Tutors can help in making the connections between international students and organizations.
Do you remember or can you imagine the first days of your studies abroad?
You arrive in a completely different country, where you are overwhelmed with practicalities of a new university, dislocated in an unfamiliar city and most likely culture-shocked by the strange people around you.
It is in these first days at the University of Turku (UTU) that you are presented with the student organizations that can introduce you to the Finnish culture, people and student life.
UNFORTUNATELY DIFFICULTIES remain in communication between the complex networks within UTU, the Student Union (TYY) and the international students.
“We do not know who the international students in Media Studies are”, says Maija Airos, who is a spokesperson for Hurma ry, the organization for media students.
While Hurma’s activities are open to everyone and have Finnish as well as English invitations on Facebook, they are not sure if the information reaches the right people.
Therefore Nora Palonen, chairman of Hurma, would like to get support from the international tutors. In her opinion tutors could play an important role in introducing the subject-specific organizations to the international students.
Pablo Pérez Chaves from Peru agrees. When the PhD candidate in Biodiversity Research came to UTU for the first time on exchange, he met his tutor and they are still good friends. But it was not until his master that a fellow Finnish student introduced him to Synapsi, the subject-specific organization of Biology and Geography.
ALI BENKHEROUF, who is the TYY board member for international affairs, also recognises the potential of the tutor. He promises that TYY will organise special training for tutors, which will highlight the value of subject-specific organizations to international students.
“We are TYY board members for only one year. That is why it is important to set out a plan to show what has been done for internationalisation so that the next board can continue the work”, he says.
Therefore Benkherouf is working on a guidebook for TYY student organizations. The guide should be ready for next fall and will contain updated criteria on what to include in international events and how to set up international affairs in order to get activity support from TYY.
In addition, TYY will reward a student organization that has done outstanding work with an International Award to stimulate international integration.
MASTER OF FUTURE Studies student Hoa Nguyen from Vietnam was part of the board of her subject-specific organization Black Swans last year. Being an active member of the organization helped her to feel confident and part of the network.
“Meeting Finnish people is significant to get to know their culture”, Nyuyen says.
The integration of international student in Finnish student life will always be a challenge. However, work is done to improve the situation and the examples of progress are encouraging.
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