Erasmus, 30 years of success

Article by
Thomas Chirossel

The Erasmus program is one of the things created by the European Union that students adore. Erasmus has largely contributed to the construction of the European university system (Bachelor-Master-Doctorate), which has been implemented since the Bologna Agreement in 1999. The aim was also to counterbalance existing spontaneous mobilities which, without organization, led to a brain drain in Europe.

In this article I will focus on Erasmus people in Pori, Finland in the autumn 2017 and see how they feel about this experience and how it could help them in the future.

Erasmus and employment

Since its creation in 1987, the Erasmus program has aimed at attracting 10% of the students in Europe. However, they didn’t expect to see this number increased by a 25%.

Erasmus is well-known for its capacity to employ people who have used this program. It’s also a huge asset to those who have experienced that because they can have a better adaptation capacity in the professional world, especially if they would like to work abroad.

According to National Statistic Institute, the Erasmus program increases the employment of the  students, decreasing the unemployment risk in the European Union by 2,5.

Erasmus, a kind duck in a controversial program?

Since the Brexit, an increasing number nationalists think that the European Union is not strong enough to support all our countries and that it’s ruining the economies.

In fact, all European treaties are based on Liberalism which means that everyone can compete against the others (economically). Every contractor wants to be the cheapest on the market and tries to reduce the production costs. For that, there is a big solution: relocation. This process causes unemployment in some countries.

This example is one of the reasons why some people want their countries to get out of the European Union. However, the European Union brings with it also a lot of good things, such free mobility, a stable currency and different kinds of programs, Erasmus as an example.

In fact, without the European Union, these types of programs wouldn’t have been created. Today, more than 5 million people have been lucky enough to study abroad and discover different cultures thanks to this program.

Let’s see how exchange students in SAMK have experienced their adventure in Pori.

Interviews of exchange students

A couple of these lucky people studying on the Erasmus program in SAMK, Pori were willing to answer some questions about the Erasmus program and their time spent in Finland in autumn 2017.

Elsa Cuirassier, a 19-year-old student in SAMK Business
Tours FRANCE

Erasmus program is a huge opportunity to secure a job after our studies because it allows us to increase our professional network and to be more open-minded than other people. Moreover, improving one’s skills in another language contributes to opening ourselves to the world and that is what recruiters love.

We’re lucky to be in Europe and to get the opportunity to leave our home country so easily and spend a year in another one. For example, the funds we can get from the state are very useful compared those received by students not coming from a European country. Besides, partnerships created between universities are various and well-founded.

Why did you choose Finland?

In fact I didn’t have the choice (laughs) because there was only this country where English was well-spoken. The other option would have been Spain, but I wanted to improve my English. However, I don’t regret at all because I wouldn’t be here without the Erasmus program.

What do you think about your life here in Pori and in SAMK?

First of all, it was very easy to get settled because the International office managed well this thing and took care of the accommodation and administration. Besides, the tutors were so nice with us and helped us when needed, so that was awesome. Here in Pori, the university is crazy, because everything is new and we have a lot of materials and facilities such as screens in rooms, a gym, a canteen, and so on. However, I don’t like the courses here in Finland, because they are not interesting and I have a feeling that I am not learning anything.  But the relationships with teachers are very nice compared with France.

Some people are scared of leaving their home and going to another country like  you have done. What would you say to them?

Get away from your comfort zone because yes, we might be scared but the best things will happen in the future and we have to dare knowing how good it could be.

What will you miss from this adventure?

Kindness of the Finnish people, they are helpful and respectful. I will miss the landscape because it’s a very nice part of Europe. But the thing I’ll miss the most is friends I’ve meet here.

Now, let’s have a different point of view and tips about this life. Wu Zemin, a student from China will give us his remarks about it.

Wu Zemin a 21-year-old student in SAMK Business
Hong-Kong CHINA

As for me, I didn’t come here with the Erasmus program, because I’m not  European. However, my home university has a partnership with this university (SAMK), and this is another program between our two schools. When I saw this, I applied for it so that’s why I’m here. However, compared to you we don’t have funds from the state, we have to handle it on our own.

Was Finland  your only choice?

Of course not, we have got several choices and it was up to me, I chose what I wanted. I chose Finland because there were big countries, famous countries which are quite the same as my home country so I wanted to discover something else. Finland, in my opinion, is totally different from other countries so I wanted to experience a different lifestyle.

What were your main difficulties here in Finland?

The weather is really different but for me it wasn’t a difficulty. Yes, the winter is cold but not as much as I expected, maybe because we are not too deep in the winter so I can manage it, but I wish luck to the people who’ll stay for a year (laughs). The language isn’t a barrier  to me because everybody speaks English. Maybe the worst thing is the night. We only see the sun for 4-5 hours, that’s crazy. This is a new way of life.

Some people are scared of leaving their home and going to another country like you have done. What would you say to them?

I think it is important for everyone, that if you want to learn another language, master it better, you should go abroad. If you are afraid, it proves that you need to practice. You can enjoy your life only discovering new things, otherwise it’s just routine.  For me, going abroad has been the best experience I’ve ever had.

What will you miss from this adventure?

I think I experienced everything I wanted but I will miss the friends I met here. Everybody was so nice with me, they are all my brothers now.

To finish the interviews, Alejandra Moya, a nursing student from Spain answered some questions.

Alejandra Moya a 20-year-old student in SAMK Nursing
Malaga SPAIN

The Erasmus program is a very good experience to meet people from every part of the world and try to survive alone without your parents and  without help, on your own.

Do you thing it will bring something to you in the future?

Open-mindedness,  the improved language skills and the ability to see how people work in different countries. It gives us a global idea of  the different markets in the world, so that you can adapt easier to other cultures.

Besides, it’s very easy to travel with the Erasmus program because the state gives us funds. I have a general grant, just like everyone from the Erasmus program, and then my district, Andalousia, gives us an additional payment.

What do you thing about Finland and SAMK, your university here?

I think people here are respectful and treat exchange students really well, they take care of you, they help you withi everything especially in the beginning.

What were your main difficulties here in Finland?

There were difficulties in the hospital when I was doing my placement because of the language barrier with patients. Everyone speaks Finnish and I couldn’t understand anybody else except for my tutoring nurse. Luckily, as said before, to facilitate the situation, the teachers and tutors were very involved with us.

Some people are scared of leaving their home and going to another country like you have done. What would you say to them?

To go abroad,  you need to know yourself and know that you can survive alone without your parents, your friends, your home but if you think you’re able to do that, it’s the best experience you could ever have.”

What will you miss from this adventure?

Of course the people I met here and the way of living which is totally different from what I am used to. But we are adults now, we have to live on our own, it’s really useful.

 

 

Inspired by Seville – A Mosaic of Cultures

Internationalization is a common challenge to all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Europe. The importance of welcoming the world to our institutions is unquestionable, being no more an option. Wanted or not, we’re heading for a vast and dynamic change. Actually, we are in the middle of it already. By being proactive, innovative and rapid, along with bold out-of-the-box thinking, we will succeed in this competition.

Institutional strategy defines processes and procedures during them. Internationalization (either emphasized or in minor role) is nowadays most likely one of the core actions in institutions offering higher education. As generally recognized, converting ambitious, strategy level goals and visions into concrete practice may appear a desperate job, with no clear priorities or starting points. Instead of just holding back (or on the other hand taking leaps too gigantic), the famous baby steps are needed. You just need to take them a lot, and now.

Over 6,000 international HEI experts from 95 different countries, enthusiastic to hear the latest news on the field of international education, participating sessions and workshops, greeting partners and networking – that’s what the recent conference of EAIE (European Association of International Education) was about in sunny Seville, Spain. In the time of digitalized communication, the joy of real human, face-to-face contact was tangible. During few hectic days, participants shared common issues and worries, as well as visions of co-operational possibilities, in a great mosaic of cultures. Here are some highlights of the participants of SAMK.

 

Tiina García: Embedded and cross-sectional internationalization, versatile marketing and lingua franca

Actions to develop internationalization must concern the entire organization and its mindset – it’s not just translating your websites or teaching in English.

Actions to develop internationalization must concern the entire organization and its mindset – it’s not just translating your websites or teaching in English. To create a holistic, international way to think and act, takes a deeper understanding of what internationality is about. In an educational context, this means not only pedagogical methods, but also management, research, projects, collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, administration, student support etc. We need to analyze all our functions with a loop of internationality: how sound are they really?

The new degree programme in tourism in SAMK will emphasize skills and knowledge required in international tourism environment. With Tiina García sharing their tourism programme experiences and expertise from the University of Málaga Maribel Romero Ruiz and Lilian Barranco Luque.

How do we let the world know of our existence? By diverse marketing. Our strengths usually are our best-selling points, and honesty plays essential role: rosy promises with a fragile bound to reality are doomed. Sure, we cannot change some less appealing facts, like harsh climate, high costs or remote location, but why not turn them into a positive experience and pull factors? Using references and testimonials of stakeholders, associations, partners, students, mayors or celebrities, more evidence and credibility is gained for international markets.

Using references and testimonials of stakeholders, associations, partners, students, mayors or celebrities, more evidence and credibility is gained for international markets.

Usually, internationalization in HEIs starts with incoming exchange students. In the world of higher education, the lingua franca is English. When applying English as a medium of instruction (EMI), there’s an enormous myth to break: teacher should speak perfect English. This, as said, is a myth, and here comes why: Teacher’s role is not to teach language itself, but to set an example for intercultural communication and international mindset. Surely a challenge that also needs open mind and positive thinking.

Marika Seppälä: Focus on the demands on engineering and engineers

Personally, the EAIE conference is always about sharing knowledge and ideas, empowerment by enthusiasm, partnerships and learning. Over the past years I have been privileged to attend this conference to maintain the partnerships and to consider our engineering education from a local and global perspective. This year I was able to host a session with a Belgian colleague Pina Cimino from PXL about the real-world demands on engineers. And why? Because looking at the job offers, engineering graduates are evaluated by a variety of skills, not only technical. How can an engineering programme ensure its graduates will meet the demands of the fast and changing labor market, when the majority of the universities still offer traditional technology-oriented education – that is the question. It is necessary to consider how to avoid overloading the curricula only with technical courses giving technical details, ignoring the employability skills. Now we are in the beginning of a process to start a network of interested colleagues from around the world to discuss and share ideas. Want to join?

SAMK in EAIE 2017
International co-operation in action: “How can engineering education meet the real-world demands on engineers?”. Session led by Marika Seppälä (SAMK, Finland) and Pina Cimino (PXL University College, Belgium)

Now we are in the beginning of a process to start a network of interested colleagues from around the world to discuss and share ideas. Want to join?

Alberto Lanzanova: Ideas, reflections and challenges: a foreigner’s view on internationalization

At first, as a newcomer to the EAIE conference, I felt overwhelmed by the massive amounts of people, thoughts and perspectives that such an event conveys. After sailing for a while – dazed and confused – in this endless sea of suggestions and views, I retrieved my compass and I found myself absorbed in a profusion of refreshing ideas.

International Coordinator of Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences describes study course ”Snowbusiness” as one of their international success.

Because of the nature and importance of the education field we are working in, I believe it is wonderful – and at the same time crucial – to meet people from all around the world and discuss about common matters. By comparing how different organizations and cultures address similar issues, we can acquire new fundamental knowledge, be prepared to new challenges and, at the same time, set ourselves – as an institution – in an idealistic map that shows our place in the unrelenting internationalization process the world is going through.

After returning from the journey and some days of considerations, I think it is good to be back where the “real job gets done”. As an international member of SAMK’s staff, I reckon that an event like EAIE could carry a hidden drawback within it: all the people attending are somehow predisposed to international activities, projects and collaborations. Bearing in mind this, the risk is to end up in a Turris Eburnea, an Ivory Tower that functions and operates just within itself, but does not have a reflection on the real world.

In my opinion, here lays the ultimate challenge: transfer and fulfill in our own world what we have seen, discussed and argued about, despite adversities and bumps in the road.

In my opinion, here lays the ultimate challenge: transfer and fulfill in our own world what we have seen, discussed and argued about, despite adversities and bumps in the road. Of course, in order to work, this view should be embraced on all institutional levels, but probably we – as International Relations Office – should set the example and influence the decisions making process because of our background and history. Who else could step in?

Satu Schrey: Our role as an international educator is important

The conference is already over, but hopefully it left all the participants motivated to reach out and be the change – being aware even more than ever before that the work we do every day with the students will inspire them to do the same. Our role as an international educator is important: internationalization, all kind of mobility including different kinds of exchange programmes enable students to meet new people and new cultures, which removes many barriers and increases cross-cultural understanding.

The old friend of Satakunta UAS, the Programme Specialist of Unesco Regional Bureau, Dr. Anasse Bouhlal describing the state of higher education in Arabic countries to Satu Schrey.
The old friend of Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, the Programme Specialist of Unesco Regional Bureau, Dr. Anasse Bouhlal describes the state of higher education in Arabic countries to Satu Schrey.

My main programme at the conference was to meet our partner universities’ representatives – just to discuss about e.g. the existing or potential cooperation, our partnership & agreements, and the new trends. The event – with more than 6 000 participants – gave me a chance to greet many other known colleagues, too, of course. In addition, I was proposed a couple of new interesting co-operation possibilities when exploring the exhibiting area thoroughly around – not to forget about many networking events during the week.

After attending a couple of sessions I know now something about the science of happiness: how to use positive psychology in international student guidance and another interesting session gave ideas for achieving better international engagement.

To sum up: Heavy schedule with many meetings plus interesting people in inspiring atmosphere. Felt so at home there again! <3

The writers participated the 29th Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition in September 2017 at the Seville Conference and Exhibition Centre (FIBES), Spain.

Tiina García is a Senior Lecturer and Team Leader in Degree Programme in Tourism. Her responsibilities are team coordinating, curriculum design in the international project Boosted and IoC of the new international tourism study program ”International Tourism Development – Business and Wellbeing from Nature”, starting autumn 2018.

Marika Seppälä is a Senior Lecturer (Quality and Process Management, Management and Project Management), Team Leader of Energy and Environment as well as the faculty coordinator for international relations of the Faculty of Technology.

Satu Schrey works as an International Coordinator. Her responsibilities are Erasmus+ mobility agreements and general administration in student mobility.

Alberto Lanzanova works as International Relations Secretary and temporary Intercultural Communication teacher. Originally from Italy, his responsibilities concern student mobility, whereas his fields of interests are cultural studies and linguistics.

Interested to know more? Please contact the writer: firstname.surname@samk.fi

Communication, comics and chocolate!

The first International Week 10.–14.10.2016 in PXL University College in Hasselt, Belgium offered not only information but experiences from local chocolate factory to Corda Campus.

I was honored to get invited to Hasselt to lecture about communication by Mrs. Brigitte Luyten, PXL international relations coordinator. SAMK has a bilateral agreement with the college and I have co-operated with her before ­­­in student projects.

Jatka lukemista ”Communication, comics and chocolate!”