New students on the Master's degree programmes taught in English at the University of Eastern Finland have got off to a good start in their studies, despite challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
In autumn 2020, a total of 203 new students started on the Master’s degree programmes taught in English at the University of Eastern Finland. 48 of them come from Finland and 155 from abroad, from 54 different countries. Finnish students are the largest group of new students, followed by students from Pakistan (15), China (11), Japan (10) and Nigeria (8). The number of new students starting in these programmes is relatively similar to last autumn (271), although the coronavirus pandemic has posed novel challenges especially for international students, e.g., with regard to their entry in Finland.
It is estimated that slightly under two thirds of international students starting their studies this autumn have already arrived in Joensuu or Kuopio. The rest have started their studies remotely from their home countries and will move to the campus cities as soon as possible.
Preparations for the autumn began already in the summer
The first course in the Master’s degree programme in European Forestry started in August. By October, 13 students have arrived in Joensuu, and nine are completing studies remotely from their home country. According to Coordinator Marjoriitta Möttönen, it is likely that all students will be able to arrive in Joensuu in November at the latest.
“In our programme, students have got off to a good start. Already last summer, we held joint Zoom sessions for students and were also otherwise in close contact with them. Students also organised their own Zoom meetings, allowing them to get to know one another already before the programme started. Over the course of last summer and this autumn, our tutors have also been in close contact with students, and this has generated plenty of positive feedback. We have also met with each student after their self-isolation period and handed out our welcoming package – while of course observing the safety guidelines,” Möttönen says.
Personal study plans (PSP) have also been discussed and made with each student over the internet. In addition to traditional PSP counselling, students have also been reminded about the special arrangements in place this autumn, and what they should take into consideration when arriving in Joensuu, for example.
Studying remotely from the Philippines and on site in Joensuu
Fellice Catelo from the Philippines is one of the students on the Master’s degree programme in European Forestry who started their studies remotely from their home country. According to Catelo, distance learning has been “self-studying at its finest”, but she also recognises some challenges.
“Readings and lectures work just fine. The online lectures served as an avenue for asking questions and relaying concerns, except when internet connection in respective places crashes. The exercises and assignments were quite challenging as you can’t personally ask questions and get the answers right at that moment. I think the most challenging thing in this situation is the interaction and learning with and from your classmates. And with the limits given by these online meetings, we don’t get to interact or converse as good as it is, when done personally or in a classroom.”
Dimitrios Manousidis from Greece has been in Joensuu since the start of August. According to Manousidis, online teaching has been a good solution in this situation, although it has been difficult to concentrate at times and the threshold to asking questions is higher than in in-person teaching. Cancellations of excursions and field trips has also been disappointing.
“Forestry is a field where applying theory to practice is of great significance. The lack of having contact teaching in a classroom is not as significant as the absence of excursions and field trips we would normally have. Coming here from my country, I knew that Finnish forests are well managed and there are professionals with great experience applying in practice what we learn in theory.”
According to Möttönen, field trips and excursions to, e.g., local forestry-sector companies will be organised as soon as it is possible and safe, and after all students have arrived in Joensuu.
Both students praise the staff.
“The staff is really friendly and open in helping us with whatever we may need. This has made me feel welcome and part of a community,” Manousidis says.
Making acquaintances virtually and in the campus city
Catelo started her studies from the Philippines and it has taken some effort from her to get virtually acquainted with fellow students.
“Being an extrovert, I found it a bit difficult connecting with my classmates online and trying to start a conversation through WhatsApp and other messaging platforms. Luckily, some of my classmates were enthusiastic and virtually sociable. The breakout sessions in zoom meetings were quite helpful! I think I have made some friends already.”
Students attending the programme in Joensuu have also met one another physically, while observing the safety guidelines.
“In such a hard period, all of us being away from our families, friends and loved ones we need to have this sense of belonging. As long as the Finnish government allows gatherings, we will keep on meeting for studies, social needs etc.,” Manousidis says.
Next admissions are approaching
In the admissions closing in January 2020, a total of 1,905 students from all over the world applied for admission to Master’s degree programmes taught in English at the University of Eastern Finland. Currently, there are a total of 849 international Bachelor’s and Master’s degree students at the University of Eastern Finland, which amounts to around 6% of the total number of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree students.
The University of Eastern Finland offers 26 Master’s degree programmes taught in English, nine of which are offered in collaboration with other universities. Next admissions to most programmes will open on 1 December 2020, and the deadline for applications is 20 January 2021. Further information on the university’s Master’s degree programmes taught in English is available at uef.fi/masters.
For further information, please contact:
Academic Rector Tapio Määttä, +358 50 575 1589, tapio.maatta(at)uef.fi
Director of International Affairs Riikka Pellinen, +358 40 355 2453, riikka.pellinen(a)uef.fi