Wide variety of courses attracts summer students to Tampere

Extra-curricular activities mostly attract international students. According to co-ordinator Jenni Viitala, students enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the events.

Extra-curricular activities mostly attract international students. According to co-ordinator Jenni Viitala, students enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the events.

For the first time, Tampere Summer School in August was jointly organised by the three higher education institutions in Tampere.

“The Summer School offers an excellent opportunity to get to know the city, meet new people and improve one’s language skills,” says Francesca Tauro, a 22-year-old Italian who is about to start her year of exchange studies at the Faculty of Management of the University of Tampere. She decided to come to Tampere Summer School in order to learn in advance about the new city and university.

In two weeks, Tauro completed two intensive courses at the University of Tampere: one on environmental politics and the other on survival skills in the Finnish language. The language course has already been organised several times for students who want to learn basic language skills and it continues to be very popular.

The Finnish Survival Course was one of the thirty-one courses organised by the Tampere Summer School, which is jointly organised by the three higher education institutions in Tampere. Intensive courses from the universities’ curricula are taught during a two-week period.

The Summer School is aimed at anyone who has at least some background in higher education. According to co-ordinator Jenni Viitala from the Summer School, both students and exchange students from the higher education institutions participate as well as outsiders.

This year, the number of students in the international Summer School more than doubled to approximately 400 from last year’s 160. Twenty more courses were also offered. The huge growth is explained by the three universities’ joint efforts.

“I believe that the wide array of interesting courses explains this year’s popularity. In addition, international students are interested in Finland and the Finnish education system,” Viitala says.

Circus, programming and composites

The Summer School offered students a wide variety of courses. According to Viitala, courses on programming and the Finnish language were clearly the most popular ones. However, there was a wide range of courses from basic studies in social and political sciences to architecture and a course on composites.

“We also organised a social circus course in collaboration with Sorin Circus. The course used the circus as a pedagogical tool,” Viitala says.

According to Viitala, face-to-face feedback on the courses was very positive, but to some students, the workload came as a surprise. Viitala points out that students must earn their study credits by diligent work.

Social events and activities offered a respite from studying. According to Viitala, the events were very popular among international students. Tauro, who is starting her exchange year, took part in several activities.

“Among other things, I went to bathe in the sauna on the Viikinsaari island and participated in canoeing. The events were really nice because I got to meet people from all over the world,” Tauro says.

According to Viitala, not many Finnish degree students participated in the social events. The universities’ own degree students took advantage of the Summer School mostly to complete courses in their degree curriculum.

“For degree students, the Summer School is a good opportunity to complete compulsory studies in a short amount of time. Of course, they are also welcome to participate in the extra-curricular activities where they may find international friends,” Viitala says.

International students are intrigued by the peace and quiet

The majority of the students were degree students from the higher education institutions in Tampere, but students came to Tampere from many countries around the world. The most students from outside Finland came from China, Germany, Spain and Japan. Most of them are new exchange students.

This year, the Summer School was attended by over eighty students external to the three higher education institutions. Their number includes a couple of students with refugee status who were able to participate without having to pay tuition fees. Students coming from the outside usually need to pay for their Summer School courses.

Viitala was surprised by the large number of students but believes the students were attracted by the Tampere Summer School because of the extensive offerings and the affordable courses.

“Our courses are relatively inexpensive in comparison to other summer schools in Europe,” Viitala points out.

The Summer School also has a good reputation. Many students reported that they had learned about it from a friend or a tutor, or it was recommended by their home university.

21-year-old Wendy Wong from Hong Kong came to Tampere for the Summer School only. She found the Tampere Summer School on the website of her own university. Wong had always wanted to visit northern Europe and decided to come to Finland.

“My home city is incredibly busy whereas this place is so peaceful. I think that is the biggest difference between Finland and Asia,” Wong says.

26-year-old Miyuki Maki from Japan also came to the Summer School as an outsider. Maki has already graduated and works in IT. She especially appreciates the Finnish nature.

“The environment is definitely the best thing here. You can enjoy nature and relax e.g. by walking in the woods,” Maki says.

Tauro has also enjoyed her stay in Tampere so far. She is looking forward to her exchange year but admits she is a little apprehensive about the coming winter.

“I have heard that Finnish winters are really cold. However, I brought my warm coat so I come prepared,” Tauro says.

Text: Milla Pyyny
Photographs: Jenni Toivonen