International winds blow up north with Innomaraton

Innomaraton is an event where students, organizations, and companies meet. Students work in teams for companies and together come up with and develop projects.

Lecturer Satu Valli from the Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences has been involved in Innomaraton already for years. According to Satu, companies benefit from young students who come up with fresh ideas for development that the company has not necessarily taken into consideration. And when there are international students involved, the ideas can be highly diverse.

“Young people always have a slightly more open, fresh mindset when they brainstorm for new development plans for businesses. Local companies can use Innomaraton to launch highly diverse, new projects that echo different cultures from around the world.”

According to Satu Valli, the best features of Innomaraton are the cultural encounters. When students, entrepreneurs, and organizations interact through international students, everyone gains new kinds of experiences.

“International students have always been involved and, because of this, students and entrepreneurs have been able to discuss things in English. We also try to form the teams so that they include both Finnish and international students. Discussions are therefore always held in English, allowing both students and entrepreneurs to learn the language and culture.”

Students design new image for the city of Tornio

Architect Jarmo Lokio from the city of Tornio has been involved in three Innomaraton projects that aimed to develop the nuclear center of the city. The projects were related to, for instance, new kinds of events, buildings, and versatile park areas in the nuclear center. International students were also involved in all of the projects.

“Every year, we have had students from Southern Europe who have brought their own ideas from their home regions to these projects. They often come from cultures where people have lived in an urban environment already for hundreds of years, and through this, we have received new ideas for Tornio that we would not have been able to come up with on our own.”

Students have also completed several theses related to, for example, the development of the city of Tornio. Satu Valli says that, at the same time, students have brought about multiple changes in Tornio, making the city an even better place to study.

“A number of ideas concerning changes in the nuclear center have been accepted by the City Board and consequently been carried out. And the ideas about a theme park and image building are in progress, enabling the city to develop through the students’ input.”

Internationality and tourism continuously developed

According to Jarmo Lokio, the Finnish culture is gradually adopting a more international approach, which is best facilitated by being open toward other cultures. He points out that Lapland itself has been an international tourist attraction already for centuries.

“I think Lapland is one of the most international places in Finland, because tourism can be seen and heard around the whole region. It is even visible in the everyday life of Tornio-Haaparanta, as many tourists from around the world visit these border towns.”

Satu Valli also believes that Lapland is a highly significant area in terms of tourism. Satu feels that the best option would be for international students to remain and work in Lapland, so that they could develop tourism in the area.

“We have experienced significant internationalization also in Lapland in the past decades. But the unique nature and culture of Lapland should be marketed even more actively. This could be done with the help of international students from the University of Lapland, the Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences and the Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences.”

International employees in Finland bring new assets and breaths of fresh air into our culture, according to Jarmo Lokio and Satu Valli. Openness is essential when Finnish companies hire international labor force.

“The contribution of students and employees from abroad in our businesses is always a major gain and leaves us with positive assets. The entire work community benefits and is diversified when international labor force is involved.”