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Wow, so another year has passed since I first signed up to become a tutor for international students at Turku University! Once again, I have met so many awesome people from so many different countries and such diverse cultures from all around the world.

Those of us, who have done an exchange themselves, know that it is not simple to arrive and to adapt to a new country. It is challenging to get to know the local habits and especially to meet local people.  The unknown language can make it difficult and time-consuming to get through the simplest daily tasks, such as grocery shopping.  Whereas the Finns are used to the cold climate, darkness and the silent but punctual people, it might seem weird or even uncomfortable for people from other cultures.

At Turku University, and so also at TSE, we have a very good system to make everything easier for the confused, incoming exchange students: tutors.

What does a tutor do?

You might think that it is an awful lot of extra work that falls on you when you become responsible for an exchange student arriving to Finland. Yes, it requires time, effort and sometimes some serious problem solving skills, but it is also one of the most rewarding things I have ever committed myself into.

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The tutor contacts the incoming exchange students before they arrive in Finland to make sure they have a low-barrier contact person to rely on in any possible questions. The tutor comes to the airport when the exchange students arrive and takes them to their apartments in Turku. The tutor picks up the keys and the starting packages for the exchange students beforehand to make their arrival to this new country as smooth as possible. The tutor guides the exchange students through their first days in Turku to introduce them with the puzzling procedures at the university, the lively student life of Turku and the exotic Finnish culture. As a reward for this, you don’t get so much from the university, but you can make friendships that last for life.

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At the moment, I am going through the fourth semester as a tutor for international students and I can say that it has not always been easy. There have been luggage lost on the flights, keys forgotten inside the apartment, problems with getting a bank account, problems understanding each other’s accents, homesickness and students who have arrived to Finland without having any apartment to stay in. Of all this, we have always got through in a way or another, staying positive and open-minded. Afterall, it’s just an Erasmus – all the problems will turn into funny stories by the time the exchange ends, if not before.

Why to be a tutor?

Being a tutor for international students gives you a chance to learn a lot. Not just about other cultures but also about the Finnish culture, when seeing it from the foreign point of view. You can improve your language skills and participate the awesome, crazy Erasmus life in Turku. You can meet dozens of new people, if you give it a chance. You can taste the food from different cuisines and you can learn to say ”Kippis!” in at least 5 other languages. You can see the reactions of your exchange students when you introduce them to salmiakki or sauna for the first time in their lives. You can hear stories about the student life abroad, which becomes very handy when you struggle with the decision where to apply for your own exchange.

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Some of my exchange students have become very good friends for me and we have stayed in contact after they have returned home. Some of them I have already met again after they left Finland. All of them have taught me something new and valuable and I do, and I will, miss all of them a lot when it’s their time to return home. I hope to see many of them again soon.

The time for applying to become an international tutor starts on the 3rd of February and continues until the 28th. Do NOT miss this!



Virpi Väkeväinen
Tutor for International Students in Turku University
Coordinator for Educational Affairs
Committee for International Affairs
The Association of the Economic Students of Turku