The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience commonly referred to as IAESTE is an international organization for exchanging students for technical work experience abroad. Students gain relevant technical training lasting from 4 weeks to 18 months. IAESTE includes committees representing more than 80 countries, with the potential of accepting new countries into the organization every year. IAESTE’s aims are to connect students with employers in foreign countries, provide university students with technical experience, and culturally enrich students and their host communities. Prof. Bernard Baeyens from Colombia is the current President of IAESTE. He came to Oman to attend the 8th Asia and Pacific IAESTE Forum (APIF) hosted by Sultan Qaboos University from 30 September to 1 October, 2018.
How would you comment on the APIF hosted by Sultan Qaboos University?
Prof. Baeyens: The IAESTE organizers in Oman really made this regional Forum highly successful in fulfilling its objectives and made the event enjoyable for the participants from the Asia Pacific region. These kind of regional meetings are new to our Association that was established in 1948 initially focusing more on the European continent and North America. Now Asia-Pacific region is coming to the forefront in terms of higher education, research and development, and exchange of students for internships and technical work experience abroad. Regional Forums like this would help the association to tackle different problems specific to the region regarding exchange of students under IAESTE.
IAESTE Oman chapter was established in 2001. Howe would you comment on the performance of IAESTE Oman so far?
Prof. Baeyens: Oman is doing exceedingly well in terms of sending and receiving international students for career-focused professional internships abroad in engineering disciplines under the umbrella of the IAESTE. “Considering the small size and population of the country and the relatively smaller number of students pursuing engineering related programs in the universities, I would say that Oman’s performance in international student exchange is exceptionally good. IAESTE Oman plays a key role in connecting companies, universities and students in Oman to foster cross-border collaboration in research and development and increase the mobility of engineers. In the course of time, Oman will gain more reputation among the members of the Association and students and will become a popular destination for exchange students from all parts of the world. The impressive record of accomplishment of Oman in exchange of students abroad within a very short span is a testimony for that.
In your view, what are the advantages of organizing such regional forums IAESTE, a global association?
Prof. Baeyens: As you know, IAESTE is a flexible network of people across the world. All the 87 members of the Association tend to communicate frequently in our efforts to providing young science and engineering students from around the world with paid, course related work experience. In IAESTE we are committed to fostering international understanding and influencing the development of young people through international exchange. Our core values of friendship, trust, respect, professionalism, development and intercultural cooperation serve as a foundation for our strong organizational culture and as the principles that guide all our work and daily activities. Regional meetings help us to address the specific problems and issues related to the particular region. For each region, the problems are different and the approaches to tackle the problems have to be different. Regional meetings ensures more commitment from the members for specific projects and programs for any particular region. With regard to Asia Pacific region, I would say that so far the region has responded positively with all our proposals.
How would you comment on the way the information and technological revolution has changed the way in which the IAESTE network performs?
Prof. Baeyens: 70 years ago, when IAESTE had its humble beginning in the Europe, the Association used to communicate with people with limited technology available at that time. Back in 1948, there was no Internet, not event fax machines. We used to communicate with our members mostly through letters sent by post, telex and telegrams. When members gather for a conference or a meeting, it assumed the form of a market place where people interact with each other face to face to update on the training position available in each member state. Now, everything is online and there has been remarkable change in the way we communicate with each other. Faster communication technologies has changed the way the IAESTE network functions. Through online platforms, our members prepare everything in advance without the need to meet each other. However, being a global non-profit association and the networking is based on trust, face-to-face communication is vital for us. Hence, we meet each other by organizing regional forums, annual and general conferences and other activities from time to time.