Posts in the collaboration category

Text: Mirja Onduso
Photo: Merja Halivaara

Laughter and chatter in various languages filled TAMK’s cafeteria on a Friday evening in March when 59 international students from TAMK, TUT and UTA and 43 local Friend Families met each other for the first time over blueberry pie at TAMK.

IMG_3332– I was thrilled and eager to meet my friend family, said Hai Luong Dang, a first-year student from Tampere University of Technology (TUT).

Hai was one of the lucky international students studying in TUT, Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) or University of Tampere (UTA) to get a local friend family through the universities’ Friend Family Programme. His Friend Family is Mira Pihlström’s family.

The universities have been running the Friend Family Programme together for already six years, and this year a record number of 43 families got involved. Earlier the programme was coordinated by UNIPOLI staff; from this year onwards it will be TAMK’s responsibility.

The idea of the programme is to help international students integrate into Finnish way of life, and to offer families a chance to practice their foreign language and intercultural skills. TAMK arranges the first and the last meeting jointly to all participants, and the family-student pairs otherwise agree on how often to meet and what to do. The families and the students commit to the programme for one year – but may even become friends for life!

Most families ‘adopt’ one international student, some brave ones even two.

Exciting experience for both sides

Mira Pihlström was an exchange student in Spain during her own studies, so she knows how it is to live in another country.

– I like meeting people from different countries and learning about their cultures, and it’s never a bad thing to have more friends either, she said.

In her application, she wished to have a “social, humorous and chatty” student friend – and she got two social, humorous and chatty Vietnamese boys, who had never met each other even though they have both lived in Finland for almost one year.

– I didn’t know anything about Vietnam but they told me e.g. that the traffic is chaotic and that families are only allowed to have two children, Mira said.

Hai was also excited:

– Meeting Mira erased my preassumed thoughts that Finnish people are not so into small talk: she was so receptive to our conversation and it was a memorable experience. We talked a lot of many different things: life in Vietnam and for example Finnish life, food, traffic and law. We helped Mira to know a lot more about Vietnam, since she didn’t have any clues about our country before, said Hai.

IMG_3354 IMG_3333

Students may live here for 4-5 years without ever seeing a Finnish home

International students often find it difficult to integrate into the Finnish society and local activities. Many have said that they have lived in Finland for many years and have never been to a Finnish home or met other people than students: children, elderly or working people.

– My first meeting with my Friend Family is actually my first time ever talking to Finnish people outside the university and supermarket, said Hai.

The Friend Family Programme is open to TAMK, TUT and UTA students and any local families. Students may be selected for the Friend Family programme only once but families may act as Friend Families as many times as they wish!

Although most of the advertising is done through the universities, families don’t need to be related to the universities: any family interested in sharing their family experiences and learning about other cultures is welcome to apply. Also, all kinds of families are welcome: families with children or no children, large families or single-person families.

Both students and families have to apply for the programme. The application period is in January-March, and the programme runs in March-December.

The next application period for 2018 programme will be in January-March 2018. The instructions can be found on the UNIPOLI website.

Kauppi forests calling in May


Many international students are usually interested in nature – and they have often only heard stories of the Finnish summer cottages. Hai might or might not yet know that Mira’s family also has a summer cottage!

In May, TAMK usually arranges also a joint forest trip and sausage roasting in Kauppi forest for the families and students.

Before the forest walk, they have plans for May Day (in Finnish, vappu) celebration:

– I wait for more activity with my Friend Family. These weeks are very busy for us, the exam week. However, we are going to have a picnic after the exam. I hope the weather will be nice to us, wished Hai.

Hai, how was blueberry pie?

– I don’t remember, all my memory and attention was drawn into the conversation with Mira!


Text: Mirja Onduso
Photo: Merja Halivaara

Group photo

In the photo ( from left to right): Mark Curcher ( Program Director for the 21st Century Educators Program at TAMK), Dr Rodolfo Silveira, Carita Prokki ( Director, TAMK EDU) and Virpi Heinonen (Adviser, Global Education at TAMK)

Forty years have passed since his previous trip to Finland, and Doctor Rodolfo Silveira, Counselor at the Technological University of Uruguay (UTEC) and President of Board of Directors at The National Research and Innovation Agency of Uruguay (ANII), returned to visit TAMK and several Finnish universities in order to transfer new teaching and learning techniques back home.

His visit is a consequence of an agreement with UPM (a Finnish forest industry company) in 2015, aiming to build a new Regional Technological University (ITR) in Fray Bentos to advance technical skills and engineering expertise in rural Uruguay. The regional university will specialize in mechatronics, renewable energy, transport and logistics. ‘Finland is famous for its education system, comprehending the early stages up to the academic levels. We have a similar model in Uruguay and we need more innovators and entrepreneurs to facilitate the mobility between different degree offers. The purpose of my trip is to see how it’s possible to collaborate and to develop programmes and activities together. It can be a win-win situation ’, he said.

Dr Silveira recognizes challenges while switching to a new education model. “We have to change people’s mindsets. In general, people are conservative and don’t receive changes well. If we are able to demonstrate this new model actually works, they might respond in a positive way. Our government and political parties are supportive, but without the society’s involvement, it won’t be possible to do anything. The natural course of evolution is to move forward. The whole world is changing and we have to constantly reinvent ourselves. Ideally, it will result in a better life quality for us all.”

Read more about the agreement between UPM and UTEC here:


Text & photo: Andruta Ilie



Professor Antonio Roberto De Oliveira is visiting Finland and Tampere for the first time. He wanted to learn more about Tampere University of Applied Sciences which has been a model and partner for the Rio Branco Faculties in Brazil for seven years now.


This is your first time in Tampere. How has it been so far?

The city is amazing. I like it a lot. It was one of the most important experiences in my life. So many things to learn, impressions and suggestions to take back home with me and introduce to my country and to the institution I work for. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to explore places, but I plan to do that when I return in September.

So you intend to come back. Will it be related to the existing connection between TAMK’s Proacademy and the Rio Branco Faculties?

Definitely. The relationship between Rio Branco and TAMK started seven years ago. The aim was to bring back to Brazil different teaching and learning experiences. During my research period as a Brand Consultant for Rio Branco, I understood that we need to change a lot and to be perceived as an innovative institution. We need to differentiate because the competition in Brazil is enormous. And we have to do that immediately. The best time is now.

How will the students benefit from these changes?

Two years ago, I added my entrepreneurship skills to the courses introducing a collaboration system where the teacher is the facilitator and the student is the protagonist. Sometimes I think that the student wants a step by step recipe. And there is no recipe, really. You have to do your own methodology and decide the best way to learn. As a result, students are more creative and engaged.

I know you take groups of students to the Brunel University of London every year for an exchange experience. Would you consider Finland at any point?

We have been going to London for ten years now for the International Branding week. I’m also considering coming to Finland for an exchange experience as an addition to that. And TAMK students can come to Brazil to visit some companies, do some networking and enjoy the Brazilian lifestyle. Sao Paolo, the city I live in, is very beautiful. There are many things to do and explore like art galleries, theaters, a variety of cuisines and a great nightlife. There is even a small town called Penedo in the southern side of Rio founded by Finnish settlers.

You are known to be one of the first pioneers in branding in Brazil. What made you choose branding and neuromarketing in particular?

In 1998, I went to Montreal, Canada to attend the 10th International Corporate Identity Conference on branding and the main topic was brand identity. After three hours, I realized this was something completely new to me. Nobody talked about branding in Brazil. I went back home and decided to change everything. But there was a problem. I couldn’t find a bibliography on the subject. So I contacted the people I met at the conference and they sent me books and materials to study.

What was the biggest challenge in your professional activity until now?

I’ve done a lot of work and research in the education branding field, but the most challenging project is with the Rio Branco Faculties. Our goal is to develop the viewpoints through research, design thinking and new strategies. This is very challenging to me. I love this project.


me and antonioYou lead a very busy life. You teach at different institutes, you are a speaker and you also write prefaces on several books on Branding and Design Thinking. How do you manage to find the balance between work and personal life?

Ask my wife (he laughs). I like traveling a lot so I do that a lot, especially for work. When I’m at home though, I spend my time with my wife and our children. We like going to the countryside a lot. And to eat chocolate fondue.


Interview has been condensed and edited.

Text: Andruta Ilie

Photos: Essi Kannelkoski