We all are influenced by the other human beings we meet throughout our lives. Even when we’re on our own, we’re still affected by our relationships and experiences of the past as well as by our own thoughts about the relationships and experiences of the future. Most of us do feel and acknowledge those influences, but we might not talk enough about human connection which is crucial to building those meaningful relationships. Those relationships are the ones shaping our lives, giving us a sense of belonging, sense of support, and fight the feeling of loneliness.
When our backgrounds are drastically different, it’s at times quite hard to find common ground and to connect right off the bat. Quite often it happens simply because people don’t understand how differently people can view the same things, and that even the opposite of the assumptions you didn’t even think you had might also be true.
In a community as diverse as ours, being accepting and understanding of each other is really important. We believe we can help our staff and students to get more connected with each other by encouraging intercultural learning and by offering support and facilitation.
The thing is that the University of Oulu has people from over 90 countries studying and working here while mixing with the native Finns. Those conditions alone offer exciting possibilities for human interaction and mutual learning. Anyone can seemingly easily meet people from nearly all the continents in the world. However, when it comes to the Uni environment, we mainly interact with and meet the people at the classes, parties, events we go to, and via the mutual friends. The fact that the majority of the people don’t even know how many nationalities and cultures we have at the University speaks for itself. The potential is there, but it, unfortunately, remains unfulfilled to a degree.
In an attempt to unlock that potential, we started building the event which was aiming to gather the people of the dozens of nationalities in the same place. The event became the first Festival of Cultures (called Festival of Cultures and Cooperation at that time) which took place at our Linnanmaa campus in April last year. The event marked 24 cultures coming together and representing themselves, and immediately connected with a lot of people. Now, 3 events in, it’s safe to say that the Festival of Cultures is doing well - the event is growing (with 32 cultures represented during the second Festival, and the stunning 42 cultures during the third one this October) and, according to the feedback we’re getting, keeps on making our students and our University community happy. So why is it so important to our staff and students?
Even though the event places our international community in the spotlight and demonstrates its multiculturality, the main idea behind it is to support and celebrate the human connection and interaction. Moreover, it aims to contribute to the International students’ integration and to help those students to find the balance between belonging to Oulu and embracing their own backgrounds.
Check out what our very own students have to say about the Festival and why its importance stretches beyond having fun, learning languages and trying food from other countries. The video was shot during the last hour of the Festival of Cultures 2018.
Festival of Cultures doesn’t only contribute to keeping our University community healthy but also serves as an endless pool of knowledge and experience. It’s an event where you can truly connect with people, find future lifelong friends and have conversations which might question the way you see the world.
The signups for the Festival of Cultures 2019 will open next August. Would you want to see your culture represented there? Want to organize some other event to support human connection together with us? Take initiative and contact Sergei or Antti now.
Last updated: 21.12.2018