Student exchange is the best way to learn the Chinese language and culture.
Vice-rector Harri Melin calls for closer cooperation between the universities in Tampere and China.
In the 1850s, young Americans were told to go to west to develop the frontier of their country. A more pertinent slogan for the early 21st century would guide the way to East Asia. Student exchange is the best way for young people to learn Chinese and to get to know its culture.
The fair was part of the autumn meeting of Fudan’s Nordic Centre. In addition to Fudan University, the Nordic Centre network consists of 23 universities from the Nordic countries.
Vice-rector Harri Melin was pleased with the event.
“Many prospective students stopped by our stand. Students at Fudan, which is one of the best universities in China, are interested in Finland and Tampere. I am sure we will continue to welcome talented exchange students to the University of Tampere in the future,” Melin says.
Melin urges Finnish young people to go to China to learn about the myriad opportunities available in this increasingly influential country.
“China is another important superpower in the world in addition to the United States. Our students have plenty of opportunities in China because so many Finnish companies have operations there. In China, you get a glimpse of the future, to what will also happen later in Finland. Knowing the language and understanding the culture are vital to studying and working, and students learn both of these skills by participating in a student exchange,” Melin explains.
He also calls for more cooperation between Finnish and Chinese universities at the postdoctoral level.
“All our relationships with Chinese universities should be as natural and intensive as the one we currently have with Uppsala University in Sweden, for example. Cooperation with China should become a normal, everyday part of the operations of the University of Tampere,” Melin points out.
Altogether, 19 students from the University of Tampere are currently studying in China and Hong Kong while 47 Chinese students are studying in Tampere. In addition, the Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Communications at the University of Tampere organise their own student exchange.
“Students who go on an exchange are usually outgoing, and they are in at least the second year of their studies. Slightly more women than men go on exchanges,” says Laura Mursu, coordinator of international education at the University of Tampere.
“Exchange students are quite courageous and adventurous; they seek a different experience compared to the average student,” Mursu adds.
According to Mursu, the situation at the University of Tampere is the same as at the other Finnish universities: more students come to Finland from East Asia than head in the opposite direction.
“More students should go to China. The incoming students currently outnumber the outgoing students by about three to one,” Mursu says.
Janna Kankkunen, 25, is one of the students from the University of Tampere studying in China. She has been studying at Fudan University for about six weeks. Kankkunen studied the Russian language and culture and earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Eastern Finland. She is currently putting the finishing touches to her master’s thesis on the Buranovskiye Babushki, the ethno-pop band consisting of eight Russian grandmothers who participated in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012.
“I didn’t know any Chinese before I came here. However, I was saved by a Mongolian girl who knew Chinese and helped me with all practical matters. There are about 20 exchange students in our programme; they’re from Mauritius, Uruguay, Thailand, Russia, Ukraine and other places,” Kankkunen says.
Kankkunen also intends to teach Latin dances in China. She is planning to stay on in China after her exchange year.
“I am not in a hurry to go back to Finland. I want to see what opportunities will open up here after the exchange,” Kankkunen says.
Five exchange stories from China
The University of Tampere and Tampere University of Technology are cooperating with the Nanjing campus of the Communication University of China, Beijing. We met five Finnish students at Nanjing, which is 300 kilometres north-west of Shanghai.
The Finns were the only foreigners on campus. They had arrived in September, about a month before being interviewed. Their everyday lives had begun with a bang. The students are busy studying Chinese in the mornings and doing optional cultural studies in the afternoons. Each Finn has two tutors to provide assistance.
Pauliina Kivineva, 22
University of Tampere, politics of the environment and regional studies
“In 2014, I travelled to Hanoi via Ulan Bator from Lahti, Finland. After the trip, I was left with feelings of confusion and a longing for China. Languages have always been close to my heart. I don’t know exactly in what field I will work in the future, but my mid-term goal is to learn fluent Chinese. I will probably graduate in 2020 or 2021,” Kivineva says.
Jenna Ijas, 22
University of Tampere, German language, culture and translation
“I had not planned to go to China as an exchange student but when I happened to see the advert in January I immediately became interested. Because there are so few exchange students here, we automatically spend a lot of time with Chinese people. I think it is great to learn the Chinese language and culture in such an authentic environment. I enjoy studying languages and my aim is to learn Chinese, including written Chinese. I will perhaps graduate in 2020 and would like to work as a translator after that,” Ijas says.
Niina Ojanen, 27
Tampere University of Technology, architecture
“I know Chinese already because I spent a year in Hong Kong during upper secondary school and studied Chinese for a year at a folk high school. My aim is to use Chinese in my job as an architect,” Ojanen says.
Jukka Pajarinen, 26
Tampere University of Technology, Bachelor of Engineering
“I have been fascinated by China all my life, by kung fu and other such things. Studying in China was a logical step in my life and, at the same time, it’s a dream come true. I’m sure I will be able to use Chinese in my future work. I believe I will complete my master’s degree in 2019. I hope I will find a job in my own field as a programme designer and that I will be able to use Chinese in my work,” Pajarinen says.
Miikkael Salmi, 23
University of Tampere, business studies, Faculty of Management
“My coming to China happened by chance. I planned to go to Texas, but this opportunity opened up right after I completed my bachelor’s degree, so I seized it. I started to study the country and its markets because marketing is my major subject. I am also interested in the data analytics of marketing. My long-term goal is to gain in-depth knowledge about China, which I could use in marketing in the future. I would also like to develop cooperation between Finnish and Chinese businesses and motivate people to learn about China,” Salmi says.
Tampere – China
In 2016, the most popular exchange destinations for students at the University of Tampere were Germany, France, Spain and China.
In addition to exchange studies, the best opportunity to study the Chinese and Asian cultures, societies, politics and business life is to take courses on Asianet.
The courses on Asianet are free of charge for students at the University of Tampere.
The University of Tampere has two research centres concentrating on issues related to China: the Tampere Research Centre for Russian and Chinese Media (TaRC) investigates communications in Russia and China, and the Sino-Finnish Education Research Centre (SFERC) cooperates with Chinese partners in the field of education.
The University of Tampere’s Language Centre offers instruction in Chinese. It organises four basic-level courses in Chinese using English as the language of instruction.
Text: Jaakko Takalainen
Photographs: Juuso Takalainen