Tervetuloa Suomeen – A one-year work exchange in Finland

Almost two years ago, Prof. Andreas Baumgart of the HAW Hamburg Department of Mechanical Engineering and Production Management asked the International Office for support because he wanted to teach in another European country for a year, and take his family with him. Together with his wife and three daughters, he’s now been living in Turku, Finland, since mid-July and will be there until next summer.

The Baumgart family in Finland.

Andreas Baumgart teaches Technical Mechanics, Mathematics, and Finite Element Methods in the Mechanical Engineering and Production Bachelor’s degree course at HAW Hamburg. He is an advocate of competence orientation in teaching and his research area is intelligent tutoring systems. This year, he has traded jobs and teaching responsibilities with his Finnish colleague Patric Granholm from the Faculty of Engineering and Business at the Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS).

From Hamburg to south-west Finland and back – 1,291 km

The internationalisation of teaching is a central element of HAW Hamburg’s internationalisation strategy. The International Office supports teaching stays abroad and international guest instructors at HAW Hamburg with a special mobility fund for instructors and Erasmus funds for teaching stays. These are generally short stays of up to two weeks. The one-year work exchange is a pilot project that is breaking new ground and initially required finding an exchange partner for Baumgart.

Thanks to communication between the International Offices in the CARPE network of universities of applied science, a colleague from Finland responded to the call in December 2018. Patric Granholm had taught at TUAS since 2001, had a suitable teaching profile, had a house for the Baumgart family near the university and had a hobby in common with Baumgart: sailing. Initial discussions between Baumgart and Granholm – and their departments – to see if it would be possible to trade their teaching responsibilities followed. The answer from both sides was a clear ‘yes!’ The International Office at the University of Hamburg provided a model cooperation contract, and the personnel and legal departments at each of the universities began work on the idea.

Initial impressions

Finland is as firmly in the grip of the coronavirus as Germany, says Baumgart. Although people wearing masks is not a common sight in Turku, the Internet will be the main teaching platform at TUAS. Baumgart is already working closely with his new colleagues to prepare lectures and get involved in research projects. He has received a friendly and open welcome and is enjoying working with his colleagues.

At his daughters’ schools, on-site teaching is the standard – without any notable restrictions. The schools are where little differences between the countries are especially evident. Alongside the usual subjects, they emphasise language skills (four languages in grade six) and practical subjects such as woodwork/metalwork, programming, handwork and home economics.

The small city of Turku seems to have been a good choice for the family, says Baumgart. The children can get to school alone by bike or by foot, the sports clubs are around the corner, and somehow everyone seems to know everyone. And then there are the blueberries that grow in the forest less than three minutes away from the house – though the Baumgarts have yet to see an elk.

The Turku University of Applied Sciences

In addition to its close partnership with TUAS through the CARPE network, HAW Hamburg also has an active student exchange programme with the multidisciplinary Finnish university, which has approximately 9,600 students. TUAS is home to over 30 research groups and carries out over 200 projects in the areas of research, development and innovation each year. One of its hallmarks is the ‘Innopeda’ concept, an innovative teaching strategy with a focus on experimenting, the sharing of knowledge and experience, and the incorporation of different perspectives. Baumgart is now supporting a project where students in their second semester have to design a small hydraulic pump, produce it with a 3D printer and then assemble it – without having been taught the basics of fluid mechanics.

Instructors with international experience play a decisive role in the internationalisation of HAW Hamburg. They make an indispensable contribution to new content and perspectives in teaching and research, the internationalisation of degree courses and improved networks abroad.

Author: Martina Schulze, Head of the HAW Hamburg International Office

You can also read the article about Patric Granholm and his path to Hamburg.