Elisabet Göransson

Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology

Elisabet chooses the train within Europe and gets a lot of work done during long journeys down to Italy, to the University of Venice and to the Swedish Institute in Rome. She travels comfortably in first class, which is not that much more expensive when booked well in advance.

Hello Elisabet. What is your department and your subject area?
I am an associate professor of Latin at the Centre for Languages and Literature (SOL) and work as a researcher in Latin in several interdisciplinary projects based at the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (CTR). I mainly teach Latin at SOL, palaeography (on ancient scripts and manuscripts) at the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, but also specialised broader textual and interdisciplinary courses on ancient texts, textual traditions, digital tools, and resources for working with textual traditions in different languages.

You have travelled abroad in the course of your duties on several occasions. You have particularly strong roots in Italy. Please tell us more about that and how the collaboration started.
Through a previous research collaboration, which was a spin-off from a major European research programme (ERC, European Research Council, funds such programmes), I came into contact with several researchers and teachers with whom I have since collaborated both in teacher exchanges and course development. I was first invited as a guest teacher to Ca' Foscari University of Venice in Italy by a professor there who was also working on a project similar to mine. A few years later, I invited the same professor plus one of her doctoral students to Lund. This time we devoted ourselves to organising and running a multi-day workshop for students, doctoral students and researchers on the digital tools and resources that my guests are experts in, and then we also spent time building a joint distance learning course that has since been given once a year from Lund University. We recorded a large number of short presentations, exercises and reviews, which we are gradually updating, also in collaboration with other teachers and researchers in different countries.

You have travelled abroad both with Erasmus funding and with the exchange funded by the host university. How did it work when you applied for Erasmus+ teaching staff mobility?
Erasmus exchanges offer fantastic opportunities for close European collaboration in day-to-day teaching and course development. It is not at all complicated to apply for funding for such exchanges, definitely the easiest applications I have been involved in, and it is always rewarding and opens up many new exciting opportunities to develop both as a teacher and researcher, and it also has a ripple effect.

What course components have you taught at the host university? What was the student group like and how do you think it worked?
When I was in Venice, I had to teach students at different levels, both Master's students and doctoral students studying courses on the interpretation of older texts and on digital tools, but I was also asked to talk about what I do and about Sweden and Swedish universities to a large group of students enrolled in a Bachelor's programme in Scandinavian studies, i.e. both literature and Nordic languages. I was surprised that there was so much interest in Swedish literature, Swedish culture, film and the Swedish language and that a group of more than 100 Italian students in Venice were so knowledgeable and skilled! In addition, I was pleasantly surprised that large groups of 30–40 doctoral students in languages have lectures and seminars several times a week, and that education at higher and doctoral level is as teaching-intensive as at lower levels in Italy. I was also able to be present when a number of Master's students defended their completed Master's thesis for the laurea magistrale: this is done in much the same way as when you defend a thesis in Sweden, and you then receive your “laurea”, i.e. your laurel wreath. You can tell that it is graduation time by all the happy new dottoresse/dottori laureati singing and partying in the streets of Venice with the laurel wreaths on their heads.

Do you see any particular differences or similarities with your teaching in Lund?
I myself have a somewhat special position as I work with research, teaching and also with administration, so I primarily teach courses that are close to my research profile, which is not so common in Sweden. In this way, I am more similar to my colleagues that I have worked closely with abroad. The teaching of university teachers in these countries is closer to their own research focus in much the same way, while Swedish university teachers teach more broadly, and often also at all levels. Teaching abroad is thus automatically often more research-based, even at lower levels; I see this as a difference. In Sweden, on the other hand, courses are much more transparent and are also in reality more governed by policy documents – and students are represented in the monitoring of course structure and course development, which I think is more unusual abroad. University teachers abroad have (or take!) more freedom in designing both course structure and content. We also have a clear difference in progression already in studies up to Bachelor's level. Abroad, it is more the different main levels that determine the focus and content of teaching and courses, i.e. whether it is at the Bachelor's level, Master's level or doctoral level. In several colleagues' environments abroad, there is also not much difference in how much teaching a doctoral student receives compared to a student at the Master's level, i.e. doctoral students abroad are offered more teaching (but our collegial and “democratic” research seminars are, however, unusual in the environments I have been in).

What do you think you have gained from these exchanges and collaborations, in terms of research, teaching and personal experience?
Many different things. Without the Erasmus exchange, I do not think I would have come up with the collaboration that we will also have with our Swedish Institute in Rome: a project that I lead (funded by the Swedish Research Council) will result in a relational database of texts from manuscripts, previous editions and new translations of texts in veterinary medicine. This database will be hosted at the Swedish Institute in Rome, and will be searchable via the large online platform that brings together the resources of all foreign institutes and libraries in a single network in Rome. Pedagogically and personally, the teacher exchange has really given me a lot, allowing me to deepen my contacts and maintain continuity in my contacts with colleagues abroad. Thanks to these collaborations, I have also been invited as a guest lecturer and to workshops, as a member of different types of advisory boards abroad, and I also sometimes supervise Master students abroad; one really leads to the other.

You have also spent some longer research stays at the Swedish Institute in Rome. How did you get funding for that? Can anyone go there to sit in the library and do research?
There are special grants and scholarships that can be applied for by those with research materials and subjects that focus on classical languages, archaeology, ancient culture and society, art history and architecture. I have applied for such grants and scholarships because there are manuscripts in many libraries in Rome and its surroundings that I need to study. Moreover, I have a research position in the Institute's own library, which makes things much easier. There are also researchers who have not applied for and received any of these scholarships or grants, who for example have funding from other research projects, or are just on research leave, who travel to the Institute to research and write for a while. When allocating rooms for accommodation at the Institute, priority is given to those who have special material “on site”, but it is also open to other researchers subject to availability. At certain times of the year, some of the Institute's rooms are reserved for special scholarship holders who are in Rome for a year or six months and for participants in some of the courses held there each year. The library at the Swedish Institute is open to anyone who has found material they need to consult that is available there (there is an online catalogue shared by all the institutes in Rome that can be searched to see what literature is available where).

What has been the best thing about your periods abroad?
Meeting new, exciting and inspiring people – not only university staff but also other people I have come into contact with just by being in these environments. Seeing many different environments and cultures enriches so much and gives perspective. I have gained so many new thoughts and ideas for both teaching and research projects.

What has been the most challenging?
It can be a challenge to adapt to a different academic teaching environment. What seems completely natural to the teacher who invites us from Sweden is sometimes not obvious to us, as our respective academic environments are still very different. One recommendation is to “pump” your host as much as possible for information on what the lessons are typically like, how the interaction works, what to expect in terms of prior knowledge and preparation from the students, and so on. That really made it easier for me. 

Do you like to travel sustainably?
Yes, I always travel by train in Europe and have done so for as long as I have been working at the University (i.e. for decades...). While the environment is an important reason behind this, I also find that I can work really well on trains (unfortunately, I get motion sickness on the Swedish X2000, but not on any train abroad). I have always made sure to book my journeys far in advance and then choose first class, which is not much more expensive at all if you book it far enough in advance. Then you have plenty of room for your work. The connectivity is not always optimal, but that can also be an advantage. I usually choose to work on more monotonous tasks, proofreading, reviewing essays, thesis chapters and so on, but also to sit and think and plan and read articles, or some big monograph that I would not take the time to read otherwise. A third reason is – once again – all the nice brief contacts with people, and the fact that I "keep up" in my head when travelling from, for example, wintry Sweden to a spring-warm Italy, and de-stress, as well.

Your collaborations will continue, we understand. What are you and your colleagues planning for the future?
We are planning for both an "upgrade" of the distance learning course we have jointly created and for collaborations that mainly concern different groups of doctoral students. We also have long-term plans for joint research projects.

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Contact details, HT International Office


Visiting address
SOL, Helgonabacken 12, A141-143, Lund

Postal address
Box 201, 221 00 Lund


International office staff

International coordinator
Fanni Faegersten
Phone: +46 (0)46-222 8773
Email: fanni.faegersten@ht.lu.se

International coordinator
Katarina Wingkvist
Phone: +46 (0)46 - 222 8075
Email: katarina.wingkvist@ht.lu.se

International secretary
Lina Södergren
+46 (0)46 222 3424

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