Cross-Cultural Encounters in VAMK

Internationalism and globalism are the big words of today. People come and go in and out of our school. One comes here from Nigeria when other leaves our school to do exchange in Austria. Being in a new country with new people and their customs is anything but easy.

This fall, Vaasan ammattikorkeakoulu (VAMK) University of Applied Sciences wanted to provide a course for the foreign degree students. The course wasn´t concentrated on speaking Finnish or sitting in class but to get know more about Finnish habits and culture in practice. This fall was the first time when “Orientation for the foreign degree students" was held.

People around the world attended Orientation-class

What was Orientation about?

Orientation was planned for every first year foreign degree student, regardless what program you were in.  The catch of this course was that those who were leading it were VAMKs social service students. Every year second year social majors have a class where they learn how to lead a group. They make a study plan for a specific group of people and then execute it.  This year they made the plan for the foreign students' orientation class. For social-workers-to-be, it's important to know how to speak languages, and to communicate with people from other cultures.

Orientation class was mostly about how to get to know the Finns as they are: nice, polite and friendly - not cold, quiet and distant. The class walked around the city, made little trips and talked about this and that. Students talked about Finland and our customs, why we do things the way we do and what makes us tic, like losing for Sweden in ice hockey. These are just little things but they help others to understand us, our way of thinking and our customs and habits.

Cross-cultural meetings

And then there was Nation Celebration!

Nation Celebration was created to celebrate the end of the course. During the fall all the foreign degree students and their leaders were divided into groups but in Nation Celebration everybody came together as one big group. Nation Celebration gave chance to the groups to show and tell what they have been doing this fall. Those who attended Nation Celebration were encouraged to bring something to the party that represents their culture and where they are coming from. Project coordinator Henrik Niemelä was one of those who took part to plan orientation class and he was happy to see the results.

- It was fantastic to see everyone so relaxed and easy. It was just one big group of friends in one space, he said after the party.

Hanging out in Nation Celebration

All good things end at some point

By the end of October when the class ended, social workers got the best feedback possible. The orientation class and its meaning can be contended into one sentence written by a class attendee:

 "..Times we spent together will be cherished forever. I think the best part was going to the bridge and travelling for hours and photo session was quite remarkable."

It took a lot to make this course to happen, but the biggest thank you goes to the S-SA-2B and their teacher Tytti Hyttilä-Huhta. Mrs. Hyttilä-Huhta came up with the idea of using students instead of teachers and was there to support her students during this fall. And this class wouldn't be anything without its attendees: the foreign degree students. Thank you for attending and letting us show that we care.

Text and photos: Jenni Viertokangas