The International University Week (IUW) of the SocNet98 network of universities, held between 2 and 5 May 2017, brought to Finland and Humak more than one hundred social and youth work students and teachers from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Austria, the Czech Republic and Catalonia.
Humak’s civic activities and youth work students were centrally involved. A production team headed by senior lecturer Sari Höylä, consisting of 21 third-year students from the Helsinki region, got acquainted with their fellow European students and the current debate in the field, while ensuring that the arrangements worked smoothly and guests were enjoying themselves.
Workshops, discussion and new friends
The SocNet98 IUW offered a rich programme of content and enabled students to earn credits, but was also a great opportunity to meet and network with fellow students and hear what kinds of issues are sparking discussion in different countries.
The network organises the IUW every year at three or four universities, and all students of the member institutions can participate in it. Lecturers and workshop leaders are also invited from the partner universities. The common language of all IUWs is English.
Humak is the only Finnish member of SocNet98. It joined the network in 2013, and this was the first time it hosted the IUW. The theme was Diversity in Contemporary Society. IUWs were also held concurrently in Groningen, the Netherlands, with the theme A world on the move: social work in times of migration, and in Leuven, Belgium, and Linz, Austria, which both had the theme The Many Faces of Social Work.
The week in Helsinki included dozens of workshops, led by both teachers and their students from the participating universities, often together. The diversity theme was approached from various angles. Examples of the topics covered were stereotypes and the Living Library method, youth work based on human rights, community theatre in social work, empowering photography, and green pedagogy. Inclusion, creativity and self-expression were also handled using activity methods. The workshops are usually practical and focus on learning by doing.
Empowering experiences of success
“I like bringing my students to such an intensive week, during which they can get new experiences and learn new skills in an international environment,” says lecturer Alois Huber from the University of Applied Sciences of St. Poelten in Austria. He and his group of students have previously participated in SocNet98 IUWs in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and their own university in Austria.
Mr Huber finds it especially important that students are created opportunities for such international contacts: “I’ve seen this empowerment in my students. It’s great to see how proud they are when they come home and say: I was in Finland, I took part in an international workshop and presented my own topic there in English in front of international students. I made it!”
Mr Huber led two workshops on diversity during the week. The outcome was a radio programme lasting about two hours which the workshop participants made by interviewing other students at Valkea talo (the “White House”) in Helsinki. Mr Huber is a social worker who lectures at St. Poelten and a few other higher education institutions on topics related to social work and media.
Says Mr Huber: “I’ve contributed to the development of free radio for the University of Applied Sciences St. Poelten. The idea is to give access to radio to those who traditionally don’t have that opportunity. This enables them to make radio programmes, which is really empowering. It’s very different from answering other people’s questions.”
“A European youth and social work network is gradually beginning to form for us too,” said senior lecturers Kristiina Vesama and Kari Keuru from Humak, who were busy establishing international contacts. “Meetings like these are stimulating and empowering,” Ms Vesama explains. “An international week like this is an excellent and cost-effective way to build networks,” says Mr Keuru. “It’s like a light version. You don’t always need to travel abroad for three months. There are other alternatives for internationalisation.”
Mr Keuru and Ms Vesama have developed the One-minute video workshop, in which participants learn to produce one-minute videos. The two lecturers have led these workshops during the International Week Helsinki and previous SocNet98 IUWs, as part of Erasmus exchange, at various Humak units, and at the training sessions of the Yritetään yhdessä (Let’s Try Together) entrepreneurship project.
Civic activities and youth work students as producers
SocNet98. Humak students were distinguished by their orange shirts.
The production team headed by senior lecturer Sari Höylä had 21 civic activities and youth work students from the Humak unit based in the Helsinki region, all of whom are in the final phases of their studies. Those who participated in the organisation of the week earned 5–10 credits (ECTS) for their degrees.
Esa Huhtakallio and Sanni Hantula worked in communications during the SocNet98 week.
Sanni Hantula and Esa Huhtakallio were part of the communications team. Sanni was in charge of communications and leisure activities, while Esa’s responsibilities included IT issues in addition to communications. His mornings began with a tour around all the premises in which the Internet and computers were used.
“We joined the team because event production skills are needed in youth work and because it was possible to include this project in the specialisation studies of the degree programme in Civic Activities and Youth Work,” explain Sanni and Esa, who are planning to graduate in December. They have both been involved in student union activities: Sanni as an international tutor among other roles, and Esa as a member of the board of HUMAKO – Humak’s student union – for one year.
Senior lecturer Sari Höylä is happy with the students’ contribution, how the week turned out, and how popular it was: “We have received a lot of praise from participants. We succeeded in attracting a large number of leaders to our workshops, and there were more students interested in participating than we could take.”
Photographs of the SocNet98 week from the Discord platform
In the front page photograph, there is a traditional European buffet table to which participants from all the SocNet98 countries were asked to bring their own dishes.