International Sanna and Johanna: Going out into the wide world gives you courage, self-confidence and new experiences

Sanna Juhantalo and Johanna Kares-Koskinen work at the International Relations Office at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK). Most people know that that´s the place where incoming and outgoing student and staff exchanges are taken care of.

6.2.2020 | By: Anne Sankari | Photo: Anne Sankari


In practice, the field is really extensive. The duties connected to mobility alone vary from finding out the course selection at the exchange university to putting together a social activities programme for exchange students.

Simultaneously, they have to think over how to make foreign students interested in coming to SAMK and how to make the students and staff of SAMK interested in gathering competence and experience abroad. SAMK has approximately 160 agreements with European higher education institutions, and outside Europe there are about 30 partners.

Sanna started in the job already in the 2000s, so she has been around for years. Johanna started working for international relations a year ago after having previously worked as an executive assistant at the President´s Office and as a training designer at Continuous Education Services.

The job descriptions of the two international relations coordinators are different. Johanna mainly takes care of matters related to education export, winter and summer schools as well as organizing the programmes for delegations, pricing and contacts to education agents. In addition, the practicalities of staff and teacher exchanges belong to Johanna.

Sanna´s duties cover e.g. the administration of Erasmus+ program with all the applications and necessary reporting, counselling and managing applications of students leaving outside the EU as well as paying scholarships for all the students of SAMK going abroad. These women have, of course, many other duties, too:

- All of a sudden you find yourself buying duvets and pillows or arranging a day-care place for the child of a visiting lecturer, Sanna tells us.

- Or you need to change train tickets because a visiting group suddenly decides to visit a few more places during the day´s programme, Johanna continues.

The colleagues feel that the most rewarding thing in their job is that the tasks are varying and you get to meet all kinds of people representing several nationalities – and it´s especially nice to be working with young people. English as a daily working language is also a bonus.

They reckon they wouldn´t enjoy a job where you could always say that now I´ve done my day´s work.

- Sometimes there are surprising and hectic situations when you have to leave the job at hand, and the day goes totally differently than you had planned, Sanna describes their work.

- Tolerating chaos, without losing our nerves is our motto, Johanna sums it up.

No essential thing stays undone: The word “prioritization” is mentioned a couple of times during the interview. Let´s make our international ladies some tough questions:

What are the most frequently asked questions at international services (FAQ)?

The ones who are leaving for exchange make totally different questions than those who still hesitate or haven´t even applied yet. Those leaving ask if it is difficult to get to a certain destination, or how long the terms are. Very few inquire about scholarships. The incoming students ask what you can study in English at SAMK. Others can ask for example why you should go on exchange. Those leaving for staff or teacher exchange are often proactive by nature.

Foreign higher education institutions are interested in what degrees can be taken at SAMK in English and what are the entrance requirements.

Why is it worth going on exchange during studies?

Going on student exchange has been made very easy. If you don´t take that chance now, when will you then? A properly planned exchange does not lengthen the total time of your studies. Student exchange in the CV is still a way of standing out when applying for a job.

Mobility is decreasing nationwide. There´s more interest in faraway destinations than Europe but even for Europe there are fewer applicants than some years ago. Students may have a feeling that Europe has so been seen already – even though that might not be the case, as travelling as a tourist is a different story.

Why is it worth coming to SAMK on student exchange?

If you have already chosen Finland among all the countries in the world, we have several benefits of a rural town to offer: nature is close but so are city services, and living in the region of Satakunta is more affordable than in big cities.

Every now and then a student who has been on student exchange at SAMK applies for degree studies as well – this is a sign that the student has been happy with SAMK and Finland. The number of degree students is being increased, and SAMK wants to have more degree students from abroad. There are many who come to SAMK as degree students knowing that it is easy to go on student exchange from SAMK. This can also be used as bait in education export.

What is the best recognition you have received?

Sanna: There have been several great experiences when sending students to see the world, and many have thanked for the help with the application process. I remember an engineering student who was quite scared when leaving for Japan. When returning back to Finland, he said that there was only one thing wrong with the exchange: it was too short. All similar comments after the exchange tell that the students have left their comfort zone and have not only survived but also learned new things about themselves and the world.

Johanna: The contact persons of the visiting delegations give a lot praise when I have settled their affairs and solved practical problems of the group.

How often do you travel?

In Finland, maybe once a month; a couple of times a year abroad.

And now, please tell us who internationality belongs to?

Internationality and internationalization belong to each and every one at SAMK. Getting mobility numbers on the rise and having more international degree students is everybody´s business.

Besides Sanna and Johanna, International Relations Office includes the following personnel: Ari-Pekka Kainu is the Head of International Relations, Saija Arslan and Riitta Rissanen are International Relations Secretaries and Tuomas Elonen works as Student Services Secretary.

6.2.2020 | By: Anne Sankari | Photo: Anne Sankari

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