Ana Javornik, doctoral student and teaching assistant at USI, shares with us her experience of teaching mobility.

A study area at Kozminski University
A study area at Kozminski University

Servizio relazioni internazionali e mobilità

15 Aprile 2014

An interview with Ana Javornik, doctoral student and teaching assistant at Institute of Marketing and Communication Management at USI, who spent few weeks at Kozminski University (Warsaw) and at University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) within the Erasmus teaching mobility framework.

Hi Ana, thank you for your availability and for sharing your experience with us. Please tell us something about yourself and your current position at USI.

“Thank you for the invitation to the interview, it is a pleasure to share my impressions from the mobility program with your audience. I come from Slovenia, a beautiful little country on the other side of Alps, and moved to Lugano in 2009 to pursue Master’s studies in Corporate communication at USI. The Master’s program was a great experience – it offered a high quality knowledge in communication and economics and the opportunity to meet really interesting people from all over the world. Immediately after graduation, I embarked on the exciting journey of doing a PhD at the Institute of Marketing and Communication Management, where I am currently a third year doctoral student. My research focuses on effects of digital communication on consumer behavior. I am also assisting Master’s and Bachelor’s classes in Consumer Behavior, Digital Marketing, Digital Communication, Service Marketing and Marketing.”

We learned that you have done two teaching mobility experiences: one at Kozminski University in Warsaw, and one at the University of Ljubljana and we would love to hear your impression about both. So let’s start with Poland: why did you choose that particular university?

“The Kozminski International Office was looking for visiting lecturers from abroad and I came across their call through the International office at USI, which sent a mail about this opportunity. I contacted the International offices here at USI and at Kozminski and they were both very helpful with information, which certainly encouraged me in making the decision to take part in the program. Additionally, Kozminski University’s reputation is excellent; it has very good rankings and is generally one of the best business schools in Central and Eastern Europe. So there was the combination of institution’s excellence, friendly and professional communication all along the process and the chance to design and deliver my own seminar to the students. For a first-year PhD student, which I was at the time of application, that seemed like a great opportunity and I was in no way disappointed about it."

How long did you stay and what did you do there precisely?

“I stayed in Warsaw for a week and delivered a 4-day seminar to an international class of their undergraduate students. The seminar focused on Marketing Management and covered selected topics about marketing strategy. As I am in favor of an interactive teaching style, where the whole class participates, I also distributed them a class assignment, which they had to present on the last day in groups. That is a wonderful part of the class for both the teacher and the students – when the students can use the knowledge that the lecturer has delivered and apply it to concrete examples. 

Throughout the class I also used a lot of video and visual material, because it is crucial in marketing to show and discuss concrete cases and campaigns. According to the feedback that I got from my teaching evaluation, they were very content with the class, which really meant a lot.”

How did you like Warsaw? Would you recommend it as a study destination?

“The city has certainly undergone processes of modernization in the last twenty years and thus represents an interesting mixture of rich history and urban development. The old part of Warsaw is especially charming, with the old market place, the palace and its walls. The Polish cuisine does not disappoint, as it is diverse and tasty; my favorite pick was the traditional Polish apple pie, Szarlotka. Does it represent a good study destination? That of course always depends on one’s expectations, but I am sure that for an open-minded person who is interested in getting to know more about Central and Eastern European culture, Warsaw would certainly be one of the top choices. And the University offers an international environment, which adds to the quality of the study exchange experience. Also, everyone I was in contact with spoke very good English.”

And now, let’s move to Slovenia. What did you do there and how did it differ from Warsaw?

“I was introduced to prof. Makovec Brenčič and prof. Žabkar from the Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana through a common acquaintance and we talked about possibilities of collaborations. As they were interested in my work about digital marketing, they invited me for a visiting seminar. Again, it seemed like an exciting opportunity, especially because they are both very well-respected scholars in the marketing field. I prepared a set of lectures on Digital consumer behavior, which I delivered in both Slovenian and English in two different classes of undergraduate students.

This time, the focus was more on the newest trends in digital marketing, around which I based the class discussions. Unlike in Warsaw, there was no final classwork, but I made sure to have a lot of questions for the students, which stimulated the debate. 

The very interesting part here was to deliver the same content in two different languages, which is a really stimulating practice for a lecturer. Additionally, the difference between the two classes in Ljubljana (one was composed of international and one of Slovenian students) brings out so many varying cultural aspects that the lecturer needs to take into account. The international class mentioned very diverse topics for discussion, as they knew different practices coming from such different backgrounds, while we could focus more on the local, Slovenian cases with the Slovenian students. A lecturer has to take such factors into account and adapt to them in order to deliver a good quality class experience and valuable knowledge to students.

In terms of the destination, I studied and worked in Ljubljana for 7 years, so the experience was certainly a different one, as I am so familiar with the place and I like it so much. But especially for that reason, it is a great feeling to lecture in the city where you have started your studies. Ljubljana is an adorable place to visit because of its combination of having basically everything that big cities have to offer and at the same time being very cozy due to its smaller size. I would certainly recommend it as a destination for a study exchange.”

What did you like most and least about the two different educa- tion system, also compared to the Swiss one?

“In Warsaw, I really liked the vibrant atmosphere of a younger and rising university, which strives for excellence. You can very much feel their motivation to do a great job with the research and teaching and their openness to new knowledge. Also, I was amazed how much the scholars from Kozminski collaborate with practitioners, to the extent that they are in constant contact with the companies, startups and so on. I could not sense a strong hierarchy, but only a general motivation of the academic community to do an excellent job with joint forces. 

On the other hand, the Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana is an already established institution with very good reputation and longer tradition, which is also a great advantage. It seemed very professional and clearly also well organized. They also have a strong link with the business environment and encourage students to get involved in collaborations with companies or organizations outside the classroom through internships or project work and I think that is great. 

How to compare it to the Swiss system? I would say that what defines an academic institution does not have to do so much with a class or a university being Slovenian, Polish, Swiss or any other, but is about it being international, open to other cultures and ideas and prepared to see research and teaching from different angles. If the university does not stick to its national boundaries and is curious about knowledge coming from abroad, the exchange of expertise and ideas definitely brings a value to it and enriches its national character, whichever that is.”

Overall, do you recommend a teaching experience abroad to  your colleagues? Was it enriching both for your professional and personal growth?

“For someone who is interested in academic career and aspires to become a lecturer and a scholar, such experiences are without a doubt priceless. First of all, you have the ability to design your own seminar or set of lectures, so you are in charge, which sets a very different responsibility on you.

Secondly, exchanges always offer you opportunities to connect with people in your field. For instance, prof. Makovec Brenčič and prof. Žabkar from University of Ljubljana were wonderful to talk to, given their expertise in the area. Also, I had a chance to have a long debate with Prof. Mazurek at Kozminski University who is working in the field of Digital marketing, which was very insightful and interesting. 

Thirdly, lecturing to audiences in different countries and of different cultural backgrounds is something that builds your cultural sensitivity, flexibility and ability to work in international environment, which is crucial for an academic career, as we tend to move around rather a lot. Also, you are exposed to different institutional settings and have the opportunity to see distinctions and similarities between universities, which offers you the opportunity to reflect about academic environments.”