Coronavirus outbreak forced the Finnish education system to shut down all schools, colleges, and universities. In this situation, international students in Finland have been having a complicated time: They have gone through uncertainties about accommodation, whether they would be able to return to their home countries and start classes again someday.
When universities closed abruptly two months ago due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many international students faced the dilemma of whether to stay in or leave Finland. It led to a number of foreign students deciding to return to their parents. They are now forced to cope with the travel ban and limitations of prevailing in the air transport industry. In addition, the coronavirus crisis also negatively impacted the process of admission into Finnish universities.
The Daily Finland talked to some international student specialists at different universities in the country to learn their current concerns about international students as well as the solutions they are considering.
Esko Koponen, a specialist of the strategic services for teaching at the University of Helsinki, said, “Although the pandemic has not had any effect on the decision-making process itself, the operational environment of the university and its students has changed dramatically. Under the circumstances, alternative options will be defined by the university during the summer for the coming academic year 2020-2021. It will give the aspiring students the opportunity to defer their admission by one semester or even one year based on their wishes. The university will also do its utmost to prepare the situation for distance education in the autumn and let the students attend classes later in Helsinki.”
“Most of our international students have stayed in Finland and follow their schedule despite the Covid-19 locked down. However, we realized only a few students went to their home countries, and it means they might have some difficulties to return Finland or extend their resident permit,” Mari Putaansuu Head of International Relations at Lapland University of Applied Science (Lapin AMK) told Daily Finland.
She said the authority will to support international students to proceed with their studies according to the planned schedule.
“Offering online courses and distance education are the current options for reducing stress and facilitating the process of study for the current foreign students and incoming students as well,” Putaansuu added.
It seems that the situation of international students at the University of Turku is the same since Johanna Kärki International Education Specialist declared most of the international students have decided to stay in Finland, therefore not a significant number are struggling with the difficulties of returning Finland. Besides we consider remote education for students who are not able to attend classes for any reason included travel ban or immigration challenges.
Jenni Sjöman, an advisor of applicants at the Student Service of the University of Lapland, emphasised that the process of international students’ acceptance has not changed this year.
She said, “We hope distance learning helps our international students to start and follow their programme, regardless of their geographical location. Since the University of Lapland cannot offer financial support to all international students, we hope distance education would assist them in not discontinuing with their education.”
International specialists at Finnish universities expressed the hope that the students who have left Finland because of the pandemic would return to the country in time. In case, they cannot enter the country, the universities will try to support them by offering online courses and, in special cases, negotiating about the graduation time.
Accordingly, it can be said that universities cannot interfere with migration issues and support international students to apply for the first residence permit or extend the card, they said, adding that it is a matter that students must cope with individually; they should be patient enough to see what the future brings to them.