Case: Armchair Travel

Presentations of One’s Home Country to Facilitate Integration

In 2010–2011, the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences conducted a test to combine the travelogue presentations of the Kivipuro Occupational Centre and the Finnish language studies of students studying in the foreign-language degree programs of the University of Applied Sciences. The familiar “Armchair Travel” received additional value when the narrators were citizens of the target countries themselves.

Benefits to the higher education institution

  • Familiarity with international degree programs and students increases in the region
  • Cooperation with the third sector and work life diversifies
 

Students receive

  • An opportunity to meet different-aged residents in their place of study
  • A possible contact with an internship place or work-life contacts
  • A performance experience and diversified learning
  • Genuine feedback on language skills, which improves the motivation to study the language
 

Benefits to society

  • Local residents are given an opportunity to meet and get to know international students
  • Opportunity for mutual exchange of cultural experiences, improving the familiarity of different cultures and providing recreational activities for all parties
 

International students organized “Armchair Travel” by narrating a travelogue, i.e. presenting their own home country or region in Finnish. The presentation included general information about the country and its culture, sports, sights, and cuisine. The audience was also given the opportunity to discuss the theme with the student.

The purpose of the assignment was to provide the students with experience from giving presentations. Students were also given a chance to use Finnish in a new, authentic communication situation. The students’ Finnish language studies corresponded to skill levels A1 and A2 during the pilot.

The presentations were open for all. Armchair Travel was advertised through local media.

Issues to observe when implementing the model

  • Students should have progressed adequately in their language studies in order for them to receive a pleasant and positive experience from guiding Armchair Travel in a new language.
  • The additional criterion of the presentation is to take the different senses of the listener into account in as many ways as possible. This allows the audience to empathize with the narratives and support the narrator’s expressions. Images, sounds, smells, tastes, and videos make it easier to understand speech.
  • Time is also set aside for discussion and questions during the presentation. A conversation about a familiar topic motivates the student to continue to use the newly learned language also in the future.
  • Armchair Travel is a flexible form of cooperation. The model can be applied to cooperation with e.g. day care centers, lower and upper comprehensive school children, and other educational institutions and organizations.
  • Armchair Travel allows international students to form a diverse network of contacts in their place of study.

Example

During the academic year 2010–2011, the Kivipuro Occupational Centre and the students with a foreign background studying in the Degree Program in Business Management at the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences developed traditional Armchair Travel into a tool that facilitates the integration of international students in their place of study.

The narrators of Armchair Travel at the Occupational Centre were second-year BBA students from the University of Applied Sciences, whose Finnish language studies correspond to skill levels A1 and A2. The students’ Finnish language course assignment was to describe their home country in Finnish to the residents of the Occupational Centre in the form of Armchair Travel.

The pilot was a positive success and will also be extended to other degree programs in the future. Cooperation with lower comprehensive school pupils, day care centers, and other educational institutions will be considered in the future. Armchair Travel provides students with versatile experience from using the Finnish language. Armchair Travel also widens the students’ network from a professional and a social perspective.

Recommended additional sources and contact information

Sources
http://sepro.seamk.fi/index.php?topic=22&story=136

Phone interview with Project Manager Anne-Maria Mäkelä, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences