TAMK’s International Week for Engineering developed its field

Engineering International Week
Pictured are participants in the 2019 TAMK International Week for Engineering. Author Riku-Matti Kinnunen in the top row, second from the right.

In March 2011 we were excited at TAMK when our first International Week for Engineering was about to begin. The invitations were sent six months earlier and followed by planning, innovation, organisation, messaging, preparations and finishing. Now we were finally about to welcome our foreign guests.

That Monday morning was rainy, the walkways icy and the busses late when our international guests arrived at Kuntokatu campus. Without a doubt, the dark winter of the North was an exotic dimension on their way to the campus. Most participants were visiting Finland for the first time. Welcome to TAMK!

Back in 2011, our first international week had more than 20 participants from our international partner institutions. They came to teach, network and visit TAMK and Tampere. As the international coordinator on the field and main organiser of the international week, I had planned the teaching and other programme for the guests together with the heads of degree programmes. It however took a while before the degree programmes had a clear idea of what an international week actually meant. How does the guests’ topic fit in my course? How do we have time to go through all the English slides in three hours? How do I manage in a foreign language when I should communicate politely with the fellow creature during the break? Will the guests dare to try out ice swimming, which we included into the programme? In the end, everything went smoothly and the results and effects of the international week were much larger and deeper than we anticipated.

TAMK’s International Week for Engineering took place ten times in 2011–2020. It became its own brand – The TAMK International Week for Engineering.

During the decade, more than 200 engineering teachers, researchers and professionals visited TAMK. The foreign teachers even planned their annual timetable in such a way that they could attend our international week. Many participants returned to Tampere year after year. There are also some who participated in all ten international weeks. From 2021, TAMK will have one international week for all its fields. A great and natural continuation for the field-specific international weeks.

Participants of the international week became an informal network, a European developer of the field and a future-oriented discussion forum.

Student groups visited each others’ home institutions, curricula were developed, projects were planned, applied and completed, teacher exchanges were agreed on and friendships formed. Many engineering teachers hosted foreign guests for the first time in their career. But what is most important: the international week and its guests offered TAMK’s engineering students momentous internationalisation experiences and prospects for a long student exchange abroad. The pride of being able to follow teaching in a foreign language and communicate in English, learning a new way of approaching a familiar topic and having the possibility to present TAMK’s learning environments, laboratories and classrooms to foreign guests was often mentioned in student feedbacks.

Without us even noticing it, the international week changed our practices and studying culture. It increased our competence and expanded our pedagogical spectrum – naturally, without any external force. Gutta cavat lapidem, non vi sed saepe cadendo. Dripping water wears away a stone not with its strength, but with its constancy.

Text: Riku-Matti Kinnunen, TAMK, Senior Lecturer, International Coordinator for Engineering, Technology and Natural Resources
Photo: Saara Lehtonen