UNICAC Project opening doors to Tajikistan for Laurea students and staff

Teksti | Sini Aalto-Friman

Laurea has been a part of the UNICAC project since 2019. Tiina Wikström has introduced the project well in Laurea Journal article here.

I have worked as UNICAC project coordinator from Laurea International Office side this year.  We have organized a partner meeting and hosted UNICAC lecturers in May 2022 for two weeks in Laurea Tikkurila, in Helsinki and Turku area in Finland. Senior Lecturer Minttu Räty has been the project manager of UNICAC.

Photo by Sini Aalto-Friman, Mosque Jami in Khujand

Laurea students visiting Tajikistan in May

Photo: Sini Aalto-Friman, entrance to IET TSUC

This year, May 9-20, 2022, three Laurea students visited Tajikistan and Khujand for a two-week intensive course. Senior Lecturer Ilona Frisk joined them for the first week. Khujand is located in the North part of Tajikistan. The hosting organization for the event was the Institute of Economy and Trade of Tajik State University of Commerce (IET TSUC).

The agenda of the mobility included studying in the hosting university and learning about Tajikistan. Studying in the university included attending lectures tailored only for incoming students and professors, attending incoming professors’ lectures, and attending lectures of the degree students at the university.

Tajikistan’s culture was introduced by lectures, museum visits, numerous restaurant visits in restaurants typical for Tajikistan cuisine and by two-night trip to the mountains where the students had a knowledgeable guide with them.

The students shared that they did not know much about the country and a short-term mobility can teach a lot. Laurea student Sini Auvinen shared her ideas: “I can describe the kindness of the Tajiks, picture the incredible nature, talk about the history of Tajikistan and its today’s situation. In short, I improved mostly my knowledge in intercultural competence. I believe, I was able to offer in return some intercultural knowledge for the local students as well.”

Laurea student, Sini Auvinen also shared her points of view: “In my opinion, mobility in Tajikistan did bring Central-Asia and Europe a little closer to each other. Encounters between European students and Central-Asian students and residents broke possible prejudices and taught us that we are quite alike. A really good idea was that our field trips were joined by few Tajik student as well, as “buddy” students. This way we had enough time to exchange these valuable thoughts and to learn from each other.”

Joint International Conference in Khujand

Photo by Saidqosim Mukhtorov, UNICAC conference presenters and participants

I had a conference presentation representing Laurea Internationalization at Joint International Conference June 14-15, 2022. The title of the conference was “University Cooperation Framework for Knowledge transfer in Central Asia and China (UNICAC): International Cooperation between HEIs of Central and East Asia in Institute of Economy and Trade of Tajik State University of Commerce in Khujand, Tajikistan”. The locals were very interested in Laurea and the best practices that we have in internationalization.

Photo by Sini Aalto-Friman, view from Gostinitsa Sugdiyon Hotel

It was my first time visiting the countries as well. The flights go via Istanbul to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. From there you can take a taxi or a bus across the border to Tajikistan. The fastest is with the car/taxi, 2,5-3 hours, the bus takes 5 hours.

Khujand (also spelled Hudzand) is a small town with about 175 400 citizens. The city center is accessible on foot. Me and the previous visitors have stayed in Gostinitsa Sugdiyon Hotel in the center with a beautiful view to the river and the mountains. The temperatures are quite hot in the summer, nearly 40 degrees Celsius.

The IET TSUC University is centrally located. The alley to the university is beautiful with grapevines above. The Head of International Relations of IET TSUC, Saidqosim Mukhtorov, is a very friendly host, and he organizes everything well and hosts all the visitors. The staff at the university spoke English but otherwise in the city it is highly recommended to know at least some Russian because otherwise it is difficult to order food etc. Of course, on a tailor-made two-week study program, you are travelling in a group together with the locals so that is when you do not necessarily have to know any Russian when there is a local to negotiate the food order, prices etc.

This was a unique experience for me too and I learned a lot of both countries. I also visited Tashkent on my last day before flying back home. Tashkent instead is a big metropolis with about 2,4 million people. The city is vibrant with a lot of culture.

Photo by Sini Aalto-Friman, inner court of IET TSUC

I recommend this short-term mobility possibility for all Laurea students in the future because this is a once in a lifetime experience. Laurea has a Global Mobility agreement with IET TSUC meaning there is a possibility for student exchange both ways. In autumn 2022 we have some students from Tajikistan studying at Laurea.

Getting a certificate after an international exchange increases the recruitment possibilities of the students when applying for jobs in the future. Languages, cultures, and intercultural competence are the keys to the world!

Next steps

I with some colleagues from Laurea International Office introduced our services to the Chinese UNICAC university partners online. The Best Practices Handbook will be finalized soon. The final UNICAC conference will take place in Uzbekistan in September 22-23, 2022. It can also be attended online. You can ask me for more details. Laurea has a Global Mobility agreement with IET TSUC and currently some students from Tajikistan are studying in Laurea as exchange students. The agreement works in both ways so Laurea students can also study in IET TSUC.

A new agreement for future collaboration in this framework is currently being planned and soon to be signed and in the future Laurea will continue these short-term mobility courses to Tajikistan and hopefully other UNICAC partners as well. Both, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, are developing and promising destinations for future joint cooperation.

More info:

URN http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2022090657690

Jaa sivu