Sharing traditions establishes a sense of belonging
On 29th of November, TAMK’s Catering studio was gleaming with fairy lights, as a small Christmas party for international students was beginning. The event was organized as part of Study and Stay, which offers international students support in studies, living and working in Tampere region.
According to Krista Merikoski, International Coordinator in TAMK Global Education, TAMK has a long tradition of hosting a small pre-Christmas or Finnish Independence Day gathering for new international students. In her opinion, events where our international and Finnish students can meet and share holiday traditions are important.
“This year we also wanted to welcome all those students that began their studies with us last year ” Krista laughs warmly.
During the event, the students were introduced to Finnish holiday traditions. TAMK’s catering students had prepared traditional Finnish Christmas food; rice porridge, sweet pastries and glögi. For some of them, this was the first time they tasted these delicacies.
Music is also a big part of the traditional Finnish Christmas. The participants enjoyed a heartwarming live performance by Ida Komppa, who studies Music in TAMK. The students soon joined in and sang songs in both Finnish and English. Students from Kenya also sang holiday songs in Swahili.
The evening peaked with a visit from a very special guest, Santa Claus, who resembled Markku Lahtinen, TAMK’s former President. Santa took selfies with students and listened to their wishes. Everyone felt the Christmas spirit by singing together with him.
Tapio Kujala, TAMK President, attended the event and told the international students who are spending their holidays in Finland, that they are not alone. The whole TAMK community and their new friends are their family. He discussed with the students and learnt where they are from and what are their expectations of this year’s holidays.
Jannatem Nayem, originally from Bangladesh, and Peris Jepkemoi, second-year nursing student from Kenya told how Christmas is celebrated in their home countries and how it differentiates from the new holiday traditions that they have learned while studying and staying in Finland.
The holiday season and Christmas are filled with traditions that differ from one culture to another. The Study and Stay pre-Christmas party was an occasion for both Finnish and International TAMK students to meet and learn about different traditions and start new ones.
Supporting integration is vital for international students
This pre-Christmas party was one of many events organized by Study and Stay. The programme is now part of the 2021-2024 Talent Boost programme, a nation-wide initiative to promote the employment of international talents in Finland.
“The goal of these activities is to support international students in integration to Finnish society, studies, grow networks and get to know more about Finnish culture, life and work,” says Ursula Helsky, one of the project’s developers in TAMK.
Text: Renata Brito and Saara Kontiainen
Photographs: Renata Brito and Saara Kontiainen