How to Dismantle Myths and Imaginaries about Studying Abroad? A Case Study from Finland

Anu HÄRKÖNEN
University of Helsinki, Finland
Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland

anu.harkonen@helsinki.fi

Fred DERVIN
University of Helsinki, Finland
fred.dervin@helsinki.fi

Abstract

Student mobility and the potential effects of stays abroad have long been a regular topic of discussion on internationalization of higher education. HEIs, programme organizers and researchers alike have been keen to try to find out about how and why students change during their exchange (Coleman & Chafer, 2011; Kinginger, 2013). For the experience to be successful from the perspective of all stakeholders, we think it is crucial to pay attention to the expectations that exchange is imagined to live up to. That is why we wish to contribute to the discussions by shifting the attention to the idea of myths and imaginaries around student mobility (Dervin, 2008; 2013). In this presentation we present a pre-departure training course that has been developed for Finnish students who are planning their exchange period abroad. The focus is on the imaginaries about self and other and the act of mobility that students have put forward in their application letters for study abroad. During the course students reflect more in depth on their goals and deconstruct ready-made discourses on the experiences of mobility. The training necessitates questioning some common beliefs related to studying and living abroad and reflecting on the words culture, language, otherness and practising critical analysis of media, political and institutional discourses on the benefits of mobility. We believe that such a course can help the students make study abroad a more realistic and rewarding experience.

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