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Page updated 8.6.2015

Living abroad alone makes exchange students stronger

Every year, there are many exchange students at the Arts Academy of TUAS. Some of them are living apart from their family and friends for the first time, which can be fun but also frustrating. Nevertheless, it’s a memorable part of life one will think about years later. This spring exchange students put up a joint exhibition called Kairos.

Text: Sanna Lindén

Photo: To disappear by Tove Rogstad (Animation), Sweden – Volda University College, Norway

“It was a new experience because I lived with a lot of different people from different nationalities and they are all studying different things. It was good for me to mix with other people who are not studying art”, says Tove Rogstad, animation student.

Rogstad comes from Sweden but studies arts in Norway. For her, these spring months in Turku were lots of fun. And inspiring, even though she cannot yet say how, as she has not yet left Turku.

“It usually takes some time to sink in. But I am sure it will be good”, Rogstad says.

It was pretty easy For Rogstad to get together with her Finnish student colleagues, who took very good care of her.  It’s not easy for everyone to adjust into a new culture. Spanish exchange student Maria Úbeda felt that a semester is not enough.

“Even if at the beginning it seemed like there is so much time to experience a new country, it’s not enough to build your own life there. It’s at the end when you really find your place in this new environment”, says Úbeda.

Friends are the key for coping in a new culture

Art teacher Ms Renja Leino emphasises that exchange students should get to know not just students at the Arts Academy but also other exchange students. Many get homesick during five months. The best social support are basic daily things local youths do together.

“Kairos” is the first joint exhibition by exchange students, and the next one is already scheduled for those who arrive in the autumn. The great idea behind this exhibition was to bring together all the exchange students who studied in different courses under the roof of the Arts Academy.

“It’s very important to integrate socially in different groups both at school and on leisure time. In addition, for these art school students it’s important to get a public opportunity to present their artistic progress”, says Leino about the idea of the joint exhibition.

Most of the exchange students come to Turku Arts Academy via the Erasmus programme. The most popular time of the year is spring, but there are students coming in the autumn, too. Daily life after lessons can be very lonely for an exchange student, especially when the winter is dark and without snow as it might be in Southern Finland. Leino supports the idea that local students get to know exchange students.

“We are all the same crowd. Language and way of making art varies, but we have a great common level for encountering each other: the pieces of art we make”, describes Leino.

All exchange students are usually in Turku for the first time. They would appreciate to join the locals to the swimming hall, for a walk in the island of Ruissalo or just spending some time together. When you meet someone abroad, he can teach you something new of your own culture. On the opposite side, you learn about his culture and, if you are lucky, you might tie lifelong bonds of a fellowship.

The best thing about the Arts Academy was personal guidance

Úbeda will soon return home to Spain. She really appreciates that she got such close and individual guidance from her instructors at the Arts Academy. At the University of Valencia, where she studies, there are hundreds of students. This spring has also been a time of many kinds of growing. She also tells she picked other art courses outside her field to expand her skills.

“My time as an exchange student has made me grow up in my work but also individually. I’ve learned to be more independent and to know myself more deeply”, says Úbeda.

Ms Leino shares the idea of the abundance of possibilities and chances Arts Academy offers for each student’s self-expression.

“We support all students to try and to stretch their limits. It’s now or never – we offer a safe environment for experimenting”, Leino encourages.