But when the exchange period is only few weeks away the stress and agony begin to grow exponentially and eventually you blame yourself of ever even sending the application. A week off your regular work means that the weeks before and after the exchange are much more packed than usual. At the same time you have to arrange your timetable, prepare lectures you need to give and find out facts about Finland in case somebody would ask questions like: how’s the unemployment rate in Finland? So why bother?
Sometimes you won’t even get where you wanted to. This happened to me this year: instead of an international week in Nice, France (nice weather!) for certain reasons I ended up in Staffordshire, England (not so nice weather!). Staffordshire University warmly welcomed me but the teaching arrangements took time, and when I set up for the journey I still had no precise teaching program. I had a fear that maybe I was not that welcome after all.
I was as wrong as I could ever be. I got the warmest welcome by the staff of the Business faculty. Already the day I arrived I gave an ex-tempore lecture together with another visiting professor from Belgium, which was a very unique experience. During the week I had several inspiring meetings with local colleagues and met brilliant students, who even took me to a field trip to introduce their project with a local pottery firm, famous Burslem. I did give several lectures, too, but some that I had prepared had no use. Maybe next time.
The most memorable event was, however, attending the inaugural lecture of my host, Professor Jon Fairburn, about ‘How and why Staffordshire should engage with Europe’. Inaugural lecture is a prestigious occasion where a recently nominated professor gives his first public speech to a very authoritative audience. And in his speech Jon presented TAMK as an example for his university of how to engage with Europe.
Stoke-on-Trent, where Staffordshire University is located, has rather similar history with Tampere. Both are old industrial cities which have lost their original industry base and now have to cope with the economic change. Stoke’s economic wealth was originally based on coal mining and pottery. Coal mines are long gone and the amount of potteries reduced to a fragment of what it used to be. Today Stoke is economically in much worse situation than Tampere. Jon’s opinion is that their community has much to learn about how Tampere has re-invented itself, for instance by converting the old factory buildings to business, culture and entertainment centers. He seemed to have several ideas about joint projects in mind. It is worth mentioning that they have been very successful in getting EU funding for their projects!
Jon also emphasized that TAMK’s model of student- and teacher exchange and our capability of arranging as many as 8 international weeks per year are something Staffordshire University should learn from. Even though I have absolutely nothing to do with building such a good image about TAMK I felt quite proud being introduced to the audience that night.
So I have accepted the fact that the sun of South France was not meant for me, and feel very inspired in finding out what kind of joint projects we could do with Staffordshire.
Text and photos: Tuula Andersson