Tampere University has started a development project to improve international students’ integration through subject associations and guilds
The project is carried out in collaboration with associations who participate in workshops to develop new solutions to bring Finnish and international students together in their activities.
“Students’ active participation and interaction with peers have an important role when we are talking about international students’ integration into the student community, society and worklife. There is a lot of unleashed potential in this field. The ongoing project aims to create new ideas and practices from students to students”, says the Director of Education and Learning Jukka Mäkinen.
This spring, Männikkömetsä facilitated six workshops for subject associations and guilds and three more will be organised in the autumn. Representatives from the following associations take part in the project, each of them will participate in three workshops: Lexica ry, Vostok ry, Staabi ry, UDK ry, Urbanum, YKI, Hiukkanen and Tamark and students from the international master program Sustainable Digital Life.
The associations were selected based on a survey which was conducted at the city centre campus in the autumn 2021. In addition, three guilds were invited join from the field of engineering.
Subject associations and guilds are a convenient link to Finnish society for international students.
“Guilds and subject associations can give tailored support to international students about, for example, how the job market works here and what kind of applications employers expect to receive. This sort of industry-specific information is invaluable to international students looking to integrate” says a second year architecture student Dara Nerweyi.
In the workshops, five main challenges were recognised when it comes to the integration of international students:
- Language barrier
- Events are not accessible enough for international students
- Lack of interaction between national and international student in the events
- Lack of clear communication channels: the associations can’t reach the internationals and vice versa
- There is no continuum for integration after international student tutoring fades out
In addition to the above, international students hope for more and shorter, 1-2 hour, career oriented events which help them to build networks to Finnish worklife and get familiar with it.
In the workshops, the representatives of associations developed together with Männikkömetsä specialists several low threshold solutions and concepts to tackle the recognised challenges.
One major solution was the “Checklist for Internationally Friendly Event.” It contains all the main bottlenecks with a solution related to accessibility, communication and event programme.
The checklist will be implemented in every subject association and guild in the university through the student union TREY later this year. What is more, the university and the student union will use the findings and solutions from workshops, for example, when developing international student tutoring.
Though the project is still unfinished, the workshops have given practical support for the representatives in guilds and associations.
“The main benefits of the workshops have been common brainstorming and peer support. Since I don’t have a team around me, discussion with other representatives already highlights new perspectives and on the other hand problems that I haven’t even thought of. During the workshops I have also got ideas on how to bring international matters to other operations in our association and how to develop our communication”, says international affairs representative Julianne Mäkelä from the subject association for students in administrative sciences, Staabi ry.
The project will continue next in autumn when the last workshops take place. Then guilds and subject associations will plan actions on how to secure continuity and induction.
Senior Specialist, Tampere University
terhi.kipina [at] tuni.fi
Project manager, Männikkömetsä Oy
sakari.siilin [at] mannikkometsa.fi