Sunday, 13 October 2013

Supporting International Students in Higher Education

I have been involved in the development of our International Master’s Degree Programme in Business And Technology since 2006. Over the past years, the operative management and the development of the programme have been my responsibilities. Naturally I also teach several courses within the programme, mainly focusing on international sales and sourcing as well as research methodologies. In addition, I teach basics of industrial management to Erasmus exchange students.

My personal interest as a teacher focuses on teaching multicultural groups. International students sometimes perceive very different attitudes towards learning, which teachers of such groups should recognize. However, one of the easiest things to do is to make the course requirements, study process and grading as transparent as possible. In this way students coming from different university cultures can be “exposed” to the learning culture characterizing universities in Finland, hence helping them in their studies. It is important to note that the longer the cultural distance, the more there are differences in the university culture and, hence, learning habits too!

With regards to international degree students, one important challenge is related to very low employment. Without understanding the requirements Finnish society set on young graduates, international students are not able to convince potential employers in the job interviews. Thus, my teaching is mostly based on company projects to (1) help students understand the requirements Finnish corporate world sets for young graduates, (2) gain some work experience (most international students have very little, if any, work experience unlike their Finnish competitors), (3) help them build networks for employment and (4) get references to be used in the job search process later.

Both the cases I have tried to tackle in a small booklet “Them Finns” used in Tampere University of Technology as well as several other universities and universities of applied sciences in Finland. The booklet tries to point out the most important cultural differences in university studies, mainly causing problems for international students. Since many students are not familiar with using English in their studies, the booklet has many illustrations, helping students to get the most important content. In addition, the booklet also emphasizes that studying in Finland is an excellent opportunity to learn to understand Finns and Finnish working culture, hence facilitating the transition to Finnish corporate world, in case that is the student’s objective. 
 Text: Jouni Lyly-Yrjänäinen

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