International Student of the Year Christabel Fernando loves Rauma and builds bridges between cultures
Earlier this fall, The Satakunta International Peoples’ Fair (a forum for the international people living, working or studying in Satakunta) was organized for the first time, culminating in the rewarding of experts who live in Satakunta. Christabel Fernando, studying in the Degree Programme in International Business, was chosen as International Student of the Year.
Christabel Fernando was chosen as International Student of the Year.
– I received an email that I had been nominated as the winning candidate. It was even a bit of a shock. I didn't expect to be rewarded at all, says Christabel Fernando, laughing. In the end, she bagged the title International Student of the Year at the fair.
Christabel, who comes from Sri Lanka, has lived with her husband in Rauma for one and a half years now. Her husband works in a nursing home.
Christabel is studying digital marketing in the Degree Programme in International Business. She is currently doing an internship for the city of Rauma. She is happy about how much the city of Rauma invests in immigrants. It has already been agreed with the employer that another international intern will be taken on when she finishes the internship.
Christabel says her passion is helping other international students adapt to the SAMK community and its ways of working. She has already helped several international students with Finnish studies and possible jobs so that they would stay in Satakunta.
"I want to contribute to this society"
– It was a bit scary to come to Finland, says Christabel. But now that I see what is being done for those of us who moved here from elsewhere, I want to contribute to this society also.
In Finland, she particularly appreciates the stable national economy and the investment in the perspectives of sustainable development and responsibility.
In Christabel's opinion, the culture of her country of birth is very different from the Finnish culture.
– Sri Lankan culture is really open. You don't have to make an effort to become a part of the culture, the culture comes to you in Sri Lanka, she says with a smile.
In her new country of residence, she feels that the biggest challenge is the language. She has studied Finnish diligently but still finds it difficult. She is still not going to give up, because she understands the advantage that comes from knowing the language of the country you live in.
In Finland, she has been able to experience many things that she thought were exotic.
– I have been picking berries and mushrooms with my friends in the forest, it was memorable.
Another memorable experience was last summer's short student exchange to Latvia.
Increasing cultural diversity in the SAMK community
Christabel works as an international student tutor. She was also a speaker at the orientation week for international students at the beginning of the semester. She considers it an important event because it helps international students to get to know Finnishness and increases cultural diversity in the SAMK community.
– It was a bit scary to give a speech when there were so many people there. But I remember it as a truly unique experience, she says.
In her opinion, SAMK values international students.
– SAMK even rewards international students with scholarships if they have completed their studies within the deadline and with commendable grades, Christabel praises. She says that a lot of group work has been organized in International Business studies, and she has thus got to know different kinds of people from different cultures.
– For example, in some cultures the speaking style is louder, and it may seem strange to someone whose culture is soft. In any case, we work in different teams at the workplace, so it is good that a lot of group work is done during studies as well, she says.
Christabel says that even in class she would gladly sit next to a stranger to get to know people and their cultures.
"Leave all your thinking patterns and stereotypes in your home country"
Christabel urges international students to come to Finland with an open mind.
– Leave all your thinking patterns and stereotypes in your home country. Come here simply as a new student, she urges.
She wants to point out that even if there are certain kinds of plans in one’s mind, it may be that they will not come true.
– Things can go in a different way than what you had thought. It can be due to many reasons, for example, a different culture. It has happened to me too, and it is ok.
– When you're in a foreign country, it's important to step out of your comfort zone as much as possible. That's when you get the most out of the experience.
What kind of future dreams does Christabel, who was chosen as international student of the year, have?
– I love Rauma. I would like to stay and work here.
SAMK in numbers:
- 7162 degree students
- 803 international degree students
- 90 exchange students
- 7 bachelor’s degree programmes in English
- 1 master’s degree programme in English
- over 80 nationalities on campuses