The other day I was browsing my inbox for something and came across the very first COVID-19 info posting by the University. This was sent last March, pretty much one year ago exactly.
Speaking or writing about COVID are low-hanging fruits, I admit. However, personally, I am optimistic about the future. Because my work revolves around tutoring, I am programmed to look ahead to the days of late summer six months from now. The images of new students pouring on to the campuses are comfortingly familiar. Last year, the situation was obviously different, and none of us can predict the future for the current one. The calendar does not lie, however, when it tells us that August is inching closer by the day.
Whatever the COVID situation, the University will welcome a large group of new students at the end of the summer as the Welcome Week kicks off on 23 August. Around a 1000 of them are students in the University’s English-taught degree programmes and students on exchange from universities abroad. The number is significant as it makes up about a quarter of all new students each autumn. The University and we as a community have a responsibility to help the new students start their studies and make them feel welcome in the student culture of Tampere.
Important fixtures in this responsibility are the international student tutors. Surveys and other feedback channels consistently show that the work of int.tutors is highly valuable and much-appreciated by the new students. Recruiting int.tutors is, however, much more difficult than tutors for Finnish degree students. This is an issue we at the Student Union are hoping to amend together with the student associations and the University. It might be that the problems stem from the negative stereotypes associated with international student tutoring.
International student tutoring is a fantastic way to gather international experience without ever leaving Tampere. The University welcomes students from around the globe, so int.tutoring is a true melting pot of different cultures, benefiting all who take part in it. AThe feedback survey data from tutors supports this finding. Of course there is room for improvement – we are working with student associations to improve international activities and make events more accessible for non-Finnish-speakers, for example – but generally international student tutoring is viewed positively by new students and tutors alike. The processes will be developed further in 2021, and international student tutoring is featured in TREY’s Action Plan for this year. By taking part in tutoring this year, you can have a real impact in the future of the activity.
The search for international student tutors for the autumn semester is open until this Sunday. You can apply by completing the application form on TREY’s website. Whatever your degree programme or campus, you have the chance to participate in helping the new international students of Tampere University. The key attribute of an international student tutor is the willingness to help. All other skills are taught in the training sessions or learned while tutoring. You don’t have to be a native English-speaker, for example. Basic skills will do fine.
The coming months will be challenging and uncertain due to COVID. You can, however, participate in helping others in the university community. New students, especially those who are moving here from abroad, are in a more difficult situation than us who have been here longer. They have to acclimatise to a new University, city and possibly country, all the while coping with the same COVID situation as the rest of us. The better we can help them with their predicament, the better the future of our community will be. At the end of the day, the exceptional circumstances are only bumps in the road in helping our fellow students.
The August sun will shine upon Tampere in 2021, too.