International Intensive Week for Social Services Students

International Intensive Week for Social Services Students

Erasmus+ Blended Intensive Program’s intensive week on comparative social work, organised by VAMK’s School of Health Care & Social Services, brought social services students from various European countries together in Vaasa. The week offered inspiring encounters and a glimpse into what international cooperation can be at its best.

The School of Health Care & Social Services in Vaasa University of Applied Sciences participates in Erasmus+ Blended Intensiv Program alongside German, Belgian, and Norwegian universities. The program involves 40 students and teachers from different countries studying a common theme. Prior to the intensive week, students worked on the topic within their national groups and then collaboratively with the entire group. In addition to distance learning, the Erasmus project includes a BIP week, which brings together all participants in the program.

The collaboration in the field of social and health care within the BIP has been ongoing for several years, and last year, the in-person meeting was held in Antwerp, Belgium. Prior to that, the meeting took place in Vechta, Germany, in 2022. This year, the in-person meeting on comparative social work was held at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences from April 21st to 26th, 2024. The theme of the intensive week in Vaasa was vulnerable children, youth, and families, and throughout the week, the topic was approached from various perspectives.

“Erasmus BIP brings a naturally comparative perspective to phenomena and to the ability of health care and social services, and more broadly society, to respond to challenges. Another equally important aspect is informal learning about intercultural communication and discussions with students from other countries, says Riku Niemistö, Principal Lecturer in Social Services.

“The BIP collaboration serves as a low-threshold opportunity for students to engage in internationalisation and cross-cultural interaction. It has indeed encouraged many social and health care students to undertake internships abroad as part of their studies or to participate in exchange programs”, tells Susanna Weber, Senior Lecturer in Social Services.

Inspiring encounters and new perspectives

During the week, students had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with various social work actors in the Vaasa region. The group visited the premises of Mielle ry to learn about preventive mental health activities and also had the chance to explore nature-based well-being activities for young people under the guidance of Green Care Finland ry. The group gained a different perspective on the field of social work by visiting Vaasa prison.

“The visits were truly valuable. I feel that the work of Mielle ry is particularly important, and it was wonderful to learn more about it. The visit to the prison also left a lasting impression because it’s not something you usually get to explore so easily”, explains Saara Imppola, first year social services student at VAMK.

The week also included more informal activities such as exploring the natural beauty of the Vaasa archipelago and, of course, enjoyable social time together.

“The nature excursion and sauna evening on Wednesday were truly communal experiences and brought us all closer together. We learnt that things don’t always go as planned, and to cope, flexibility is necessary. The ice swimming was a real adventure for many, but everyone encouraged each other, and the group spirit was really strong”, rejoices Viv Virtanen, first year social services student at VAMK.

The week culminated in the presentation of group projects. In a heartfelt gathering, students shared their highlights of the week using the Pecha Kucha method. Students were divided into international groups, ensuring representation from Finland, Norway, Germany, and Belgium in each group. The groups received feedback on their presentations from both other students participating in the BIP week and from an expert panel that consisted of Director of the School of Health Care & Social Services Hanna-Kaisa Pernaa, Senior Lecturer in Business Teemu Myllylä, Senior Lecturer in Social Services Ahti Nyman and Head of International Affairs Tuija Tammi.

“The whole week has been an absolutely fantastic experience, and I recommend it to everyone! The week and the entire project have provided different perspectives on things and have shown how social work challenges are tackled and problems solved in different countries”, says Pinja Eräniitty, first year social services student at VAMK.

The countries involved in the program are those where many social services students from Vaasa University of Applied Sciences go for exchange or internships. Also Eräniitty and Virtanen are heading for an internship in Vechta, Germany, next autumn.


internationalisationErasmusHealth Care & Social Services