Multicultural Speech Therapy – From Challenges to Solutions

At Savonia University of Applied Sciences there are 3 online Master Degree programmes: Digital Health, Global Public Health and Energy Engineering. The programmes are fully conducted in English. All these programmes consist of Specialised Professional Studies, master level Elective studies and master’s thesis. The extent of studies varies from educational background from 60 to 90 ECTS.

One of the elective studies is Working and Studying in International Environment (5 ECTS). It is open to all students. The objectives of this course are strengthening student’s communicative skills and professional expertise in an international learning environment. In addition, the student will gain experience to work and learn effectively as a team member in another cultural environment.

The implementation of the course may vary according to destination and the role of the international co-operative partners. In this blog student Maija Talvi (Master’s Degree Programme in Digital Health) shares her experience of working in multilanguage and multicultural environment as a speech therapist.

The overall goal of speech therapy is to improve clients’ competence in everyday situations. These situations can be for example playing with peers, to be able to understand and follow instructions at school, tell about the day in the kindergarten for parents. Therapy outcomes are the better the more child’s environment supports his/her development.

The amount of multicultural speech therapy clients has increased during the last decade in Fin-land. Not merely in capital region speech therapists work with families who speak Arabic, Russian, Somalian, Estonian or some other language at home.

Speech therapists should know about bilingual language acquisition but also have cultural competence. Conceptions about family and family members’ roles (nuclear vs. extended family) or how independent children should be can vary in different cultures. One concrete value continuum is concept of time; whether it is something that can measured or something that is given and consists of sequences instead minutes. In Finland, doctor’s, speech therapist’s and other professional’s appointments are scheduled strictly, and clients are expected to come in time. In some African cultures, time concept is more flexible, and Western idea of being ”on time” is not similar.

Thoughts concerning good parenthood and ways to communicate with children can vary a lot among different cultures. Even though professionals have some considerations about parenting and communication styles that support child’s development, we must be careful when presenting these suggestions. Research findings about the communication style that supports children’s language learning can be against to what is desirable in some cultures. It is important to keep in mind not to judge or criticize cultural differences or ways to be a parent. Cultural sensitivity recognizes differences between individuals from different cultures but do not criticize; instead, the idea is to be open and ask questions instead of making assumptions (THL 2021). Building the co-operation through open communication is important.

Kuvituskuvassa ryhmä tummaihoisia henkilöitä halaa toisiaan ja hymyilee.

Many of us have read news about Insufficient speech therapy resources in Finland. New ways to enable services to as many children and family as possible are needed. Äännekoulu has utilized digital solutions (remote therapy and digital platform for video messages, tutorial videos and rehabilitation games) for articulation problems and sound disorders successfully for several years. Now it is time to extend these solutions to serve multicultural clients and their families.

I did some research about Somalian healthcare and speech therapy services as a part of Working and Studying in International Environment studies. I wanted to understand better structural and cultural differences between Finland and Somalia, which is a home country for many clients’ families. As was predicted, resources are just a small proportion of those in Finland. Speech therapists’ work consist much of counselling families and other professionals and facilitating the change in children’s communication and language skills though indirect therapy. Educating community workers and other key persons is important part of their job in Eastern Africa.

In Finland we are traditionally used on individual face to face therapy either in speech therapist’s office or a therapist visiting child’s home or day care. Maybe it is Africa where we must turn our faces and start benchmarking good practices, instead of more developed countries like USA or European countries? If we combine counselling or coaching role of speech therapist and effective and secure digital solutions, we can serve many families in the early phase. This way we might be able to hinder children’s language and communication problems to become more severe.

As noted previously, multicultural clients and families are not a homogenous group, so it is not a simple task to design new services to support multicultural children’s language skills. Design actions require ongoing iteration along new information and experiences emerge. One practical example was that some immigrant parents did not know how to open digital language games because they were not familiar with hyperlinks. Another parent commented that Finnish video format with Somali subtitles was too difficult to follow since the parent was not used to subtitles in the first place. These examples reveal the need for ongoing co-design actions with families. As Somalian proverb puts it: “Intaadan fallin ka fiirso.”; Watch before your leap, think before you act. Ask and try it before you make it ready, I could add.

This blog is part of Maija Talvi’s performance for the course “Working and Studying in International Environment”.

Maija Talvi, Speech Therapist, Master’s Degree Programme in Digital Health
Liisa Klemola, PhD, RN, Lecturer, Savonia UAS
Please read more about studying Digital Health from here.

Covid-19 proof internationalisation

Internationalisation without meeting people feels at first like a Carelian pie without a crust. There is the rice porridge to eat, but something essential is missing. The corona era first created a vacuum at the field of internationalisation, but gradually universities who were hungry for global contacts, began to cook their various virtual tasters to make the international encounters successful online.

Carelian pie goes virtual

Kirsi Vartia is accustomed to crumpling Carelian pies at the Savonia teaching kitchen with lecturer Hanna Kyrölä assisting in kitchen work. Instead of the traditional teaching situation, this is an international project of Algoma University in Canada, in which Kirsi is involved. Algoma University wanted to create opportunities for intercultural cooperation for its students together with its partners. It conceived a project in which the students involved in the project each introduced each other via video to the traditional food of one’s own country, all the way to its history, meaning and preparation.

Essuun pukeutunut nainen asettaa keittiössä uunipellille raakaa karjalanpiirakkaa. Pöydällä uunipeltien päällä on jo useita paistamattomia piirakoita.
Tourism student Kirsi Vartia promoted Finnish gastronomy to Canada.

Kirsi is studying in Savonia in the degree program in Tourism and Hospitality. During her studies, she has been interested in food tourism and was therefore enthusiastic about the Algoma project. Videotaping and communicating with Canadians in English sounded like a challenge she wanted to take on in order to maintain her language skills. In her opinion, all Savonia students should have opportunities for similar projects. Especially in the field of tourism, these international encounters are necessary for professional skills.
Kirsi’s virtual Carelian pies can now be enjoyed off-campus too: in addition to the project universities, the video will also be shown at the Finnish nursing home in Ontario. Like Savonia, Algoma University is part of the uArtic network and the thematic Northern Food Security uArctic network involving partners from Norway, Finland and Canada.

Watch Kirsi’s project video in Youtube.

Studying the history of St. Petersburg at the Christmas table

History and Russia as a neighboring country had long been of interest to Tourism student Mia Väntti. In the autumn of 2020, she learned that Savonia students would have the opportunity to study the history of St. Petersburg with an online course at Saint-Petersburg State University of Technology and Design. She seized the opportunity, although not all the details of the course were yet available.

The professor at the partner university led the group of students through St. Petersburg sights on St. Petersburg and Russian history, architecture and culture through weekly zoom lectures. The teacher’s enthusiasm for the subject caught up with Mia as well. The small group size, with students from Germany and India, enabled fluent interaction.

Mia Väntti seisoo kirjastossa tietokoneen äärellä maski kasvoillaan ja katsoo kameraan olkansa yli.
Mia Väntti explored the streets and sights of St Petersburg online during the covid-19 pandemic.

Russian hospitality was reflected in the practical arrangements of the course. The weekly lecture time partially overlapped with the students’ other courses, but the teacher postponed his course to later hours. As Christmas is celebrated in Russia a bit later than in Finland, the last lecture took place on Finnish Christmas Eve. Mia enjoyed her Christmas meal while recapping the course contents with the teacher and the group. In addition to scheduling, the only challenges were related to occasional problems with network connections.

Mia felt that the course gave her a lot of new knowledge about St. Petersburg, Russian history and culture, which will increase her professional skills in the field of tourism. She sees virtual exchange as a good way to acquire international skills in cases where participation in a traditional long-term student exchange is difficult for practical reasons.

A world-wide course catalogue

Many international degree students of 2020 are accustomed to studying online due to the circumstances. It was therefore very natural for a Savonia 1st year Mechanical Engineering student, Olakunle Shopeju, to hop on a 3-week online winter school offered by the Samara University. The course focus was on 3D, but it also touched the areas of sustainability, circular economy and additive manufacturing in general.

Kuvakaappaus etäpalaverista, jossa tietokoneen näytöllä näkyy useiden 3D-kurssille osallistuneiden ihmisten kasvoja.
3D printing course participants. Photo by Samara University.

The biggest motivator for Shopenju was to earn credits by studying a subject that interested him. In addition to flexibility, one of the biggest benefits of international online studying for students is that it allows more choices of course topics. By taking an online course, one can focus on subjects one is interested in instead of being limited to the options offered inside the walls of one’s home university.

Shopenju evaluates the application process and study arrangements of the Samara winter school as smooth, although there were overlaps in daily zoom lectures. The course did not include mere lectures, but also group work with peer students e.g. from Malaysia, France, Italy and the USA. He would recommend a similar course to other students as well. Through short exchanges and online courses, many students are encouraged to participate in a traditional long-term student exchange later on.

Harmaalla pohjalla on 3D-tulostimella tulostettuja harmaita ja pieniä kuuraketin malleja.
3D printing course highlighted the need for additive technology in airspace technology. Photo by Samara University.

With baby steps from MooCs to virtual exchange

Shortly after the first wave of the corona, Savonia’s partner universities began offering their online courses, such as above, to students of their partners. E.g. Savonia students of IT followed programming lectures offered by a German university, Fashion Design students designed fashion pieces under the online guidance of Russian teachers, and Natural Resource students were introduced to a theme of tropical by a lecture from Costa Rica. School of Business has a long-term experience of online teaching cooperation in a sales and marketing with an Austrian partner university. As one can see, international encounters are possible, despite possible travel barriers.

As every university student should be able to test their wings in an international environment, it is good to remember that virtual internationality does not have to be complicated. At its simplest, the teacher can open his or her own lecture via zoom to students at a partner university in their field. Or students can meet online around a common theme or an assignment. This is a good place to start on a low threshold to test virtual internationality.

MOOCs are not yet virtual exchanges in the true sense of the word, but virtual exchanges refer to facilitated online learning, which usually takes place synchronously, where students can interact with students at a partner university. But that’s the subject of a whole new article…

Solja Ryhänen
International Coordinator
Savonia International Service

From climate change to climate security

Climate change is a global problem that affects millions of people everywhere. As a result of climate change, temperatures will rise and is expected to rain and snow more. On the other hand, the climate change leads to decreased snow and ice cover.

In Finland, climate change is seen in rising winter temperatures, and according to the forecast, Finland’s temperature will rise faster than the rest of the world on average in the future (Climate Human activity is raising the risk of these extreme weather and climate events.

Kuvituskuva. Talvinen metsämaisema, jossa lumisena kumpuileva maa ja horisontissa havupuita.

Changes in the natural climate are also associated with the changes in security. Climate security is referring to the security risks that may cause directly or indirectly from the climate change. Climate security is a quite new perspective to work on climate change.

Climate security consists of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Extreme weather events resulting from climate change are increasing at an accelerating rate and have a direct impact on a regional level. In addition, climate change and extreme weather events are having an unprecedented impact on the business environment.

Climate security in practice

Savonia University of Applied Sciences have launched a project called Climate Security Business Network (Ilmastoturvallisuuden liiketoimintaverkosto), which aims to increase preparedness and resilience concerning extreme weather and climate events especially in the agriculture and forestry industries in Pohjois-Savo region. Another aim of project is to increase water, food, and health security.

The project will create a climate security business network and climate security learning environment that supports Pohjois-Savo’s agriculture and forestry industries and increases the competitiveness and vitality of these industries. In addition, the project promotes the sustainable use of renewable natural resources.

Kuvituskuva. Henkilö istuu viltin päällä nurmikolla. Henkilön kasvoja ei näe, vaan kuva keksittyy henkilön sylissä olevaan kirjaan, viltillä olevaan matkapuhelimeen ja kannettavaan tietokoneeseen.

The project works closely together with key players in the field of climate change such as Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and Finnish Meteorological Institute. Currently the project is planning an in-service training concerning health security in addition to other activities. The in-service training aims to raise the awareness of climate change among the health care professionals.

To our understanding, the effects of climate change to human health is somewhat poorly understood among the health care professionals and for example nurse’s education does not necessarily bring up these effects during the studies. We feel important to raise the awareness the climate change has for human health.

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information!

Juhamatti Huusko
Savonia University of Applied Sciences

This blog has been conducted with the support of the European Social Fund and The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (Climate Security Business Network, S22173).

The ISP project is developing a platform for companies and company founders

Pohjois-Savo region offers a wide range of business services for companies and company founders. However, the diversity of business services may lead to a situation where the services are poorly identified and discovered. This leads to a situation where the companies and company founders do not always find the business services that best suits their needs and therefore it is important to increase the visibility and availability of these services.

Savonia University of Applied Sciences has launched a project called Intuitive Electronic Case Management System (abbreviated ISP). The aim of the project is to create a platform that will help companies, founders and those who want to become entrepreneurs to find a suitable business expert to their needs. By using the platform, the users can be directly in touch with a certain expert and solve challenges related to entrepreneurship. The project consists of three main parts, which are:

  1. Development of the platform
  2. Forming of the business model for the platform
  3. Marketing of the platform
Kuvituskuva. Kannettava tietokone, josta näkyy osa näppäimistöä ja näyttöä.

Business services in Pohjois-Savo region

In Pohjois-Savo region, business services are provided by the Team Finland organizations such as the The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, Business Finland and Finnvera. In addition, many local organizations such as the Business Center, the Chamber of Commerce, BusinessKuopio, Iisalmi City Business Advisory Services, Enterprise Agencies, and Navitas Business Services in the Varkaus area provide business services. The platform is developed in co-operation with these organizations, and the development work focuses on customer experience and usability, as well as the usefulness of the platform.

Software development in the project

The platform utilizes the idea of the customer journey. By using the platform, the customer receives information about the business services and certain experts. The customers can be directly in touch with the experts, or they can leave contact request for the expert.

The development of the platform utilizes agile methods, and the development is done in one-week sprints (see Figure 1.). First, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is created. The MVP can be used for collecting feedback from the end users and for testing the market demand. After this, the platform will be further developed to better meet the needs of customers.

Kuvassa on sininen ympyrä, joka koostuu nuolista. Ympyrän alaosassa punainen nuoli, joka osoittaa kohti ympyrää. Siinä lukee 1. Requirements. Ympyrän ensimmäisessä nuolessa punaisen nuolen jälken lukee 2. Design, seuraavassa 3. Development, seuravassa 4. Testing, seuraavassa 5. Deployment ja viimeisessä nuolessa lukee 6. Review.
Figure 1. Agile methods.

Stay tuned!

Juhamatti Huusko
Savonia University of Applied Sciences

This blog has been conducted with the support of the European Social Fund and The Centre for Economic De-velopment, Transport and the Environment (Intuitive Electronic Case Management System (S22172).

What is Kuopio Living Lab?

Kuopio Living Lab is a concept, which is coordinated by the Kuopio University Hospital, the City of Kuopio, and the Savonia University of Applied Sciences. In Kuopio Living Lab, companies from the field of well-being and health technology can test their services and products in an authentic patient, customer, and expert environments such as hospitals and health centres.

Kuopio Living Lab serves companies at different stages of product development, from idea to market. In addition, Kuopio Living Lab serves the development needs of Kuopio University Hospital, the City of Kuopio and Savonia University of Applied Sciences.

Kuopio Living Lab offers several services for its customers:
• Expert reviews
• Development workshops
• Usability testing
• Research and development cooperation
• Events: Grindery, Findery and Hackathon

Co-creation with stakeholders

Kuopio Living Lab is active member of the open innovation ecosystem that promotes co-creation between the companies, individual users, citizens, communities, and other stakeholders. Kuopio Living Lab plays a vital role in engaging users and empowering citizens in the RDI-process. Generally, the citizens play an important role in Living Labs. Nambisan and Nambisan (2017) have identified four roles for citizens in co-creation process (see Table 1.)

Table 1. Four Roles in Citizen Co-creation.

When a company pursues an RDI-process, it is essential to gain more customer understanding. In practise, this means that the company wants to know how their product or service fits to current markets. Kuopio Living Lab can arrange, for example, an expert review or development workshop. In expert review, healthcare professionals are invited to give their opinion about the product or service.

When arranging a workshop, it is essential to invite participants such as professionals from different fields and citizens. Especially, when operating in highly regulated healthcare settings, it is vital to identify the needs of healthcare professionals as well as the patients.
This blog has been conducted with the support of the European Regional Development Fund and Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo (Terveysteknologian tuotekehitys- ja testausympäristö, kehitystyö (Kuopio Health Lab) -hanke, A73751 and Kuopio Living Lab -hanke, A74469).

Juhamatti Huusko
Savonia University of Applied Sciences

Nambisan & Nambisan 2017. Engaging Citizens in Co-Creation in Public Services: Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Available at:

How to make virtual conference comfortable

At Savonia University of Applied Sciences there are 3 online Master Degree programmes: Digital Health, Global Public Health and Energy Engineering. The programmes are fully conducted in English. All these programmes consist of Specialised Professional Studies, master level Elective studies and master’s thesis. The extent of studies varies from educational background from 60 to 90 ECTS.

One of the elective studies is Working and Studying in International Environment (5 ECTS). It is open to all students. The objectives of this course are strengthening student’s communicative skills and professional expertise in an international learning environment. In addition, the student will gain experience to work and learn effectively as a team member in another cultural environment.

The implementation of the course may vary according to destination and the role of the international co-operative partners. The execution can be e.g. training in another country, participation to a congress or report of an international group visiting Finland. However, due to the pandemic, travelling around the world cannot take place and live happenings have been replaced by virtual meetings and congresses.

Student Katja Parviainen (Master’s Degree Programme in Digital Health) has participated to two online conferences, eHealth 2020 International conference and Digital Health World Congress 2020. Here are some tips from Katja to a virtual conference so that you get the most out of the event. These tips are part of Katja’s performance for the course “Working and Studying in International Environment”.

Luxurious breakfast to start the conference day.

Before the conference

• Spend the night before the virtual conference after work doing nice and relaxing things in order to forget all the work stuff. Think like it is a start of the weekend! Remember to make sure you have ingredients for nice breakfast and lunch…
• While relaxing, make sure you have peaceful, quiet and calming atmosphere at your home for the next day (= make sure no one else is at home and your home is nice and tidy)
• Make sure you have received the link for attending the virtual conference and you have all the equipment needed (working computer or mobile device, speaker, microphone and camera if needed). IT IS IMPORTANT TO TEST YOUR EQUIPMENT! If you were to attend as a keynote, make sure you know how to share your screen if that is your intention.
• Have a good night sleep in your own comfortable bed in order to be well rested for your virtual conference. Set your alarm, make sure to wake up in time in order to all the preparations!
• After waking up, go outside and have a nice walk to get some fresh air and to make sure you wide awake and ready to spend the day in.
• Choose comfortable clothes to wear and definitely, put your wool socks on!
• Prepare nice atmosphere: perhaps put a fire in your fireplace, if you have one and light some candles. This creates a relaxing feeling for your virtual conference day.
• Choose the best location for you to attend. If you are attending using your portable computer or mobile device, you can even choose to attend outside on your porch while sun is shining! I highly recommend that…
• Prepare a luxurious breakfast for yourself. Start enjoying it when the conference starts.
Then it is time for enjoying the actual virtual conference. I found attending virtual conference at my own home to be extremely relaxing and peaceful as there were no surrounding sounds, irritating smells, bright lights. After experiencing this, I feel like attending at home is a best way. When you create your environment and atmosphere most suitable for you, attending virtual conference can be relaxing, in addition to its educational effect.

Breaks and lunch

Use the breaks to get some fresh air and move your body. I did some virtual yoga, which was relaxing as well as made it easier to sit down on my computer the whole day easier.
Prepare yourself a nice lunch! Eating well and enjoying good food often is an important part of attending live conferences, so why not in virtual ones! You just have to make it yourself, but at least you most certainly can enjoy the food you like – and you can always order in!
During the conference
Be virtually active; answer pole questions and type your own questions for the keynotes. And enjoy of not needing to talk anyone. If you enjoy connecting and communicating with others, you can do that on social breaks virtually using your microphone.
Write notes! Keep the notes short, just write down the highlights and keywords. You will receive the material of the keynotes after the conference.
After the virtual conference, enjoy the time spared – you have the evening to anything else than travelling back to home – because you already are there!

We hope you can have a good experience in a virtual conference!

Katja Parviainen, RN, Master’s Degree Programme in Digital Health
Liisa Klemola, PhD, RN, Lecturer

Students learning internationalization via conference assistance

Internationality is an integral part of Savonia, accordingly, one goal is that every Savonia graduate is skilled, open-minded, and well prepared for international work. Therefore, being part of organizing an international conference, offers students a great opportunity to learn and train internationalization at home.

Process towards conference work is as follows: Teachers inform students of the becoming event in good time, announce the conference information, and student requirements – qualities – skills, knowledge, and abilities needed – when organizing conference.  Teacher makes a conference assistant announcement that searches students who should be active, extroverts and have ability to pay attention to details, have good and many-sided networking and communication skills (including use of social media and other digital elements), can solve problems and have ability to manage time effectively.

Furthermore, good English skills, both spoken and written language, are recommended. This all means that students interested in conference assistance, apply and introduce themselves both to teachers and customer, conference organiser. The customer and teacher together interview students, and make selection in order to form a well-functioning conference student group. Student get information e.g.  that conference participants bring with them their personal and societal cultural background. Acknowledging cultural diversity, like racial, religious, economic, linguistic and social diversity, increases ‘brilliance’ of international conference, and provides tools to study and train in fruitful learning environment. The onus is on the conference assistant to navigate through this cultural diversity and to have special possibility to learn international cooperation.

After selection, every student makes an agreement with customer, conference organizer, and she/he commits the process. The group gets organized and the roles are chosen, usually there is a project manager and several project assistants. The group decides the roles, which can be rotated during project period. When the conference fundamental information like timing, venue, expectation of amount of attendees, is shared, the project starts. Often organizing body has own duties and conference assistant students their own. Organizing body is responsible for the conference program, budgeting, registration system with fees, venue, accommodation, catering, contacting the media & creating promotional material, and site-events for accompanying persons, for instance. Most commonly, the contact person(s) is nominated who will also be the main point of contact for questions/answers related to the conference. The students can be involved in this task, too, depending of their work experience.

The phases can be divided in pre-conference, conference days and post-conference phases. The tasks are planned, and shared among group members. The conference assistants support project manager in balancing resources reserved, like time and money. They handle administrative tasks such as scheduling and reporting meetings, in addition to assembling and disseminating information. However, the assistants may also perform project management duties when necessary. The assistants need to be organized and manage their own practical study time well, so they can stay abreast of the conference project at all times and know what’s going on through each phase of the project.

Below are listed examples of tasks related to the three main phases are as follows:

During pre-conference phase the student familiarize the theme of the conference, plan who will be in registration desk, in conference room and in guiding other places. Student plan their outlook how participants recognize them e.g. clothing, name badges, how registration desk looks like, for instance.

In actual conference days the conference assistants are helping with all on-site activities on the day of the conference. Activities are e.g.  welcoming attendees, door management, registration check, keeping track of the guest list, get signed license to publish slides given by the presenters, manning the wardrobe, guiding people to right places, etc. one or two students can handle conference related website, blogging, and using social media activities like video-clips for the ‘FaceBook’ (remember to have permission to publish). All earlier mentioned activities or tasks familiarize students to react and work in versatile situations, ‘test’ their language understanding and producing skills. Conference assistants often they get immediate feedback. During pre-conference and conference days representative of the customer, teachers and named manager of the conference assistant group are responsible for supervising conference in progress and ensure  that all issues related to the conference phases are clarified and completed to avoid confusion and interruption during realization of conference.

During post-conference phase student reflects planned activities, their conference working, challenges or problems solved, and report their learning. The report(s) of conference assistants are evaluated by the teacher(s) and customer. Finally, they apply for the study credits.

Conference assistance resembles neighborly help and students should have a ‘Scout attitude’: A Scout makes good use of learning time and is careful of possessions and customer property. Furthermore, a Scout has self-respect and respect for others.

Pirkko Kouri, PhD, PHN, RN
Principal Lecturer in Healthcare Technology
Savonia UAS

Internationalisation for all!

The role of international competences in higher education institutions has been sparking lively debate lately for several reasons. Firstly, financial indicators are highly likely to change during the coming agreement period so that instead of calculating the number of incoming and outgoing exchange students, internationalisation should be integrated in all programme strategies. Higher education institutions have been forced to ideate ways of cross-cutting integration of internationalisation in their strategies. Secondly, the number of outgoing exchange students has decreased significantly.

”Students graduating from Finnish higher education institutions should have the competences to act in international, multicultural environments and understand diversity, global challenges and the principles of a sustainable society”, a quote of the objective explicitly set by the Ministry of Education and Culture already a couple of years ago. It is a fact that, for one reason or another, not all students go on exchange abroad to gain international experience, and therefore other ways of supporting acquisition of international competences during studies must be generated.

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture recently published a report: Internationalization at Home in Finnish Higher Education Institutions and Research Institutes. The outcomes of the report were published in a seminar organized by the Finnish National Agency for Education OPH on 29 August 2019, and at the same time, workshops were conducted to define ways of promoting internationalisation at home. The key finding in all workshops was that the quality of higher education institutions will be increasingly defined by their future degree of internationalisation and that internationalisation should be a real cross-cutting theme in all disciplines. Education programmes, goals and pedagogical strategy should comprise elements of internationalisation at home and international competences should be evaluated in the learning outcomes as well. Development of these skills should be an integral part of individual study plans. Development of international competences should not be restricted to students only but should cover the whole staff in higher education institutions. Thus, international competences should be fostered not only among the teaching staff but also among the administrative personnel.

Although development of students’ international competences is integrated with the established strategy of Savonia, the feedback from student questionnaires reveals the inadequacy of international skills based education. The thesis of Johanna Piik, a student in Tourism and Hospitality Management Degree Programme in Savonia, aimed at shedding light to the thoughts and opinions of Savonia students on the subject. In conclusion, the thesis presented an array of ideas for more versatile ways to enhance international competences, such as increased options for language studies, closer interaction between foreign and Finnish students both in school and leisure, utilizing the knowhow of professionals working in international tasks in teaching, as well as exploiting the potential for international collaboration provided by digitalization. The attitude and positive reinforcement by educators was also considered vital.

We in Savonia apply a range of good practices for enhancing international competences. For example, if a group contains even one foreign exchange student, the teaching language can be switched into English in a flexible manner in several programmes. Savonia is using the International Talent Open Badge, now actively sought by students. Short-term visits abroad during various study modules, carousel school models and the like have been developed for those who are not able to go on a long-term exchange abroad. Currently, a multi-disciplinary Summer School is being developed as well.

We have the knowledge and resources to build models for the provision of international competences and experiences also for those who do not utilise exchange abroad. The importance of sharing the competences and experiences related to these models has prompted us to introduce a series of monthly publications, each one presenting one great way to promote the international competences of the Savonians (students or staff). Therefore: Stay tuned for more!

Virpi Laukkanen
Manager of International Relations
Savonia UAS