TAMK students build intercultural friendships with Tampere locals.

The Friend Programme returns to help TAMK international students immerse themselves into the Finnish culture.

In recent years, there has been a constant rise in the numbers of incoming international students in TAMK. The Tampere Universities community and TAMK are constantly developing different programmes to assist the international students to be comfortable in their new environment and enter Finnish society.

However, Internationals moving to Tampere for their studies often interact with other students exclusively. This may limit the perspective of Finnish society and culture for the international students.

The Friend Programme creates a wonderful setting for international students to meet the locals for mutual cultural exchange. The programme that run for over 10 years is returning this spring, after a pause due to the pandemic.

“We have had students applying because they felt they didn’t get know to Finnish families while living here even for years,” comments Ursula Helsky, Project Manager for the Friend Programme.

TAMK students and Tampere locals can apply to participate by Monday 28 February 2022.
The programme starts on 14 March 2022 with the opening event for everyone to meet and begin this journey of intercultural exploration.

TAMK match-makers

TAMK matches international students with local families and organizes events for all participants. After that, the Friend Programme pairs organize their meetings and activities freely.

While applying, both students and locals answer simple questions that help with the match-making process. The pairs are created based on the applicants’ hobbies and their preferred activities and outcomes of the programme.

The programme begins on 14 March 2022 with the welcoming event and announcement of the Friend and Family pairs.

“It’s really cute how, during the first meeting, everyone is very excited and anticipates who is their match,” says Mirja Onduso, TAMK Social Counselor for international students.

The participants can independently organize the frequency and format of their interactions. For example, some pairs choose to explore nature, cultural visits to museums and such or host international cuisine dinners.

Lifelong friendships

International students may often feel homesick and lonely. For some, it can be the first time being far away from their families and friends. The local family they meet through the Friend Programme can help the students fight homesickness by showing hospitality and helping the students adapt to the new culture.

At the same time, Tampere locals can learn more about other cultures through this programme. Participating in the Friend Programme is a great way to internationalize at home and expand one’s view of the world.

In its long history, the programme has helped build many extraordinary and long lasting friendships. Students and families do tend to keep in touch even years after the participation in the programme.

“One family attended the student’s wedding in Australia. They had kept in touch even after the student graduated and moved away. It was such a piece of sweet news for us,” comments Mirja Onduso.

Supporting and promoting intercultural exchange

The Friend Programme is funded by Study & Stay project, as part of the national Talent Boost initiative.

Besides this programme, there are several activities that support international students’ assimilation into Finnish society and culture. For example, through Parvi there are Language Clubs available for all TAMK students. Also, there are often themed discussions held both in Finnish and English where students can interact in a safe environment.

“We hope the Friend Programme, language clubs and other activities we establish will be integrated into TAMK’s regular operations event after the end of the Talent Boost funding,” concludes Ursula Helsky.

Apply for the Friend Programme by Monday, 28 February 2022.

Read more about Study & Stay here.


For more information:

Ursula Helsky
TALENT BOOST – Study and Stay programme
+358 407088749

Mirja Onduso
social Counselling for International Students
+358 503295224


Text and photograph: Dimitra Panopoulou-Huovila

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