Thursday, 23 February 2012

China - The country of contradictions

China seems to be in the news on daily basis and that is why many
people tend to have strong opinions of the country. The news value of China combined with the countries key role in fueling the staggering world economy makes it an interesting target for a business student. As China keeps on changing at an unbelievable pace now is a good time to go and witness the change by yourself.

My destination for the autumn term was the legendary Shanghai. As China in general can be a bit challenging for an outsider Shanghai is a good place to start your journey. Westerner presence in the city has always been strong and that’s why it doesn’t really feel like a typical Chinese city. The old buildings on the Bund still remind about the city’s colonial past and they create nice contrast to the ultra modern financial center Pudong on the other opposite bank of the river.

Yuyuan Garden

Iconic Pudong Skyline

Although I knew that the population of the city was around 20 million the amount of people everywhere was just overwhelming at first. No matter what the time or place big crowds always surround you. What surprised me the most was how easy it was to move around from place to place. There was a subway stop on our street and it took only ten minutes to get to the city center.

Typical Chinese street scenery

Famous Nanjing Road

Everyday life in China is just so different and the amount of chaos on each level of the society is sometimes disturbing. I had some concerns about the studies but fortunately everything with the Shanghai University went smoothly. This is because the Central Ostrobothnia UAS has been sending students to China for almost 20 years. The course package offered doesn’t really give a freedom of choice but for example the subjects I studied (Chinese economy, Chinese culture & history, Chinese business law, Chinese language) gave some insight to the Chinese way of living and doing business.

Going abroad is something that many think of but unfortunately they lack the capability to execute. The best part of our study program is that it offers the students no alternative options since the exchange is a mandatory part of our studies. After two years of intensive studying a total change of environment is more than welcome and it really helps to put things into the right perspective.

Although my travels in the Far East are over for know, the world tour will nonetheless continue. This time I will be heading west for the practical training part of my studies. I will be going to Charlotte, North Carolina where I am hoping to see the American way of life from a new angle. Compared to China I’m confident that USA will be cakewalk!

Text and photos Miko Mäenpää, a student of TAMK International Business

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tour de World – Torn between three places


The one country in the world everyone seems to have an opinion about, including me. In August 2011 I started my journey to unravel the mysteries and stereotypes of the country. The destination: Bemidji, Minnesota. Excuse me where? Exactly my thoughts. I had no idea a place like this even existed but I was excited to see what it was all about. I arrived in Bemidji, Northern Minnesota, close to the Canadian border, in the middle of the night and straight away it was clear that the place was not too big; only 13,000 inhabitants. I still decided to give the place a chance and boy was I surprised!

The term “Minnesota Nice” really is accurate. People understood my situation as an exchange student and were willing to bend over backwards to make my stay as smooth as possible. From driving me to the Supermarket all the way to lending me clothes, people were very helpful. When it comes to friendships I made, I have to say that Americans (and Canadians) are easy to get along with. People are very friendly and interested in you, and as in my case, your home country.

Bemidji State University offers a variety of classes for business students and a lot of the courses are very different compared to the ones at TAMK. My favourite was Advertising Management where we actually designed and executed an advertising campaign for a local company all the way from newspaper ads to radio and television ads and billboards. Personally, I really wanted to learn as much as possible about the country as well, where the course Introduction to American Politics came in handy. I now have a better understanding of the country and how it works, which will help me in both my personal and professional lives.

Bemidji State University – Main Gate

Cheering for the BSU Ice Hockey team with the school mascot, Bucky the Beaver

I have to say that my thoughts about American people totally changed during my stay in the beautiful town of Bemidji. It is safe to say that I fell in love with the people and the place. Friendships built to last were made during my stay and I know I will always have a home in Minnesota. Obviously leaving from Bemidji and leaving everyone behind was hard, but at the same time I had something exciting to look forward to…

My internship in Melbourne, Australia.

Before my time on the other side of the world I had to return to Finland. Home. After almost five months in America I was happy to see my family and friends again even though I was sad to have left all my new friends in Bemidji. At the same time I was getting very excited to start my internship in Australia, my “home away from home”, thanks to my exchange period over there while I was in high school. But then again, I was not ready to leave my family and friends again as I just got home. Makes sense? Not really, at least not for me, and that is the exact reason why I felt I was torn between three places; I wanted to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Now, after almost a month in Melbourne I understand what I have experienced so far and what I still have ahead of me. Spending an entire semester in America and then working for five months in Australia are going to look good on my resume! And it is not all about the professional life, even though I hope my time abroad will give me an advantage over other people. I have gained so much in my personal life as well. From the obvious of meeting new people and networking to me pushing myself out of my comfort zone; once again I got confirmation of the fact that I can do anything, as long as I set my mind to it and am open to new experiences. TAMK really offers the students an amazing chance to gain international experiences and to be prepared to work in the global business environment of today.

Enjoying the internship

And to conclude, my favourite quote and the motto I try to live by: "To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one's self" - Soren Kierkegaard

Text and photos by Iina Saikkonen, a student of TAMK International Business