Increase internationality in your studies - why & how to do it!

When thinking about internationality and studies, usually the first thing that comes to your mind is going on an exchange. Talking from experience, my exchange period in Spain was definitely one of the best times of my life and I enjoyed every second of it, and I would recommend it to everyone. The experiences you will get during your exchange can really be once-in-a-lifetime moments, and at least for me it was the time of my life where I really got a chance to learn to be fully independent. It can feel scary to move to a completely new country, and in many cases you might not even speak the language of the origin country very fluently, but you will survive for sure. But it’s also clear that not everyone wants to move to a new country and live with a totally new culture. And that is totally fine – but if you are still interested of internationality and making new friends from other cultures, there are multiple other options as well!

I’m a Finnish citizen, I was born into a Finnish family and I don’t have any international background. The first 12 years of my life I went to a Finnish school and mostly only had Finnish people around me on a daily basis. I would also call myself a very traditional Finnish person: I’m very independent, showing emotions is hard and I can get very awkward and uncomfortable with for example hugging new people. Still I was very interested of different cultures and languages, and the first step in my journey was to start studying in English. I did my bachelor's degree of tourism in an international degree program, and afterwards continued with my master’s here at the University of Lapland in an international program as well. Many people have been wondering that why a Finnish person would study in English in Finland? Let me tell you why!

My exchange period in Spain and in the University of Alicante ❤

Especially in the industry that I’m studying (tourism), you will benefit from the English studies so much, but I think this applies to all industries as well. It’s a huge benefit to be able to work fluently in English in this globalized world. Even though in general Finnish people cope well with English, it comes from our nature that we are very shy with the language, because we are afraid of making mistakes, so often speaking in a different language is very hard for us. But when you are studying in English, you have no choice but to develop this, and eventually it will become a norm. Other benefits besides the language is the huge richness of getting to know people from all around the world: I’ve had the privilege to study with people from China, Vietnam, US, Australia, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Switzerland and so many others, and the things I’ve learned from them is so amazing, and has made me appreciate both other cultures but also my own culture so much more. 

USA, The Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Mexico & Argentina in one table ❤

University of Lapland is also a very international place, and we have great opportunities when talking about international possibilities. Most obvious is of course the exchange possibilities – both that you can go on an exchange, and also that we receive a lot of exchange students every year. We also have international master’s degree programs where you can apply! Besides the whole degree programs, there is a selection of great minor options which are completely taught in English, but where Finnish students can of course participate as well. You can either do the whole minor, or just perhaps individual courses. Some examples of these are Arctic Studies, China: Domestic, Global and Arctic Trajectories and International Communications. 

I want to especially bring out the last one, International Communications, which is the minor I’ve been studying and I can’t praise it enough. The classes are quite popular among exchange students, which is a great way to get to know them as well. But what I’ve learned the most in these classes is actually things about my own culture, and it’s been amazing to realize with certain things that okay, I’m not weird, I’m just Finnish. The classes are completely based on conversations with multicultural groups, so you really get a wide understanding of how and why things are done in different countries. 

In our TourCIM degree programme we have the privilidge to get to work with people all around the world!

Other ways to increase internationality during your studies are for example a friend program run by ESN Lapland, café lingua -language groups, becoming an international tutor and shorter exchange periods or internships abroad. Each of these offers a great way to get more internationality in your own life: you just have to find the best match for you! 

I haven’t ever regretted my decision to increase internationality in my life: it has given me life-long friends, amazing opportunities, strengths both in working and personal life and memories that I will never forget. Even though exchange might not be the right type of international experience for you, I highly recommend trying something else instead. And also from the studying point of view, it’s good to challenge yourself and take courses in English as well if you have the opportunity. Most probably there will become situations in life where for example the skill of speaking English is needed, so this is an excellent way to improve your language skills and get more comfortable with it! 

//Saija, YTK

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