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Master student on exchange in South Africa – an eye-opening, challenging and rewarding experience

Master student on exchange in South Africa – an eye-opening, challenging and rewarding experience

TAMK opens the world to its students through exchanges and internships. A thousand students take the opportunity every year. Doing an exchange or even a thesis abroad is not very common among TAMK's master's degree students.

Mirka Haili is doing her master studies in social services at TAMK. Her full-time job is in the services for homeless people in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, which has a million inhabitants.

The idea of going for an exchange in Durban, South Africa came from Haili's teacher tutor. At first, it sounded unrealistic because Haili had a job and a mortgage to pay. But soon she realized that it is not that hard to make the arrangements. She got a scholarship and an adult education allowance, so it was financially possible to take a study leave.

– So, here I am, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. The courses I am taking involve topics like Advanced clinical methods, Gender, AIDS and violence, and Social policy and legislation. I also intend to do my thesis here, comparing community work in Finland and South Africa, Haili reports.

– I am collecting data for my thesis in a township, an area where most people are poor. I have been told that it is not safe for me to go there alone. Being dependent on the help of other people is something I have not been used to in Finland.

"What I have learned here is to relax"

Studying abroad is not always easy, and it takes time to learn how everything works. The university culture usually differs from your own, let alone the way of living on the other side of the globe.

– Working on my thesis has been challenging at times, because the expectations in TAMK may not be exactly the same as in UKZN. Also, things do not usually happen right away, they happen "just now", which in South Africa means later. What I have learned here is to relax.

Another positive side effect has been the improvement of language skills.

– I am much more confident now in talking English, giving presentations, writing essays and my thesis.

Mirka Haili encourages master students to go abroad on a study exchange. For her, it has been an eye-opening experience. She also advises those who are planning to do their thesis abroad to make a proper plan before going.


TEXT: LEENA STENMAN
PHOTOS: MIRKA HAILI

Caption: Mirka Haili is adjusting to the way of living in Durban, South Africa. She is doing her master's thesis in social services, comparing community work in Finland and South Africa.

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This article has been published in the TAMK.today online magazine. Read more stories!

Muokattu 29.03.2016