Meeting new people especially from abroad has always been one of my biggest interests. From a young age I have been meeting people from abroad. My parents took me and my brother abroad every year when we were little just so we can see the world and its wonders. I believe that because of all the travelling I have done as a kid, I now feel an urge to explore the world and different cultures.
The first time I got a chance to implement travelling and learning about new cultures to my studies was in Proakatemia. In my first year I told everyone that I am very interested in these kinds of things and that my English is almost fluent. In my second year I became the head of international relations of Proakatemia. The second year was the time when I really felt like I was doing something that I felt passionate about.
Head of international relations
Our school Proakatemia is a student-driven community. That means that the board of Proakatemia is actually formed from students and by students. So, I had a seat on the table last year. Together with the board we made decisions regarding the school.
The best part of being the head of international relations was the fact that I was in charge of the team of international relations. With the team we hosted all the visitors that came to see our school from abroad. We made it in to a business by charging every visitor and with the money we actually got to go abroad, to the UK for an event called Team 4 Learning.
Every single one of the visitors was an opportunity. While we were telling them about our school, we actually were able to sell some of our products and ideas. For example, me and my colleague told one group of visitors that we could come and help them to build a team-learning based program to Brno. The group thought about it for a minute and the next thing we know, we were on a plane to Brno.
All I can say about the work culture in The Czech Republic is that it’s pretty similar as in Finland. People tend to their work very seriously and relax by going to a pub for a cheap pint. It’s a bit more outgoing country than Finland and people are very kind and helpful.
I’ve come across many different cultures during my time here in Proakatemia. One of the most memorable groups of people that I’ve done business with was the Brazilians. Memorable because they were so different from us.
The first day I met them was shocking. It was early November and as we know, Finns are very depressed during that time. I was exhausted since my job as the Head of International Relations of Proakatemia had just started that fall.
So, when I was feeling depressed and exhausted the Brazilians came and brought the sunshine from their country with them. They were so happy and smiling all the time that it actually was contagious. I was not prepared for something like that. During the time with them I realized that their culture is way more open and they use a lot of physical contact when you talk to them. We can all imagine how a Finnish person feels when they’re being touched while they are talking to someone.
Occasionally, the dialogue between the Brazilians got very fast phased. It could be because of the Portuguese language that they speak. A lot of hand gestures were made and sometimes it all just felt like a yelling competition. But when I spoke to them, everyone listened and stayed quiet. So, the fast dialogue and the chaos was not out of disrespect.
Business.com states that meetings with Brazilians usually last longer than expected. That I can agree on. There were times when the whole group was late, especially after breaks. One time a coach from Proakatemia needed to tell them not to be late anymore since we feel like it’s disrespectful. After that the Brazilians felt like the coach attacked them. They got mad and sad but, in the end, we dealt with the situation by talking through it and understood the cultural differences.
After my year as the head of international relations was over, I got a chance to go to The Netherlands to do a minor that lasted for three months. I went there with two of my classmates and we lived together during the exchange. We were pretty well prepared for the cultural shock that was going to hit when getting there. We knew that the teachers in the school were going to be way more strict than the coaches in Proakatemia. What we didn’t know was how the teachers in The Netherlands were going to give feedback to us.
The minor that we took was called Artful Business Creations. We were divided in to multicultural groups of four students and got an assignment from a real Dutch company. In our case it was one of the biggest internet providers in The Netherlands. The whole program was about using creative methods when solving the assignments. My group had people from Indonesia, The Caribbean and the UK. When we were working on the assignment with the group it sometimes took a very long time to get everyone to work. We were talking a lot about our cultures and other things and every once in a while, I had to change the topic back to the assignment, otherwise it wouldn’t have been done in time. But in the end the process went swimmingly, and we became good friends.
Now my favorite part; the teachers/coaches in The Netherlands. Like I said before we had no idea how Dutch people give feedback. Now I can say that they don’t. The only time we got good constructive feedback was when a teacher from TAMK was visiting the school and we booked an appointment with her. All of the feedback we got from the Dutch teachers was really plain. They didn’t give us anything to work on and that made the assignment really hard. In the ABC minor the Dutch teachers wanted to call themselves coaches. In my opinion you can’t really be a coach if you have to have authority over the students. A coach should be on the same level as the student and more like a friend, not an enemy.
I guess that the teachers in The Netherlands just have to have a certain amount of authority over the students. On average, people get in to universities a bit younger than in Finland, so they might still need that strong authority to motivate them. To me it doesn’t work. If you want me to give my best and be kind, I expect you to do the same.
Cultural differences are fun. It’s always a fun topic to discuss with new people and it creates trust when talking about them. It’s funny how much you can learn about another culture in just three months. You don’t really need to spend that much time with foreign people to see what kind of differences you have with them if you just are brave enough to open your mouth. It’s the best way to learn English as well. You’re forced to use it and you’re forced to understand it.
I hope that I’ll be able to work in an international environment in the future. I like to meet new people, I like to learn and understand other cultures, and I like to work. The perfect combination.