New faces in the corridors of the University of Tampere are wearing confused expressions – as are all new students at the institution of higher education. The 800-odd exchange students have all queued alongside others starting their studies, lining up to enrol in their studies and explore their new surroundings.
Melody Zhung from China has come to Tampere to study business.
”I have a Finnish tutor,” she says. “One of my roommates is American and the other is Chinese, but I didn’t know anyone when I came here, alone. Everything is new to me, and I’m trying to wrap my head around the weather and the city and everything else.”
Spanish photojournalism students Violeta Vidal Luna and Antía Otero García go up to the information desk to ask for direction to the library – just like many hundreds of Finns learn how to do in basic Spanish courses each year. The women’s first impressions of Tampere are positive, although they feel a little nervous.
”I’m jumpy and downright scared, but the people here are so kind and nice – much more open than we were lead to believe,” Vidal Luna describes.
”The university is very modern and they have all the latest equipment, unlike w edo at Santiago de la Compostela,” Otero García chimes in. “The city also seems beautiful, what little I’ve seen of it.”
First week hardest
Most of the exchange students filing into the University of Tampere each year come from EU-countries, and a third are degree students from around the globe. Anna Tuusa, coordinator for international affairs, knows that the first steps in a new milieu can feel, to many, like a fight for survival.
”They are in a foreign country and have found themselves in completely alien living quarters,” she says. “They also don’t know anyone and are just trying to muddle along and figure out what to do next. Many are high-strung and quieter than they really are.”
“But after the first week they tend to relax,” Tuusa continues, “when the places and people have become a little more familiar.”
The University of Tampere has received high marks for its welcoming approach to international students. The orientation week programme includes walking tours and lectures on studying and everyday living – help with everything from getting bus cards to finding out where to eat is easy to come by.
Living arrangements are a big concern, which is taken care of in the student dorms or sometimes by emergency accommodation.
Students aim high
When all the basics are taken care of, students get to focus on the main tasks at hand. Mohammad Jafarzadeh Rezvan from Iran says he is excited about his studies in software development, which he will be tied to for the next two years.
”My plan is to study hard and pass all my courses and exams,” he says. “I won’t be partying or anything like that.”
Chinese student Zhang Cong also means to carry out her degree studies with distinction.
“I want to get good grades and do well in my studies, but it’s important to enjoy oneself too,” he says. “It isn’t easy to get in here, so I want to do my best.”