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Arvind Sharma, Laurea’s lecturer about his exchange programme: To give students a multicultural experience

By organizing short term exchange courses Arvind Sharma gives his students an opportunity he didn’t have himself: learning new skills and sharing knowledge through multicultural exchange

Arvind Sharma with a group of Laurea and Coventry students visiting Oodi Library in Helsinki

International exchanges and projects play an important part in Laurea UAS. Many lecturers take advantage of the staff mobility opportunities and together with partner institutions they build intensive study programmes. They engage their students in the programmes and give them a possibility to experience short term exchange studies.

Arvind Sharma, Laurea’s lecturer in BIT programme, actively cooperates with Coventry University in the UK. The collaboration started in 2010 and the first teachers and students exchange project took place two years later.
Doing the exchange programmes together with students was an important factor for Arvind and it comes from his own childhood.

“When I was a child I was fascinated by scout camping, trips, and adventures, by doing some constructive work together with peers and teachers. It was my dream to become one of them, but it didn’t come true. So, in a way, by organizing the short term exchange courses I give my students the opportunity I didn’t have myself”, he smiles.

From the professional point of view through the programme students get the experience of the multicultural exchange; they cooperate on an international level. They learn how universities in other countries operate, how the student’s life is.

“If somebody finds this interesting maybe he will choose the destination for an exchange programme for a semester or an academic year. This is an excellent way to learn, to improve your skills. You learn a lot by sharing the knowledge with others”, Sharma adds.

Arvind Sharma presenting Internet of Things project

Arvind Sharma started to develop the short term exchange programme together with Taina Lintilä, Laurea’s lecturer. She saw the potential in starting the cooperation and Arvind had experience in studying and living in the UK. When they started in 2012 there were only three students from Laurea, but since then the interest has been steadily growing. Also, the Coventry University students are highly interested in the programme and each year a big group from the UK joins the course. Sharma works with a group of teachers from Coventry. They have a rotating system and every couple of years a person responsible for the project changes.

Build your own device

The concept for the course was from the beginning Internet of Things (IoT). The idea was to give the students hands-on experience, not only with the programming part, not only the software development but also with the hardware device that is tangible, that they can touch, feel, and plugin.

“I got very positive feedback from the group that this is something we should add to our studies in Laurea. If you work in mechanical engineering you can touch everything, but in software programming, we use just a keyboard and video. Now the students could see, that all we programmed on a computer we could connect to real devices. They could see the implementation of what they have done. The feeling of creating something was there”, says Sharma.

The project is very multidisciplinary and multicultural; students and teachers from different background get together and co-create. From Coventry side there are students from mechanical engineering, they are focused on building machines and from Laurea, we have IT students, who focus on coding and are service oriented, for the well-being of people.

“When they sit together on the tasks, they have ideas to brainstorm and I can see that this collaboration works, that the variety of people with different backgrounds is able to create great things. At the end of the project we had a device that everyone was happy about, it worked for both sides, for the well-being of people but also as a great technical device”, says Arvind Sharma.

Multicultural experience

The exchange programme is not only for gaining new technical skills. Equally important is a cultural experience. Laurea’s students are very curious to get to know British universities and their environment. Coventry is a university town and the campus is enormous comparing to Laurea, with more than 30 thousand students, countless university buildings, R&D departments, 24/7 working spaces, cafes and restaurants, and the Jaguar headquarters.

Coventry students usually have a very multicultural background, coming from other European countries as well as from Asia. When they come to Finland they don’t know anything about the country. Therefore Laurea’s students play a very important role in introducing them to the Finnish culture and lifestyle. Alex Bezerra, BIT student, who participated in this year exchange, organized a visit to Oodi, the outstanding Central Library in downtown Helsinki.

“I showed them all the technology that is there for free: the 3D printers, plotters, sewing machines, gaming rooms with the top-notch technology. They were really impressed by what they saw, even though they came from a technological university and the city with the car industry. They couldn’t believe the Finnish government pays for gaming computers so that everyone can play for free in the library. Many of them said, now we know why you are the happiest nation in the world, you have all this for free, and there are so many things to be happy about”, says Alex.

As Arvind Sharma sums up, we are adding memories to our students, they will always remember the project, the visit, the contacts, and the bright moments. This is why he is engaging his time and effort to organize and lead the short term exchange programmes – for the students and with them.

Here you can watch the video done by Alex Bezerra from the last exchange course IoT Project 2019

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