What do we mean by integration?

Integration at its best means that students are forming a life in Finland so that there is an opportunity to learn new and still retain the old, important characteristics of life.

For healthy integration, it is important that the students feel that they belong to the university and to the campus that they are studying in.

It is important that students actively stay in touch with their families and friends in their home country while making new friends in Finland. Family support is important for their integration in the new society. The more opportunities students have to participate in society and engage in hobbies and activities in Finland, the better rooted they are to the Finnish society. The ability to be active also raises their awareness of how Finnish society functions.

Assimilation means "maassa maan tavalla" (“when in Rome, do as the Romans do”), i.e. that students feel that in order to survive and be accepted in Finland, they need to live and act like an average "Finn". Students start rejecting their own cultural heritage and aim to find only Finnish friends. Assimilation can also be a result of "forced" action.

Assimilation may occur, for example, if the international degree programs are built without considering the pedagogical stance on internationalizing the program, and if services are not organized to meet the needs of international students. If the cultural capital and knowledge gained outside Finland and the diverse ways of thinking, behaving, and speaking languages are not appreciated, students may lose their hope of building a future in Finland without them having to become "Finns".

Separation means that the student is in complete denial about the Finnish culture and only practices and accepts his/her culture and way of life. These students do not find the Finnish way of studying suitable for them and, in a worst case scenario, they do not find anything positive about their life in Finland.

There are various ways to make such students feel valued and important, which is very important in terms of their mental well-being. Students can be involved in a project or even asked to volunteer as an assistant to the teacher or professor. Students can also be guided to find a hobby or a religious activity that was an essential part of their previous life experience. The input of international students is used far too little when developing services for international students. Who better knows their needs than the students themselves?

Marginalization means that the student feels like an outsider both in the university and in Finland. Marginalized students feel that nobody understands or respects their way of life or their way of thinking and doing things. Students cannot relate to the studies or friends from their own country or any other country.

Marginalization may occur if the students feel that they do not have an opportunity to participate or, for example, to find a job after graduation. This is important when planning and implementing a communication plan in the universities. We can easily create margins by not providing enough information and courses in English. Universities can do much better in providing more information in English to their international students and staff. Not everything has to be translated, but summarizing the message can enhance a sense of belonging among the non-Finnish speaking population.