International Week TAMK

Mario and I set off on a lovely Monday morning to travel from Schiphol to Tampere, passing through Helsinki on the way there, to visit the International Week at our strategic partner TAMK.

The manager of TAMK Student Services, together with the head of International Services, gave the kick-off by presenting a brief history and future prospects and developments of the university. What became very clear was that students take a central position in how services are organized. Afterwards, all participants (24) were allowed to introduce themselves.

After a short lunch (shoulder to shoulder with the students in the campus cafeteria), we continued the programme with a tour of the main campus of TAMK. Particularly interesting was their take on services oriented towards students. Upon entering the campus, students can proceed directly to the ‘Service’ Street’, a wide corridor with various offices. However, no Front Office to be found! The lack of a Front Office and the general setup of their offices on the ‘Service Street’ did indicate that they have far less face-to-face student interactions.

We concluded the first day with an entertaining programme at the Mediapolis faculty, which was hosting a parallel International Week. Students performed plays, set up exhibitions, and even performed improvised cabaret! The experience and expertise TAMK has in organizing and hosting International Weeks was clear from the get-go. Morning and afternoon programmes were filled with relevant workshops and meetings (with a bit of breathing space here and there to allow all the information to sink in), while the end of the day was generally reserved for a cultural outing.

On Wednesday morning we were welcomed back on campus to dive headfirst into TAMK’s international marketing setup. Remarkably, they use a much more centralized structure to reach potential students. Above all, however, TAMK shows a willingness to involve and trust their students to act as ambassadors for their own programmes. Various social media platforms are extensively used, and the effectiveness of each form of marketing and communication is measured and analysed. We can learn a thing or two there, I’m sure!

In the afternoon we were treated to an interactive workshop on Intercultural Communications. During the workshop we were confronted with our biased thought patterns and the way in which cultural background plays a role in our daily activities. But perhaps the hardest part was being confronted with our lack of drawing skills whilst attempting to complete the assignments… We could have made good use of the creative drawing workshop at THUAS that same week!

Towards the end of the day the sun finally started breaking through, and not a moment too soon! It was time for us to experience some of the hallmarks of Finnish culture. After traveling to a recreational park to the west of Tampere, we were first introduced to a sunny hour of Nordic Walking on the mountain and alongside one of the two major lakes in the area. Then came the highlight, the Finnish sauna! We managed to withstand the heat of the sauna for quite some time before we, as is expected, jumped into the lake. Which was, just for clarity, not boasting whatsoever, still mostly covered by a thick sheet of ice. It’s a tough job, being an M&O Faculty bureau representative!

The following morning we arrived early on campus to attend a workshop on ‘Safety and Security’. A relatively large number of TAMK employees go on staff exchange, as is the case for our faculty and THUAS in general. To better ensure the safety and preparation of its own employees, TAMK has set up a central system of staff exchange registration and checklists. Although the safety of employees is of course paramount, the reputation of the university can also be compromised in case of calamities during a staff exchange. This immediately struck a chord with us, and is certainly something that we are looking to implement.

We could, however, actively contribute to the ensuing discussion about safety and preparation for student exchange. We might even, dare I say it, be a step ahead. Either way, it was good to get confirmation that we take good care of our students!

The last part of the programme at TAMK was a workshop on the Y-campus, a university-wide research and enterprise platform. Students from varying study programmes are brought together to complete multidisciplinary projects in collaboration with local and international companies. An inspiring example that already has its counterpart at M&O in the Artful Business Creations minor, but where there is still much to be gained in terms of scale and participation.

On Friday morning we both had a separate meeting with our counterpart to discuss the specific differences and similarities, as well as the processes at TAMK and M&O. After having said our goodbyes, we travelled back by train and plane to return to the Netherlands amid a festive King’s Day that was slowly winding down.

All in all, we attended a fantastic week in Tampere where we both got to learn from and share with colleagues from Europe. The combination of a solid programme, some time to let everything sink in, and some great cultural activities have made the International Week at TAMK a great success and example for us. Certainly worth visiting for colleagues next year!

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