Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Memories to last a lifetime

During my studies in the Degree Programme in Tourism I spent a year in Athens, Greece, as an Erasmus exchange student. I highly recommend an exchange period for all students, and especially those in the tourism field, as it is an international industry and success in it requires multi-cultural social skills.
I chose Athens as my destination because I had lived on a Greek island some years before, and figured an exchange would be the perfect opportunity to add on to my limited Greek language skills. I was also intrigued by the idea of living in a metropolis city – as a small town girl I thought it made the exchange all the more exciting. Also, I figured that as the tourism industry brings in a big part of the Greek national income, they must have some expertise there to share.
The first few weeks of my residing in Athens can be described with one word – chaos. Although I had previous experience of the Greek culture, I must admit I did suffer some sort of culture shock. Life in Athens was similar to the life on the islands - multiplied by a hundred. Cars, houses, people, noise, shops, cafes, and then some more cars and houses and people…. It took me some time to learn my way around (I still don’t know how I found my way back to my house the first few times I ventured out J ).
Despite all that, though, I fell in love with the city in record time. I can’t pinpoint what made it so special, but I can say I really did have the time of my life. I met some amazing people, learned many things about other cultures, and gained an excellent new perspective on how the world works.
In Syntagma square after the first day of uni
I studied in the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Athens, which is an equivalent to our University of Applied Sciences. The atmosphere on campus was much more noisy and vibrant than what it is here, true to the Greek form of communication, and I did wonder how the students got any studying done among all the hustle and bustle. The Greek students do, however, have to work extremely hard at their studies, and they are not as lucky as we Finns are to be receiving monetary assistance from the government either.

View of  Lycabettus Hill from the Acropolis

I was in Athens for the semesters of 2009 and 2010, which was the beginning of the troubles the nation is facing now. There were many strikes held during my time there, and during them many lectures were cancelled. The teachers did their best in making up for lost time, and all of my courses were very informative and useful. All the teachers were very professional and enthusiastic.
All in all my exchange year in Athens gave me some unforgettable experiences and taught me a lot of things about myself, other people, and life itself. I can’t wait to go back J.

At the Finnish Christmas party, downtown Athens

 The writer is Janita Nurmi, who is about to graduate from the Degree Programme in Tourism and go on to conquer the world.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

WSYA extended deadline July 31

Let's put UN Millennium Development Goals into action!
The World Summit Youth Award (WSYA) is an annual award and a network for young people using the internet, mobile phones or other digital media to put the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into action. Winners of the Award use websites to fight diseases, innovative radio technology to battle hunger, or social media to raise critical questions and connect those who do good.

WSYA was initialized at the UN World Summits 2003 and 2005, this is the fifth edition, The award is organised by the World Summit Award (WSA) network, which is represented in Finland by Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

All UN member state citizens under 30 (January 1st 2011) are welcome to participate. The competition has 6 categories:

Fight Poverty, Hunger & Disease

Education 4 All
Power 2 Women
Create your Culture
Go Green
Pursue Truth

Registration by July 31 at:

More information:
World Summit Youth Award
UN Development goals

Previous stories about WSYA



Monday, 4 July 2011

Wiener Melange mit Apfelstrudel, Wiener Schnitzel mit Erdäpfelsalat, steirisches Kürbiskernöl

Typical Viennese and Styrian culinary delights spiced with Austrian openness and friendliness

In June before my summer holiday started, I was priviledged to meet only friendly, professional and interesting people during my Erasmus international exchange week. I visited three different places of two different kind of educational institutions in Austria. I saw the beautiful Capital of Austria Vienna, Graz - Unesco City of Design and a small village in Styria in between and behind the beautiful and rocky mountain.

The other place of my visit was University of Applied Sciences = Fachhochschule and the other one was a small, private owned, flexible degree and continuation education institution. I met people from the International Office, Project Office and two different Degree Programmes. In the private education institution I was taken care of by the Managing Director and his team the whole day. My exchange week was very pleasant, interesting, educational, fruitful and cultural. We shared mutual interests and functions, also shared and compared some differences. I shared information about my project and got to know about their “green” projects and education. I got to see some laboratories as well. There can be a closer partnership in the future, if mutual interests are strong enough. Finland has good reputation in Austria and it is easy to function with Austrians, also with English. It was interesting to discuss about the difference and relations of Universities of Applied Sciences and Universities in both countries.

My keys and hints to a successful international week for you and your employer are:

- Good planning in advance, content, meetings, timetables, travel planning
- Good contacts and network inside your own organisation
- Enough good language and cultural skills
- Real interest of learning new things from different cultures, companies, people
- Good manners (of course)
- Openness to other cultures, habits and languages
- Openness to share your work content and experiences with others

My advantage was fluent German and knowledge of Austria from my background and prior to TAMK work experience. I could tell about TAMK, Tampere and Finnish education system in German. Even my new project task I could describe in German, though the project is a local project with Finnish material. It was a real joy for me to notice that I could participate in all discussions and degotiations in the local language. I noticed that the money and time I have spent on living abroad, visiting friends abroad, traveling for leasure and moving from another country to another was not lost or wasted. The proficiency was there under the skin or somewhere hiding in brain – what a joy and surprise! All language skills are investment and especially in Europe it is a great advantage to command also other languages than English.

I can warmly recommend TAMK staff and students to go abroad for studies, business or pleasure – even for a short time. I have noticed in the long run that the command of several languages have helped to find a job in a hard competition in Finland and abroad. Especially if you travel alone, you will get more advantage. It is good to see how things and life can be different in another culture or country. During my next trip abroad I will strengthen my Polish :)

They say that travel broadens the mind.

Happy Holidays! Schönes Urlaub ! Hauskaa lomaa !

Text and photos: Ursula Helsky-Lehtola

The writer is Service Coordinator in TAMK, Research & Development Services and since May 2011 substite as Project Manager in OPI ENEMPI “green energy and new learning environment project”