international research experience outside the European Union. I divide my time between the University of Warsaw and the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and I usually collaborate in EU-funded projects, but these projects rarely go outside the Union. This was a good opportunity to have just such an experience.
My main aim was to carry out research into socialisation on the internet in an ex-Soviet country which is still in the process of being created, and to create bridges in order to maintain personal and professional relations with Georgian universities.
Finally, this is one of the few grants or opportunities open to part-time teaching staff. Given the difficulties inherent in administering these contracts, I am grateful that part-time teaching staff are able to enjoy an opportunity like this.
How was the experience? What have you learnt during your visit?
The experience was very useful. In terms of teaching, I was able to teach and interact with the students and create working dynamics with them. In research terms, I was able to carry out a series of very interesting interviews and organise a survey of young people aged 18 to 25. The field work enabled me to get to know organisations, institutions and people from the third sector who are working to help transform Georgia into a modern market economy based on interconnectivity.
The results could not have been better, on both a personal and professional level.
What opportunities did you have during the visit?
Well, as I said, I was able to teach and carry out interviews with important individuals working in the field of society and technology. The personal experience that I gained from having to immerse myself in a context so different from our own was invaluable. To cite just a few examples, I was able to speak to sociology research centres, with the Georgian Institute of Statistical Studies, with GeoLAB (principal think tank on the modernisation of the country) and with representatives of the Erasmus Network in Tbilisi.
How do you think that your visit will benefit your department and the rest of the university?
During my visit, we discussed ways of consolidating relations between the Grigol Robakidze University and the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and had a meeting with the individuals responsible for international mobility at our university. The aim is to build connections that enable student exchanges between the two universities. From our point of view, it is a very interesting opportunity, particularly given the way that people from other parts of the world are attracted to our country.
How did you find out about the mobility grants?
I always keep an eye on the international grants programmes that we receive by email, first, because of my personal commitment to internationalisation and second, because part-time teaching staff have to be aware of any opportunities that will allow us to progress in our careers given that we are the only ones in the university system who have no possibility of promotion, a fact that puts us in a position of inequality compared to other teaching staff.
Would you recommend this experience to your colleagues?
Without a shadow of a doubt.
Can you give us any interesting anecdotes from your mobility visit?
Aside from the professional experience that I gained, Georgia is a fascinating country with a mix of cultures and traditions that reflects its position as a bridge between East and West. It has a stunning landscape, particularly when I went there in the spring. In contrast, there are still some vestiges from the past that on more than one occasion made me feel a bit lost and gave the impression that the country is somewhat chaotic (particularly in relation to traffic).