Page updated 21.11.2019

The IB Online programme gives freedom and possibilities

Makoto Chiba is a third-year International Business student at Turku University of Applied Sciences, in the online programme. He has a bit over a year left of his studies and he is starting to work on his thesis now. He chose to study online, because it offered flexibility to work and travel while studying.

He is currently also working at the City of Turku as a student trainee, in the communications team. Makoto is originally from Japan, specifically from Sendai City, in the Miyagi prefecture. He came to Finland for the first time in 2013.

It all began with an exchange semester

Makoto’s story with Finland started in 2013, when he was here for six months as an exchange student. At that point, he was studying electrical engineering in a Japanese university. While he was in Finland, he met his wife-to-be. She was his student tutor and they became good friends. When Makoto went back to Japan, in turn she went to Japan as an exchange student.

We really made use of the exchange program. That was a true exchange! Makoto jokes.

After he returned to Japan, he finished his studies at the university and graduated. Two years after his exchange period, Makoto moved to Finland to be with his wife, and soon after that, he applied to the International Business programme. He started in the degree programme in 2017.

Business with a dose of engineering

The spark for business and marketing had been present during Makoto’s first time in Finland in 2013. When the opportunity to pursue his interest in marketing arose, he took it. He took a few basic courses on business during his exchange semester and decided to follow up on that a bit later. After graduating from electrical engineering, he hoped to be able to study at TUAS in the future. In 2013, Makoto was impressed with how versatile and international Turku University of Applied Sciences was. He wished to study in a more international environment, to get a different perspective.

The education system in Japan is quite different; the programme structure is very strict. The University sets the curriculum for the students, and they are required to complete the courses in a specific order to be able to proceed. The course structure is firmly based on the chosen major.

Makoto was excited for the flexibility offered by the International Business online degree. He is interested in a variety of subjects, the business aspect, especially marketing, being at the core. He has been able to study freely the subjects he is interested in and has taken online courses from other universities as well, to augment the ones he has taken at TUAS. Especially optional studies allow for a great variety of subjects to be included in the degree.

Studying only business can work, but I thought that it would be good to be able to see things from different perspectives, Makoto ponders.

Despite being an online student, Makoto has participated in several on-site courses as well, especially in the first and second year. He found working with classmates face to face and being able to get their input in the classroom environment very valuable, but at the end of the day, he still prefers the flexibility and independency of working online. He is still able to discuss the work with his classmates, on an online platform. This allows him to focus on the course work and grants the flexibility that enables him to travel and work while studying.

Studying online means that you work independently, whenever you want, wherever you are. At the same time, if I find something interesting on-site, I can take part. Two different perspectives – it is quite interesting, Makoto says.

Freedom to travel was a necessity

If Makoto were studying on-site, he would not be able to travel during the semester. If he did, it would automatically mean that he would miss at least some of the lessons. He wanted to customize his schedule. At the beginning of the online courses, the teacher provides the class with all the necessary information, for example deadlines and times for meetings and lessons. Makoto visits his family in Japan as often as possible, so the freedom to study wherever is a necessity.

I go to Japan quite often, so even though I am in Japan I can just study there, at my home in Japan. However, with the time difference, I really have to consider deadlines. Other than that, I can just study wherever I want, Makoto says.

The only requirement is a computer and a working internet connection.

Versatile skillset in the making

Online degrees can be challenging, fundamentally because you must be strict with yourself and manage yourself on your own. During the last few years, Makoto has learned invaluable time management skills and regards this as one of the most important things he has learned. While studying full-time, he is also working full-time and attending Finnish lessons at the Finnish Adult Education Center in Turku twice a week. All the while trying to fit in some hobbies.

It is a busy schedule! However, I am quite satisfied with it. At first, I was scared I would not have any free time for my hobbies. The more I do, the more I get used to it. Learning to prioritize the tasks has been very helpful and you have to remember to take breaks to refresh your brain as well, Makoto summarizes.

Aside from time management and prioritizing, the online degree has taught him how to use various software, especially the ones that are commonly used in working environments. It will make the transition smoother when he graduates.

Makoto has learned to relax as well and make time for hobbies he loves. With the time management skills, he has been able to make room in his schedule to go swimming and exercising. Nature is also something he enjoys, and he can be found photographing birds in forests near Turku. Maybe even studying in a forest at some point.

Text and photo: Suvi Harvisalo