ERDI semester 2018 at Karelia UAS

Sini-Tuuli Saaristo, Jordie Eskes, Kaija Saramäki

One of the outputs of the ERDI – Empowering Regional Development and Innovations project is an international semester (45 ECTS) open for all study fields. The curriculum is developed together with the multinational consortium involving higher education institutions, working life and associated partners altogether from six countries. The international semester Bioeconomy Hub was organised for the second time at Karelia UAS during the spring semester of 2018. This year a total of 36 students from 9 countries participated in the program.

At the beginning of the semester on the 17th of January 2018, the ERDI students, teachers and working life partner ProAgria from North Karelia had a change to get to know each other while enjoying sausages and coffee outside in the -9°C winter weather at Kukkola farm, Joensuu Finland. The event offered a good opportunity to find out why some of the students decided to take part in the ERDI courses at Karelia UAS and what expectations they had for the upcoming semester.

ERDI students Óliver Zajac, Leonard Zottl, Pekka Kinnunen and Jason Doucet.

Óliver Zajac (21) studies regional development at Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Slovakia. He decided to take part in the ERDI programme because of Karelia UAS’s good reputation at his home university. Zajac was looking for new experiences, new methods but also to overcome challenges. Furthermore, he wanted to meet new people and to get to know the culture in Joensuu.

ERDI studies offer a great way to internationalise at home. For forestry student Pekka Kinnunen (40) the key reason to participate in the program was the international teacher and student environment. Kinnunen has worked abroad before studying his second bachelor degree at Karelia UAS. He thinks that working with teachers and students from other countries and cultures is a good way to experience new viewpoints and learn from others.

With a study background from marketing, Jason Doucet (19) from CCNB Canada, wanted to bring a different aspect and view to the ERDI program. Doucet was looking for something completely different and new experiences. “In marketing we like to be disturbed and thrown in a different environment. If problems are thrown at us, we are going to do our best to fix them and innovate”, he says. Doucet feels that the school system in Finland and different study program are good ways to pursue studies and to make contacts.

The exchange students from University of Eastern Finland have the possibility to take part in the courses at Karelia UAS. UEF’s exchange student Leonard Zottl (22) studies environmental and bioresources in Vienna, Austria. He decided to include some ERDI courses into his studies. Zottl wanted to come to study in Finland, because it is not a typical holiday destination. He also liked how closely people are living with nature and sees that this kind of mindset is needed when studying environmental studies. While in Finland, he would like to visit nature and see the northern lights.

International teachers at Karelia UAS

One of the aims of the semester is to increase interaction between different countries and to address environmental issues on a wider scale. Teachers from the ERDI partners have participated in teaching in the ERDI semester together with the Karelia teachers. The courses have been planned jointly and also the assessment is done together in the teacher teams. Teaching in multicultural teacher teams and for an international group of students is beneficial for the teachers. Teaching methods, ways to assess and teacher-student interaction varies in different countries and sharing the experiences is seen as one of the main drivers for teacher exchange.

This semester a total of 14 teachers from 7 partners from 5 countries were involved with ERDI teaching. Martin Mastalka from University of Pardubice, Czech Republic, came to teach to Joensuu in one of the ERDI courses. In his teaching Mastalka focused on regionalism, regional policy and spatial and strategic planning in the scope of regional development. Mastalka has experience of teaching international students at his home university, but in ERDI programme he likes that the students are from different study fields. In the future Mastalka would like to collaborate more with other ERDI teachers and to compare the teaching methods at university level between Finland, Canada and Czech Republic. In cooperation with colleagues from the Netherlands, Mastalka is going to implement new topics into the study programs at his home university. One of the results of the ERDI project is to provide open access learning materials online on project’s web pages. Mastalka is looking forward to see how the course materials will be implemented digitally.

ERDI students, teachers and working life partner ProAgria North Karelia at Kukkola farm, Joensuu.

Feedback from the ERDI semester 2018

At the end of the semester 2018, feedback was collected from the students who participated in the ERDI courses. One of the three modules offered in the ERDI studies is the Connect the dots -training (15 ETCS), in which the students have the possibility to do a training period in a local company or work for the ERDI project. The students’ feedback was conducted by one of the trainees working for the project, Jordie Eskes from HAS University of Applied Sciences.

At the conclusion the students were asked to share their experiences through a survey in order to improve the courses in following years.Some students noted that they enjoyed the multinational aspect of the courses, having developed new skills useful for proper communication across language and cultural barriers. Other students preferred the insight gained in the field of bio-economy and sustainability in general.

Regardless of their favourite learning experience, most students agreed that overall the ERDI courses were enjoyable and interesting. That is not to say that nothing can be improved, however. Thanks to their input we now know some students experienced issues with the preliminary information and promotional material. The team will work on bringing the promotional material up to date and in line with the current curriculum. Furthermore, students would like a more pronounced connection to the business side of environment and more real-world examples of bio-economy.

Taking the feedback into consideration, we hope to be able to provide an even better semester next year and remain motivated to improve the quality of education across the board.


Sini-Tuuli Saaristo, project coordinator
Jordie Eskes, international trainee
Kaija Saramäki, project  specialist
Karelia University of Applied Sciences

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