Friday, 13 November 2009

Trans Atlantic Paper Science – thoughts of the students participating in the dual degree

TAMK University of Applied Sciences together with other European and US partner universities received EU-US Atlantis funding for 2008-2012 to implement a Trans Atlantic Paper Science (TAPS) dual undergraduate degree. This project gives students and faculty members a unique opportunity to study global paper science through international collaboration. Total duration of an exchange is one year. A dual Bachelor of Science degree, emphasis on Paper Science, will be awarded after completion of TAPS requirements.

This year three Finnish students left for US to attend the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point (UWSP) to study in this new dual degree. While these students left for new adventures abroad, two students from Wisconsin UWSP arrived to the chilly Finland, and began studies at TAMK. Below is a short report on what feelings this cross-cultural opportunity has raised in the students from Finland and US.

The students were asked four questions to further describe the feelings of living in a foreign country and city, but also to get an idea of how the studies at TAMK are compared to the studies at UWSP.

Katherine Mess and Stephen Chastain were interviewed at TAMK, they both seem to like Finland and enjoy the culture and customs of the Finnish people. Studies
at TAMK differed from their home studies to some extent, but all in all they both seemed to be quite happy with the education at TAMK.

How have you liked the studies here at TAMK? Have the courses for example been as you expected before hand?

Katherine Mess: “They told us before coming over to expect a lot of group work, and a lot less homework with fewer tests. I think we have found that to be true. It is quite different from what we’re used to, and it works well except when it comes to test time and a LOT of material is covered on one exam.”

Stephen Chastain: “I think I have enjoyed my studies so far. The classes were a little intimidating at first because I have only had a few classes for my major back home and the students here seemed to know so much more than me. But, I am catching up now. Having hardly any homework and only having 1 or 2 exams is strange for me. I’m not sure I like that.”

What do you think of TAMK? (in general)

Katherine Mess: “It’s nice to have all classes in the same building, so you do not have to go outside. The feeling of community within the University is very nice as well.”

Stephen Chastain: “I really enjoy TAMK. There are more student activities going on here. Of course, it may just be because I am in a new place so I am looking for things to do. Overall I really enjoy going to school here. Then there’s the overalls. Those things are awesome. Hopefully mine will arrive soon. It’ll be great.

What do you think of free-time activities or free-time in general in Tampere and TAMK?

Katherine Mess: “There’s not a lot to do, but the International club does a good job of organizing activities around the community.”

Stephen Chastain: “I think the free-time activities are great. There’s always so much to do and it’s always entertaining.

How do you feel about the Finns and Tampere? (culture etc…)

Katherine Mess: “The Finns I have talked to have all been very nice. Overall they are quite reserved, but that lifestyle fits well with my personality, so it hasn’t been very hard to adjust. One of the hardest things for me to adjust to is the different food.

Stephen Chastain: “I really enjoy the Finns. They are polite. But best of all, they are quiet. I enjoy silence every now and then, but it’s hard to find that in America. I fit in a little better here than I do back home. Pretty sure I was supposed to be born in Finland.”

The students that left TAMK to study at UWSP were also interviewed via email. They were asked the same questions as Katherine and Stephen, just turned around to get a picture of their feelings towards UWSP studies and the American culture. Here are the answers of two of them.

How have you liked the studies at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point? Have the courses for example been as you expected before hand?

Timo Vartiainen: “I must say that the structure of the studies is way different here than at TAMK. We have a lot of homework assignments compared to the amount we have in Finland. On the other hand we don’t have as much actual lessons. On a usual day we only have 3 hours of school. Still it is difficult to get everything done.

Tomi Harjula: “It has been very challenging to keep up with this rhythm here. The whole structure is more or less similar to a Finnish University, not like a University of Applied Sciences, so we have very few lessons and a lot of things to do on our own time. But it’s getting better all the time, it is just about getting used to it. Otherwise this has been amazing. All the things we can do with the paper machine are super cool, and in general, this has been great. All the teachers have been very supporting and we have not had any problems so far, although the language is another big challenge.”

What do you think of Stevens Point? (in general)

Timo Vartiainen: “Stevens Point is a relatively small town, a lot smaller than Tampere but it has all the utilities you need.”

Tomi Harjula: “Stevens Point is one of the nicest cities I have ever been to. It’s a small town, so there’s not so much to see or do, but it’s very safe, close enough to big cities and people here are super friendly. A beautiful countryside town, which has a great small brewery.”

What do you think of free-time activities or free-time in general in Wisconsin and at Stevens Point?

Timo Vartiainen: “The opportunities to do sports are really good and the facilities are in topnotch, which you can’t say about TAMK. Bigger cities like Madison and Milwaukee are only a few hours drive away so you can easily go to those cities on weekends if you feel that Stevens Point is getting too small.”

Tomi Harjula: “Free-time activities are very well organized. There’s an intramurals league for students in almost every sport you can name. Basketball, football, softball, volleyball, badminton, racquetball, bowling, pool. etc. etc. I personally have spent a lot of time on climbing wall, which is also free for students. And then there is theater, movie theater, all kinds of arts etc. etc. The list is endless, and you can really blame yourself if you get bored.”

How do you feel about the Americans and Wisconsin? (culture etc…)

Timo Vartiainen: “I think the culture is quite the same. Even the weather is alike. The only difference I’ve noticed is that people are more open and easier to approach than Finns. And it’s really difficult to find decent food around here.”

Tomi Harjula: “America seems to be a nice place. Wisconsin is in the countryside of a huge country, and people are like you expect them to be on a country side. Friendly and open, but not so open-minded. The only thing that really bothers me is that crap they called food here.“

Over all the individuals taking part in the TAPS dual undergraduate degree program seem to be pleased with it. This opportunity will give un-measurable international experience to the students and also give them a great deal of knowledge as teaching methods differ between the schools.

Photo: Katherine Mess (left) and Stephen Chastain (right).

Students from UWSP currently studying at TAMK.

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