Motivation for studies from daily life

The University of Oulu has over 1,500 international students. Although many of them are here on a temporary basis, they want to learn the local language.

Brandon Datar from the United States and Laure Houze from France ended up studying in Finland by chance. Geosciences student Datar applied to master’s degree programmes in several different countries but finally received a scholarship for Oulu. Houze, an exchange student studying Industrial Engineering, was interested in the Nordic countries in particular.

“We always hear that the Nordic countries have calm and open-minded people. I wanted to experience this culture,” says Houze.


Challenges of coming from a different language family

Both students are studying the basics of Finnish on the Survival Finnish course offered by the university. Before coming to Finland, their knowledge of the language was mostly limited to the words terve and sauna.

“I remember seeing lecture notes in Finnish and English, and the text in Finnish was much longer. I had no idea what 99 per cent of the words could possibly mean,” says Datar.

Both students were used to being able to recognise at least some words in a foreign language. Finnish grammar is also very different.

“I think that Finnish is especially difficult because it belongs to a different language family,” says Datar.



Practical Finnish helpful in daily life

The students’ expectations for the Survival Finnish course are moderate. Their motivation for taking the course was based on both interest and practical need.

“I wanted to learn the basics and understand something when I go to the store. I have learned a lot in just a few months, so I am happy,” says Houze.

They do not consider the course too time-consuming or challenging even though internalising words goes slowly due to their strangeness. The Finnish language has also offered pleasant surprises.

“It is not as hard to pronounce as I had expected,” says Houze.



Staying in Finland after studies

After receiving his master’s degree, Datar intends to apply for jobs all over the world. He has heard that not speaking Finnish could be a problem in some companies in Finland. On the other hand, some companies do everything in English.

“I would enjoy working in Finland – this is a nice country. However, I am keeping all my options open,” says Datar.

One of Houze’s favourite things about Finland is nature, and she wants to come back, at least for holidays with her loved ones.

“I want the French to see this beautiful country,” says Houze.

Last updated: 11.11.2019