Tutor helps to bridge the gap

Teksti: Marie Pignot
Kuvat: Juuso-Valtteri Kivimäki
Bassma Amine (left.), Kseniya Cheshyk ja Luana Galoiu know that a good tutor can help one at the beginning of studies with all the information and practical issues.

There is total fifty-five tutors for the spring semester in the campuses of Kuopio and Joensuu. The University of Eastern Finland took over tutoring a year ago and there are mixed opinions on how well it has done its job. Even though there is a lot being done to share cultures between students, the general impression is that there are still two separate groups: the Finns and the internationals.

“Being a tutor can demand a lot of time”, according to Matias Uski, “but this is quite easy because your task is showing what you do every day: use the University’s restaurants, the library, and some cultural things in the city.”

Uski has been a tutor since September.
“I became a tutor because I wanted to do something extra this year. I believe this is something very common for Finns: they involve themselves in volunteering.”

Being a tutor gives one the opportunity to meet people with different backgrounds. Before being a tutor, Matias didn’t have any contact with exchange students. Now he has four exchange students under his responsibility and many opportunities to discover new cultures.

“It is like a tradition in Finland: each University has a tutoring program to welcome new students both for Finnish and foreign students”, according to Kirsi Konttinen, the key person of the tutoring program at UEF.
“The tutoring program already existed when I arrived at UEF twenty years ago. I think one day, staff members of the University realized that they needed help”, tells Konttinen.

Tutors are usually Finnish volunteers. In return, UEF can give to them a little fee and some credits, but according to Konttinen, students should not become a tutor only for that.
“Above all, you need to be interested in helping and meeting other people.”

According to an international student Kseniya Cheshyk her tutor was helpful before her arrival and during her first steps in Joensuu.
“He gave me all the information I needed before coming to Finland and helped me with my survival package for example. It was very much appreciated.”

Not everything is perfect in tutoring since the University took over. Luana Galoiu is a law student doing Erasmus exchange year in Joensuu. Luana regrets that she doesn’t have any more contact with her tutor now.

“He was really useful at the beginning but after one week the help stopped. Now if I have any problems or questions, I don’t have any contact with him.”

According to senior tutor Sami Tanskanen, UEF tries to improve its system.
“The tutoring program has been improved during the two last years”, tells Tanskanen.
Tanskanen has been a tutor for about four years. In the early days it was the role of the tutor to help exchange students at the bank office for example. Now there is a person from UEF to assist students there.

“Tutors are very valuable for us. We can do nothing without them”, says Kirsi Konttinen.