International Students to Coach Oulu Businesses
Oulu University project offers businesses chance to be ‘coached’ in particular business cultures by International Masters students.
The Culture Coaching project, jointly run by the VALOA project and the Network for International Students, aims to target local business with an international reach and persuade them to pay international Masters students as cultural consultants or, as they put it, ‘cultural ambassadors.’
Currently, the project includes students from eleven different countries where Oulu companies might wish to do business including Russia, Japan, India and Greece.
According to the Culture Coaching website, the project will help participating businesses to understand and optimize the ‘role of cultural differences when cooperating and dealing with international partners either in Finland or abroad.’ It will mean that they can ‘find out about the culture coach’s native culture and country of origin: organisational culture; styles of leadership and communication; how meetings are conducted; when to and when not to talk business; power relations and traditions; travelling in the country; language issues’. It will be an ‘easy and inexpensive way to benefit from the know-how of local international students right here in Oulu.’ In addition, it will be a learning-experience and possibly aid recruitment.
The Culture Coaches include Kiyoko Uematsu, from Japan, who says on the project’s website that ‘I am here to ease or optimize your transition into the Japanese working world and culture. Through my own working experience as well as my academic and professional training in international education, I can help you with the cross-cultural challenges that your business may be facing.’ She has studied in the USA and now doing a Masters in Education and Globalization.
Marita Alexaki, also an Education and Globalization Masters student is from Greece. She explains that, ‘Greece is more than sun and beaches, ancient philosophy and the euro crisis – especially if your are (sic.) conducting business.’ The 30 year-old structural engineer, who has also studied Spanish continues that, ‘I am here to try to ease your way into Greek business and culture, help you deepen your knowledge in this area and to assist you in getting a better understanding and capacity to avoid of stereotypical thinking and behavior – both on the Finnish and Greek side as well as to help you find the opportunities that lie behind the economic crisis.’
According to the project, all of their coaches are ‘talented Masters degree students’ whose areas of expertise include international business, environmental engineering and global education.’
Henni Saarala, of the VALOA Project, told 65DN that many businesses consultancies offer international coaching of these kind. But they don’t always involve natives of the countries. All of the Culture Coaches are ‘natives’ who have worked in their home countries as well as abroad.
The cultures on offer include China and Russia which are ‘big growth centres’ with Oulu companies find ‘very interesting.’ Also, the Culture Coaches will be inexpensive compared to what business consultancies charge, asking for a minimum of 50 euros for a session, the details of which can be negotiated.
Yu-hsuan Lee, 26, is the Culture Coach for Taiwan. Also an Education and Globalization student, she told 65DN that the project offered her ‘very good training’ and she wanted to get involved in order to show local business that international students are a good potential source of employees. So far, she has introduced Taiwanese culture, on a volunteer basis, at the International Fair at Villa Victor, Oulu’s multicultural centre.