Thursday, 21 August 2014

TRADIGME IP 2014 - an amazing experience!

The coordinator Pirkko Varis with some students and Virrat bear searching for new ideas

TRADIGME IP  - Tradigital Media Marketing & Online Business with Social Media
was organized 30 March - 10 April 2014. The coordinator of the IP was Senior Lecturer in Marketing Pirkko Varis from Tampere University of Applied Sciences. 70 students and staff members from 13 universities and university of applied sciences from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, UK and Finland participated in LLP Erasmus Intensive Programme. The IP included presentations, workshops and visits. In addition, student teams worked with assignments from SMEs, and they gave proposals for international marketing communications, web site design and social media. The first day of the IP the participants spent in Tampere and from there all travelled to Virrat where they stayed for two weeks. Students and staff members lived in wooden houses at a lake in Lomasaari, Virrat and could enjoy special sauna, lake and other experiences of Finnish culture.

 
Ben, Richard and Maria with some other students on top of Pispala hill in Tampere 

First impressions:
Sebastian:  When I arrived in Finland it was a beautiful day and I was curious looking around. Helsinki might be nice and worth seeing but it’s nothing compared to the stunning beauty of the nature and landscapes of Finland. Ben & Maria:  Our first impressions of Finland were that it seemed very peaceful and Finns enjoyed a slower pace of life than back in the UK.

Presentation of Professor Jon Fairburn from Staffordshire University, UK

Sebastian about workshops:  
Part of the intensive programme were the workshops, in which the students had the opportunity to acquire knowledge from lecturers from all over Europe and beyond. The lecturers thereby specified the framework of the project, the students themselves defined how and what they want to achieve. Afterwards the lecturers accompanied the students on their way to achieve what they defined as their goals. Besides that the students had the chance to work together in a multinational team, it should be noticed that there were no restrictions whatsoever for any of the workshops because of a study of a student and therefore everyone had the chance to attend and work interdisciplinary on any workshop. In some workshops students worked with assignments from SMEs who had given objectives to be met and the results were delivered to them. At the end of the IP there was the presentation of the workshop results in front of all participants.
 
Dirk van der Laan with students in a workshop session

For this IP several workshops were offered: “Digital, mobile, social media and internet in marketing, brand loyalty, integrated marketing communications & CRM”, “Workshop on social media communication”, “Marketing in Virtual Worlds” and “The customer journey, logical game programs & cross-cultural issues in social media”.
Particularly interesting to observe was the interaction between management, business, marketing and computer science people. Due to the (very) different points of view new ideas were developed and there was a lot to laugh about but also impressive results were created. During one of the workshops for example a whole game with remarkable immersion was developed and after the presentation all interested students and lecturers were able to try it themselves. All in all the workshops were a great success, there was a lot to learn for everyone and even more important, it was a lot of fun.

Ulf having fun in a presentation

Kyle about experiences at Hyvölän Talo:
This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We traveled an hour into the heart of the Finnish countryside which is basically everywhere in Finland, but this place was even more out of the way, down a small track for about 20 minutes before we reached this amazing country house. The planned activities for the day were:  go deep into the forest, split into teams, build a camp, a fire and cook pancakes, toasted sandwiches and freshly caught pike; go from the camp to the saunas, one traditional smoke sauna which felt like 1000 degrees; a jump in the famous ice lake and a hot tub.
Making pancakes in the forest of Hyvölän Talo

When you sit back and think about the times that we have experienced in Finland this day was by far the most surreal thing that we took part in. The picture is of the dining room we all ate in together after the day’s activities. There are some tired looking faces, but one thing that the picture can’t show is the noise. The room was filled with such a warm glow of happy people, talking and eating, and trying to relive the day over in their heads. It was as if it never happened. Our host was so attentive, and answered every one of my questions, the food was so delicious I went for seconds and thirds, and the memories are golden, precious and so sacred to me now. 
 
Ari Hyvölä with some IP people at Hyvölän Talo

Maria about the visit to Ähtäri Zoo:
We also visited a nearby Ähtäri Zoo. After entering the zoo and receiving our maps we made our way through the park to the reindeer, elks, bears and beautiful snow leopards. The park is full of many rare and exotic animals, but the ones which left the biggest impression on me were the wolves, or susi in Finnish. It was very impressive because we cannot see these animals often in the rest of Europe. Throughout our visit there were helpful staff members who showed us how they are feeding the bears, and we had the chance to do so ourselves! Overall it was an amazing experience, although it was very cold for all of us, especially those who are not used to the wintry climate. These trip and other transportations were made with coaches from the company Ykspetäjä Oy / Lepikonmäki-yhtiöt. Buses were comfortable, always on time and the service was super friendly.

Snow leopard in Ähtäri zoo

Ben about socializing:
When Pirkko sent me the itinerary for the trip, I was surprised to see that we would be apparently spending many evenings in Pub 66. I (wrongly) assumed this was a mistranslation. Pub 66 was very hospitable for our large group and had a great atmosphere. Everybody seemed to enjoy their time singing karaoke so much that I was persuaded to sing too! The comedian, Trent, was also hilarious and made for great entertainment. The staff in Pub 66 spoke good English and were always happy to help with drink selections – liquorice liquor anyone?  During other evenings many of us tried to copy the tradition of using the sauna and then going for a dip in the lake. At first this was a big shock for me but as the week went on, I looked forward to a refreshing swim in the semi-frozen lake.

A house party in super great accommodation in Lomasaari, Virrat 

Cabin L people were very kind to host many parties which lasted until the early hours of the morning; not a good idea when we had to be up at 8am for breakfast! As the trip drew to a close, we spent evenings around the campfire cooking pancakes and sausages which is a memory I will cherish for a long time. It was a great experience to mix with so many students from different countries and cultures and we have all kept in contact since the trip has ended.

Richard about friendships: 
One of the unexpected sides to the IP was the build of some long lasting friendships. Some of which will last long after the IP finished. Students from such varying backgrounds managed from day one to form friendship groups. The assumption was that the group you lived with (in your cabin) you would end up spending the most time with. However all cabins had an open door atmosphere and all the students managed to connect. Personally I have made some great connections and friendships that will live with me forever. I believe many of the IP participants are already planning to travel out to various countries to meet up with their new friends.

Ben, Kyle and Richard on the frozen lake at Hyvölän Talo

Kyle and conclusion: 
It is never an easy task to sum up an experience like this. I think I could do it if it was just a trip, but it wasn’t just a trip. What it was was something bigger than us all. We began the ten days not knowing who each other were, we tentatively trickled around the edges of groups looking for a reason to say hello. By the second day something unexplainable happened, we all clicked. It was an unforced occurrence. As if we had all been friends for years, we blended into such a perfect family, between the parties, the saunas, jumping into the lake, and not sleeping a wink, it felt like we lived it all together.
The one thing that I take personally from this whole experience is the fact I have found my wings. College can be so demanding and straining on a creative mind, there are rarely moments to break, but in Finland I found a reason to slow down. There is a tranquility that you can bottle and take home with you, something that will run out eventually, but now I know where to find it.   
Some other student comments:
Amazing, awesome, brilliant, the best experiences of my life.  Thank you Pirkko for everything!


Text:
Maria Alexandrova & Benjamin Clarke, Salford Business School, University of Salford, UK
Sebastian Bielen, HTW Berlin - Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin, Germany
Richard Boroughs, Southampton Solent University, UK
Kyle Christy, Institute of Technology Tralee, Ireland


Photos:
Maria Alexandrova, Richard Boroughs, Kyle Christy; Christian Reimann, FH Dortmund; Pirkko Varis, Tampere University of Applied Sciences

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