Remotely but involved: an international student in the Language Centre

During the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, I saw in my email a call for international trainees at the University. These traineeships attempt to foster internationalization in the University and to include international students into the Finnish work life. When taking a closer look, I was happy to see a traineeship opening at the Language Centre: as an MA student of European & Nordic Studies and life-long language learner of multiple languages, the Language Centre sounded like a perfect place to work at. I was curious how I could contribute to the Language Centre, wanted to develop myself and was interested in getting to know a Finnish workplace that is both multilingual and multicultural. I was therefore very happy when I heard that I received the place.

As the start of the traineeship in September came closer, it became clear that everything would happen online. This felt somewhat strange but at the same time exciting: the learning opportunities would be different, but nonetheless plentiful. Above all, I was happy that the traineeship still went on. I became part of the Support for Learning and Teaching Unit (OOTU) and got a lot of freedom to come up with ideas for projects that concern both students and staff.

One of the main projects I was involved in was the Course Assistant Programme. Through this programme, international students can assist in language courses at the Language Centre, but they can also visit Finnish high schools and participate in Language Centre events. I really liked organizing this programme together with my supervisor, especially since I could apply my existing experience to the work. I was namely an exchange student in a Finnish high school in Hyvinkää, studied in Saint Petersburg as an exchange student and I am currently of course an international student as well. These experiences gave me the feeling that I could add something to the programme, while at the same time learning how the programme is organized.

The highlight of the programme for me was without a doubt the Multilingual Workshop on 12 November, which takes place in addition to the two-weekly Asian Language Clubs. This workshop has been successful for years, but the autumn version of this year was special in that it was for the first time completely online. A large part of the workshop takes place in small language tables and it was my task to come up with fun ideas for the main session in the beginning of the workshop. I created an interactive online environment, which included a virtual walk through the Language Centre. The workshop was a great success: we had around 50 participants in 10 different language groups and luckily encountered almost no technical problems.

Another important part of my traineeship concerned accessibility. The accessibility of digital resources means that anyone can easily use online content. This is especially important for example for people using screen readers, people with dyslexia, but in fact concerns everyone. Making for example Moodle pages or PDF documents accessible is an essential part of making the University more inclusive. Together with one of my supervisors, I organized several workshops on accessibility. It felt nice to be able to help staff get the tools to make their teaching as accessible as possible. It was also good to realize how the staff of the Language Centre is always developing, which is not always visible as a student.

Overall, my time as a trainee at the Language Centre was very exciting. I especially enjoyed meeting new colleagues, even when it was online, and learning from them. It was also fun to understand that my intermediate Finnish knowledge is actually useful and that my previous experience could help our unit in the work we do. I luckily will continue in the Language Centre in 2021, so it is not yet time to say goodbye!

Merijn van Bruggen

International trainee