Welcome to Satakunta

Text and photo Essi Keskitalo

They arrive at the beginning of the term. All of a sudden, you catch a few words of English at the local shop. You see someone taking pictures of icicles or someone grimacing when tasting salmiakki, salty liquorice. Exchange students are here again!

Language skills improve and the circle of friends expands

This is a familiar concept to Johanna Mäkelä, who studies at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences. She has worked as a tutor for international students and witnessed several times how exchange students become excited over the first snow flakes and proudly repeat Finnish words.

Tutors for international students look after exchange students arriving in Finland. They make sure there is toilet paper in the apartment on the first day and show how produce is weighed at grocery stores. Additionally, tutors often organise various activities for their students, from introductory events to evening gatherings. The young people who move to Satakunta usually come from European countries as well as Korea, Russia and all the way from Nepal.

Tutoring helps to improve language skills and circles of friends expand beyond Finland. 
- The best thing about tutoring is that you will see your hometown through the eyes of outsiders, Johanna notes. 
Different cultures become a part of everyday life. One day, you might eat a Korean dessert and the next day, support Ässät with Dutch people. It becomes easier to become more international in your own home town.

Creating unforgettable experiences

Exchange students usually stay in Finland for a semester or a whole year. When it is time to leave, the atmosphere is often wistful. 
- Even though the world has become smaller and travelling is easier, it is always the end of an era when exchange students go back home.

Luckily it is easy to keep in touch with former students. Facebook is used for exchanging news and invitations for visits and some have visited Pori again after their stints as exchange students.

When asked about her best experiences of being a tutor, Johanna lets out a sigh and says how difficult it is to choose. 
- When exchange students arrive in Finland, everyone is nervous but at the end of their time here, they have made thousands of memories and friends for life. The most rewarding thing for me is to see is that the exchange has been an unforgettable experience and that I have been a part of it.