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Intercultural friendships promote diversity in society

Published on 28.11.2022
Tampere Universities
Two women sitting on a sofa.
The Friend Programme brings international students and Tampere locals together for intercultural exchange and fun socialising on their own terms.

The Friend Programme is a great way for international students to learn more about the local culture and language while socialising with Tampere locals. At the same time, the locals have the opportunity to explore other cultures without travelling.

When applying, both TAMK and TAU students and Tampere locals answer simple questions that help with the match-making process. The Study & Stay team then creates the pairs based on the applicants’ hobbies and their preferred free-time activities.

“This programme gives the possibility to do, to see, to learn, to hear all kinds of different things,” comments Jaana Kanninen-Niemi, a Tampere local and Friend Programme participant.

On 14 February, the pairs are announced in an event hosted on TAMK Main Campus. In Finland, Valentine’s Day is known as Friend Day (Ystävänpäivä) and the occasion fits perfectly with the meaning of the Friend Programme.

“The programme is so easily provided. I just filled in a form and was invited to the event to find out who I was matched with,” exclaims Chihiro Fukuda, a TAMK student and Friend Programme participant.

New friendships blossom

In February 2022, Chihiro and Jaana met through the Friend Programme. Since then, their friendship has blossomed.

Chihiro has been familiar with Finland through her music interests for years. She moved to Finland in August 2020 to begin her studies in International Business at TAMK. Jaana Kanninen-Niemi has spent most of her life in Tampere. Although she has travelled and lived around the world, she always returns to Tampere.

“After retiring from my work, I felt that I wasn’t useful to society anymore. This programme has made me feel needed again,” concludes Jaana.

The two of them enjoy walking in Tampere’s surrounding nature or having coffee and cosy moments indoors. During their meetings, Chihiro practices and improves her Finnish language skills while they discuss various topics from traditions and culture to art and employment. 

“I have learnt from Jaana that whatever age you are, you can do whatever you want. Jaana does a lot of volunteering with young people and I see how we don’t need to be limited by our age and abilities. If you want to do something, you can do it,” says Chihiro.

Application is now open

“If you are hesitating a bit, then I think it’s good timing. Meeting new people can be both exciting and scary. However, if you are just a tiny bit interested in the programme, go for it,” says Chihiro.

Jaana and Chihiro want to encourage everyone to participate in the Friend Programme and open themselves to this opportunity.

“Every time I meet a new person it feels like getting a present that I start to unwrap bit by bit. That is why I always like making new friends from different cultures and backgrounds,” comments Jaana.

You can now register to join the Friend Programme and meet your friend on 14.2.2023.

The Friend Programme is funded by Study & Stay project, as part of the national Talent Boost initiative.

Jaana and Chihiro tell about their experiences in the video below:


Learn more about the Friend Programme

For more information contact Ursula Helsky: ursula.helsky [at]

Text: Dimitra Panopoulou-Huovila
Image & video: Saara Lehtonen