New Student Union Council for 2016-2017 was chosen in the beginning of November. Almost 6000 students from the University of Turku voted and the voting turnout was the highest in whole Finland. The new Student Union Council had its first meeting on Thursday 3 December, which also decided on the members of the Executive Board for 2016. One of the new members of the Student Union Council is Elom Damalie from TuKY list. He was happy to give us interview and tell about his background.
Elom is studying in Master’s degree programme Global Information Technology Management in Turku School of Economics. Before coming to Turku, he also studied bachelor’s degree in Lapland University of Applied Sciences and spent one year in Espoo studying international business. During his years in Lapland he became familiar of students interests as he was advising international students in the board of local student union in Lapland.
Elom comes originally from Ghana, a harbor city called Tema. The fame of Finnish education was one of the most important pull effects that brought him to Finland in the first place. After living in several places in Finland, Elom feels like home in Turku and likes its peacefulness and easiness.
Finland offers flexibility and equality for students
Elom feels that students in Finland have very flexible learning possibilities, especially when comparing to many countries, such as South Korea. Study shows that Finland and South Korea have the best educational systems in the world but they are completely opposite to each other. With the South Korean system, studying is extremely competitive and intensive, just like in many other countries like Ghana. Because of Finland’s free education, here everyone has equal opportunity to go to school and learn. Elom feels that teachers in Finland are helpful and everyone has an opportunity to study in their own rhythm. In his home country studying is very competitive and students are divided into levels in very early stage.
In Ghana, there are public and private schools and competition is already tight in Junior High school level. Some of the schools are partly owned by missionaries and boarding schools are also common. Even though there are private schools where students have to pay for studies, most students want to go to the first class missionary/government owned high schools. Most of these schools are boarding house schools and single sex schools. Competition in these schools is very high because they take only the best students from junior high schools in the entire country. Elom studied in one of the best senior high schools in Ghana; in catholic boys’ boarding house high school, where he was a science student.
Ready for bigger challenges
Elom has always been interested in student politics and got encouraged to apply for the Student Union Council by his peer student colleagues of TuKY. Earlier he was also vice chairman of TuKY data association and felt that he is ready for bigger challenges. It was never a challenge for Elom to get active and get to know local people in Finland. He even attended Peiskä cruise with Finnish students and realized he was the only foreign student taking part in the trip. During free time Elom emphasizes the importance of extra-curricular activities, besides student politics, he enjoys Taekwondo both teaching and competing and hopes everyone can find a hobby that suits them the best.
It is very important for the Student Union to have an international member on the Council. The meetings from now on will be held in Finnish but there will be simultaneous interpretation. Having international member on the council will also require more focus on translating important documents into English.
Elom feels there is still great deal of work to do for the international students in Turku. He feels that at the moment international degree students do not get enough involved nor heard; especially students coming from Africa and Asia do not get enough attention. University of Turku looks very good on paper as an international university but in reality, is it really not as international as it could be?
Elom is especially concerned with international students who come to Finland and have to leave because they do not get employed after finishing their studies. Skilled master students are great resource for Finland but it is a big problem, many of them cannot stay even though they want to. Elom admits he knows many students with two Master’s degree and PhD who clean and work as newspaper distributor for living. He believes that lack of Finnish language is the best excuse employers can give, although there are many jobs in Finland these days that in practice do not require fluent Finnish skills.
The University and student association have to work harder and take more responsibility in integrating the international students in Finnish student life. That would mean fewer events focused only for international students but preferably activities that cross the cultural and language barriers between all of us.