tiistai 14. kesäkuuta 2016

Finnish mumbling confronts small talk

How much International Summer School can scare you before it has even started? A lot. How can I speak English in public? Do I understand what other students say? What if I use wrong words? Can I debate anything about global social work?

These were some of the questions that rolled in our heads when we started the first lecture of International Summer School on Wednesday. We sat on the back of the lecture room wondering how to survive the whole week. At first we did not talk anything with other students but they seemed to know each other already and had small talks right away. Maybe this was natural for them because most of them stayed in the same hostel. For us, maybe because we are Finnish, small talk feels really difficult and weird and we noticed that it was also difficult for other Lapland students. We wondered how it is so hard ask who or how are you or even just say “hello”?

At first lecture we got to know each other better by making short discussions and introduced our new friend to the class saying a few little things about him/her. We noticed that during the first break some people had discussions in little groups so apparently introducing ourselves was pretty useful. Yet again, the Finnish students had their own conversations. That clearly shows that we need more time to warm up. However when we had welcome reception in the evening the atmosphere was already more relaxed. Obviously outside the classroom people dared to speak English more easily, maybe because it is easier to talk about something else than the subjects of social work. At least, we felt this way because we think that some subjects are quite difficult to speak even in Finnish.

Our breakthrough in English-speaking happened on Saturday. During the weekend it was time for the unofficial part of the program and on Saturday some of us made a day trip to the Amethyst mine. There everyone had chance to dig their own amethyst. Students were wondering and admired Finnish wildlife, especially our clean air. It is usually forgotten that these things are not self-explanatory for everybody. We also got to see some reindeer so the day was fun and successful and hopefully everyone found their own lucky stone. Informal environment opened our word for coffins and we got to know other students better. We wouldn’t care if some words or grammar were not perfect, because we noticed that we were still understood. So we were able to have real conversations with international students. It was surprising that other students asked us to forgive that we will have to speak English even though we are in Finland. Clearly, many Finns are asking the forgiveness of their poor English language. Wonder why?

On Monday evening, we had pot luck dinner where everyone brought their own country and culture dishes. Food really is the thing that connects people. Everyone was excited to present their own home country food and all those looked really good and tasted even better. Some foods like Finnish black sausage or Chinese black sesame soup raised eyebrows but the first impression by looking were often wrong and the food actually tasted really good. Students seemed to come along with each other really well, as if they have known for a long time. Every nation were in harmonize and everybody just enjoyed the delicious food.

So, we survived the whole week and what we got? We didn’t lose our sleeps instead we got to know many new people and got many new perspectives of our social work studies. Over all, International Summer School was a great opportunity to meet new people all around the World, improve our English and to talk a little bit of global social work too. Maybe after this week we will dare to speak English more easily.

Niko Korhonen & Savanna Paulin
Social Work students, University of Lapland, Finland

lauantai 4. kesäkuuta 2016

19th International Summer School of social work,
Friday 27.5.2016

On sunny and warm Friday the 19th International Summer School of social work continued with the lovely guests from far, far away. We had a great opportunity to listen to lecturers from the United Arab Emirates and the USA. The student panelists of the day came from Guatemala, Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the USA. The day was packed with very interesting presentations, enriching conversations and important topics, such as the human rights in the context of the United Nations sustainable development goals (Professor Josephine Allen), transnational considerations in understanding intergenerational adversity among Latino families in the U.S (Ph. D. Sharon Borja) and the Affordable Care Act which also is known as the Obamacare (the USA student panel).

The USA student panel

For the very first time in the history of International Summer school of social work, we had a chance to learn about the Islamic culture. Dr. Lacey Sloan and Dr. Khadia Alhoumad from the Abu Dhabi Zayed University told interesting, and for many of us, unknown facts about the Islamic world. We learned, for example, about Islamic values and the rights of women in Islam. They also talked about social work practice in Islamic countries. One of the main key points in their presentation was to increase knowledge about cultural differences and humility. Especially important is to unlearn stereotypes, which I found the biggest learning lesson of the day, and maybe even of the whole Summer school. To see the person behind all the problems, stereotypes, outfits and other things like that, that is the most important thing to keep in mind. Not only in globalizing social work but in life in general.

Dr. Lacey Sloan presenting the 
traditional dress

From the social work student's point of view, it has been very enlightening to learn how the social work studies have been organized in different parts of the world. Many of the student panels during the Summer school have dealt with this interesting topic. For example in the USA social work students take therapy lessons, because clinical social workers are able to work as therapists. In Finland that is not possible. And in the United Arab Emirates you can study to become either an assistant social worker or social worker. In Finland there are the bachelors of social sciences from the university of applied sciences and masters of social sciences from the university. Maybe that relates somehow to the United Arab Emirates social work education system.

Heidi Lauri, social work student, University of Lapland, Finland