A trainee’s glimpse into the Language Centre

Picture of Sina Timme
Sina Timme

An open atmosphere and a diverse job description attracted Sina Timme, a student from Germany, to undertake a traineeship at the University of Helsinki Language Centre in spring 2018 after she had concluded her one-year student exchange at the University. Sina has previously studied in Denmark and participated in a student exchange to Hong Kong. She is currently pursuing master’s studies in France. During her exchange studies in Helsinki, she fell in love with the city’s diversity.

Between two units

Sina’s traineeship was divided between two Language Centre units: the German Unit and the Support for Teaching and Learning Unit (OOTU). The division of the traineeship between two units was a first at the Language Centre, but was made easier by Sina’s previous experience of both units from her time as a course assistant.

“The division of the traineeship between two units seemed a natural thing. I had a workspace at both units, and we had previously made a rough plan for the distribution of my working hours between the units. I was able to decide on my working hours and schedule my tasks. The flexible arrangement also meant that changes could be made at short notice if something unexpected and interesting turned up in my calendar.”

Sina says that the traineeship at the two units provided a unique opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes in the Language Centre’s teaching and in the development of learning environments. At the Support for Teaching and Learning Unit (OOTU), Sina played a major role in planning and developing the Language Centre’s activities for international students. She was also involved in creating the new concept of LC Events, which includes multilingual workshops that address various themes from the perspective of different cultures. In addition, she was in charge of the Language Centre’s social media presence, wrote for the OOTU blog and acted as an assistant in staff training on the use of educational technologies. At the German Unit, Sina helped students during classes with pronunciation, vocabulary and discussion exercises. She also participated in planning language teaching, gave presentations to students and ran a pronunciation clinic.

In addition to her diverse job description, Sina praises the atmosphere at the Language Centre:

“Colleagues are not just people working together, but friends who appreciate each other. The Language Centre facilities and the building itself also make you feel welcome, and people communicate openly with each other. I felt respected and valued as a colleague and an equal. I was also trusted and given real responsibility.”

An opportunity to experiment, develop and grow

Sina particularly appreciated the opportunity to work at two different units and develop professionally.

“The traineeship supported my professional growth. It was rewarding to discover what I was able to do well, what skills I already have and what I wish to do in the future: marketing, development, data analysis or teaching? The broad job description allowed me to develop, grow and experiment. I made some headway and learned a lot.”

Having studied at several universities, Sina says that the Language Centre provides a first-class experience for students. “The groups are small, and the students receive a great deal of attention from teachers and course assistants. The students are not just passive recipients of information, but must actively communicate and exchange information with teachers.” Sina emphasises, in particular, the Language Centre’s open and positive attitude to learning. “Students are encouraged to use the language they study based on their own needs and abilities. It’s OK to make mistakes. This is the biggest difference to other places where I have studied,” she sums up.

Future in Helsinki

Sina has clear plans for the future: “I will stay in Helsinki. I have found a new job and will start fairly soon. I am also finishing my master’s thesis and will graduate shortly. I am looking forward to building a life here in Finland and will definitely visit the Language Centre often.”

She has many reasons to stay in Finland. Her experiences of an open, non-hierarchical working culture at the Language Centre motivated her to look for a job in Finland. “People here want to cooperate, they appreciate innovation and employees’ ideas are taken into account. I hope my future workplace will be like that. I also aim to learn more Finnish!” Sina says.

As for future trainees at the Language Centre, Sina encourages them to have an open mind, show initiative and not be afraid of trying new things.


Text: Nina Sulonen