Live&Learn -model: Support for international students to promote success and well-being

International students make up a significant proportion of vocational schools, colleges and cities, and it is important to support their success. Cities, in particular, have an important role to play in attracting and integrating international students." The Live&Learn model has been developed with this very purpose in mind. It focuses on supporting international students' success in their studies, employment, career development and well-being, as well as strengthening their language skills and understanding of Finnish culture.
nainen seisoo luokkahuoneessa opiskelijoiden keskellä

The Live&Learn model was developed in the framework of the SeutukaupunkiREKRY project. The project has focused on promoting international recruitment in regional cities. The Live&Learn model was born out of the SeutukaupunkiREKRY -project, which has focused on promoting international recruitment in regional cities. An initial mapping exercise carried out during the project identified a lack of a comprehensive integration approach in Finland, suitable for both vocational and higher education institutions and taking into account the specific circumstances of suburban cities.The model was developed taking into account existing models and service structures in 25 vocational and higher education institutions. In addition, 60 international students have provided feedback on the draft model. Representatives of 40 different stakeholders, including educational institutions, ELY centres, city business and economic services and development agencies, have also shared their views and provided feedback. The final content and look of the model were finalized under the guidance of Vision Factory between March and May 2023.

The Live&Learn approach consists of four components that help identify the needs of international students:

1. Support for the promotion of studies. This component provides services and activities to help students to settle in Finland, to start and progress in their studies and to support their well-being.

2. Employment and career development. This component focuses on providing services and activities that help students to settle in Finland, develop their employment opportunities and promote their career development.

3. Language and culture. The component aims to strengthen students' language skills and familiarize them with Finnish culture. It provides services and activities to help students better integrate into Finnish society and
working life.

4. Welfare & Leisure. This component focuses on providing services and activities that promote students' well-being and provide opportunities for leisure activities. It aims to support a balanced life and well-being of students.

The Live&Learn services and activities cover all stages of the international student pathway. It is important to identify the student's individual service needs throughout the path. The student pathway in the Live&Learn components goes through three stages. The first stage is "Starting your studies", where services and activities are provided to support students' settlement and ensure their well-being in Finland. The second phase is "Studying", which focuses on strengthening the student's integration, progression, employment, and well-being. The third phase is "Graduation", which supports the student's life in Finland, completion of studies, career development and well-being.

The Live&Learn approach has many objectives for vocational education and training institutions, higher education institutions and cities. Firstly, it aims to help understand how international students should be supported in a comprehensive and equitable way. The model provides guidelines and guidelines to help develop comprehensive support services that meet the needs of international students.

Secondly, it serves as a checklist for the development and delivery of services for international students. The model helps to identify different service needs and guides the design and implementation of services to support students' success, employment and career development.

Thirdly, the Live&Learn model will facilitate planned integration work and clarify the roles of different service providers. The model helps to define the responsibilities and forms of cooperation between different actors so that international students receive the support and guidance they need at different stages of their studies.
Fourthly, it strengthens the brand and attractiveness of the region. High quality support services and well-being of international students contribute to the reputation of the region as an attractive place to study and live, which can attract more international students and increase the competitiveness of the region.

Fifthly, the Live&Learn model engages international students to stay in the region, thus alleviating labour shortages for businesses. The aim is to create a support network and provide the necessary services to help international students integrate into the region's working life and society. This in turn may increase the willingness of students to stay and work in the region, responding to the existing needs of businesses.

The key players in the LiveLearn approach are educational institutions, such as vocational schools and universities, which provide training and support services for international students. In addition, municipal entrepreneurship advice and business services can aid international students who want to start their own business or work in a local company. Businesses and employers can also play an important role by providing internships, jobs, and career opportunities for international students. TE services and municipal employment services can provide guidance and support on employment and career development.

Among other actors, social and health services play an important role in supporting the well-being of international students by providing health services, counselling, and support. In addition, Kela and the tax authorities can provide support to students in matters such as student grants and taxation, while immigration officers offer advice and support on immigration-related issues. Associations and third sector actors can also provide additional support and services to international students, for example through leisure activities, mentoring and peer support. All these actors are important in building a comprehensive and inclusive support network for international students.

The SeutukaupunkiREKRY project is funded by the Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia through the national AKKE budget for development projects.

Markus Rytinki, PhD, Project Researcher, MicroENTRE, KSI, University of Oulu, +358 50 466 3952

Picture: Javier Trueba, Unsplash