Mission accomplished – Intercultural work check

“I found the work very inspiring and exciting since I haven’t travelled a lot, so I don’t know that many people outside Finland.” – Suvi Sutinen as a quote in the end of the project

The semester is coming to an end, and everyone is starting to evaluate their work. That is exactly what this blogpost will do for the intercultural project between exchange students from Germany and Spain, Chileans, and Finnish students. As explained before the intercultural working environment made this project very challenging but at the same time very interesting. The projects differ a lot and the working attitude around the globe demands tolerance and understanding. The students managed the challenges quite well and came to successful endings of each project. This blogpost will present some students from different cultures and tell how they experienced this project. It is about what the gained and what they think was most challenging. 

If you have not read the last two articles about this project it is recommended to do that first. In the first one it is explained how challenging intercultural work in general can be and how this project was planned to work. The second one presents the companies and their assignments for the students.  

The companies asked for a lot and the students started working very engaged in each project. The beginning of the project was confusing, difficult, and cluttered. The work between different countries and with different companies seemed like there is no plan behind it. For many students it looked like they must work on so many different ends that they were not able to decide where to start. Companies from the other country work differently. Students experienced right in the beginning various organizations and cultural backgrounds. The planning between two universities without knowing the exact requirements of each company was hard. Therefore, the students noticed that there is no exact planning or structure as in other projects they did before. The first few weeks nobody knew if the theoretical project work must be done in the Finnish team or with the big group of students. The last option was to work only in the small teams as we worked for the companies. The challenges presented to be in organization as well as in different cultural working behaviours.  

This might sound for now like a hard and exhausting project. But it definitely was not. The project not only improved the English skills of the students. As Oona Huovinen as one of the students says: “The project has been different from the previous ones, so [she] has gained new experiences in working.” The challenges regarding organization the lecturer took care of. After a few weeks there was a rhythm how to work and the students knew what it expected. Theory bases, presentations, meetings – for everything the groups found his way to accomplish it. This first challenge taught the students already very much. 

In general, the feedback of the students is very good. Many of them say they were able to improve their English. Others say that the tolerance in working environments increased. “It has been an enriching experience in which I could develop my collaborative skills within a working group diverse as the BerrySur team” as Francisco Arutas says (working team of a German, Finnish and Chileans who lives in Canada). He experiences a highly openminded company which helped in every possible way. Especially the technological standards which made it possible to work on this project easily impressed him. Via Zoom, Teams and Google Meets the teams came together and were able to discuss ideas and developments actively. He felt like it came with the time during the projects to overcome cultural differences. All students were willing to overcome the differences to adjust different works.  

As I can say for me, the work was very interesting also for an exchange student. Even though that I already experience a totally new culture here in Finland it was interesting to work in this international environment. For me, it was easy to communicate in English with everyone but in the beginning, it took me a little time to figure out how to work. The whole project work was new to me and then if nobody really knows what to do it is hard to find your way. But because of many helping team members I found my way to work very well. 

All in all, this project was a full success. In the reality, working challenges are never coming as they are planned and that is what the project taught us. We handled spontaneous changes and different cultures well and with patience. We learned how to react to different assignments. The “English skills are better now and [we are] bolder to talk” as Ida Oksanen says. We gained a lot of knowledge for the companies while we learned a lot about working behaviours. This is exactly what many of us expected of this project. 

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