The University of Turku was bustling when The Friendship Programme was launched with a joint kick-off meeting last Monday. The atmosphere was like at the airport when new friends were looking for each other with the help of name plates. The first encounters were spontaneous: many even hugged each other warmly.
Elina Alppisara and her daughter Nella Alppisara quickly found their friend, a Hungarian exchange student Andras Jansiks, who arrived in Turku a few months ago.
“I heard about the friendship programme from the university's international affairs office. I thought I could get to know local people through the friendship programme,” said Andras.
Communication in Finnish and English
Andras, who studies Finnish, also had another motivator for participating in The Friendship Programme: to get to speak Finnish.
“I'm trying to speak Finnish with Elina's family, but if I can't say something in Finnish, we can switch into English,” told Andras.
The Alppisara family used to live in Lappeenranta, where similar friendship programme was launched, but they moved away before applying.
“When I saw a notification about Turku's programme in the social media, I immediately thought: ‘Yes, now we are going to participate’,” Elina Alppisara said.
Children learn about internationality
The whole Alppisara family participates in the friendship programme. The family has another child besides Nella.
“We are not big on travelling and during the coronavirus period, we have not been able to travel at all. It is therefore wonderful that I can familiarise my children with other nationalities like this,” Elina thought.
On Monday, the Alppisara family and Andras did not have much time to plan their friendship yet. However, they believe that it is easy to find common things to do.
“We’ll figure something out. For example, we could go to a museum and try some sports together,” Elina said.
What is it about?
The Friendship Programme brings foreign higher education students together with residents of the Turku region. It is an opportunity to explore a new culture and gain international experiences without leaving the city.
Even this autumn, there will be thousands of foreign higher education students in Turku. Their contacts with local people and with the everyday life in Turku may be limited. The Friendship Programme provides students with access to ordinary everyday life in Finland and in Turku. At the same time, the residents of Turku region will be given an opportunity to familiarise themselves with a new culture and practice their language skills.
The purpose of The Friendship Programme is to bring foreign students and locals together. Then, the friends can meet each other in any way they want. Doing things together does not have to be special and exciting – even ordinary Finnish everyday life can be an experience for international students.
Would you like to have a new friend and get to know another culture? The next season of The Friendship Programme will start at the beginning of next year. We will announce when the registration opens on our website. Stay tuned!