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Abhiteg Jammu: There's so much untapped talent because of the language barrier

Abhiteg Jammu is a student of the People Management and Organizational Development study program at Aalto, now doing his double degree in Australia. In the ‘Walk in my shoes’ interview, he shares how much he enjoys listening to the Finnish language. At the same time, he also feels he lacks the implicit understanding of the Finnish culture to be able to truly connect with someone.
Abhiteg Jammu with a dog
Photos: Abhiteg Jammu

How would you describe studying People management and Organisational Development at Aalto University?

It’s one of a kind. I was super pleased that we have a program that focuses on HR (human resources), because I've always been a people person in that sense. Anything that happens in an organization goes through the individuals. So, you can’t bypass the individual element in an organization. It has really been a captivating journey so far, and I see myself studying further at Aalto.

You are currently doing your double degree in Australia, and you also have studied in India. How would you describe your experience at Aalto compared to Australia and India?

In Australia, students aren’t allowed to be that flexible for example in choosing the courses. As a student, I appreciate flexibility in my studies, and I think Aalto offers exactly that.

Aalto studies aren’t just PowerPoint presentations and early morning lectures. Professors manage to explain real-life scenarios in business theories and keep students engaged. I love really professors, who are passionate about teaching.

Would you like to share stories about your studies in Finland?

I remember it was my third day at Aalto, where I had a chat with one of my professors. I ended up saying ‘professor’ before his name and he said that I could call him by his first name only. I still can’t digest it. I’m Indian, and in India and in Australia it's considered impolite to refer to your professor by the first name only.

When it comes to the learning diaries, I must admit that I was mentally detesting the idea during my first month at Aalto. Back then I was like please give me an exam! Why do we have a learning paper? It doesn't make any sense!

I’ve realized that now when I’m here in Australia, I remember everything that I did during my first year at Aalto because of those learning diaries. The amount of reflection that would happen in those 3000-4000 words really helps you learn. I didn't realize the benefit immediately, but now I remember the theories, the practical applications, and the critique. I don't know how that happened, but it happened.

Abhiteg Jammu in the photo by Abhiteg Jammu

What do you think is the best way to connect with people in a foreign culture?

Coming to Finland as an Indian student means that I lack the implicit understanding of the Finnish culture to be able to truly connect with someone. I don’t know the local way to communicate, the assumptions, the expectations, how to communicate in a rational argument, or what’s the emotional intelligence like.

But I also think you shouldn’t leave a single stone unturned in letting people know that you're there to embrace every bit of the culture. Being polite and understanding can take you on a journey. Just wait and give time. It’s a process and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Can you tell us more about the international student culture at Aalto?

This might come as a surprise, but I think that student culture in Finland is much more international than in Australia. Aalto has a better international and more diverse pool of students and professionals. Multiculturality is one of the best things you could have. It brings up more possibilities and more creative thinking, and I think that Aalto has nailed it.

Coming to Finland as an Indian student means that I lack the implicit understanding of the culture to be able to truly connect with someone.

Abhiteg Jammu

What’s it like to walk in your shoes?

I've never had a definite answer for this one and I think I never will, because life is a journey! For example, now one half of me wants to get employed and the other half of me wants to study further. Therefore routine is a great achievement in my life because routine is one of the hardest things for someone like me, who has ADHD. Sometimes life gets overwhelming. So, I choose to take it one day at a time. The knots will connect eventually. I could also say that I believe in destiny. 

Can you share something about your values?

Honesty, transparency, and consistency are the values that I have always been prioritizing in my life. That is what my parents always taught me. I think that those values are well aligned at Aalto.

However, I also feel like there would be more opportunities to explore. That’s why I feel like I’m missing out on something. There's always a slight sense of emptiness.

From an international student's point of view, the language is always a barrier for us. In general, when business students travel from one country to another, it also requires us to learn the language because our expertise relies on strategies and analytical decisions. Therefore, we are required to know the culture and the language. There's so much untapped talent because of the language barrier.

What do you enjoy most at Aalto and Finland?

It’s the environment and the feeling of togetherness – you know that people are out there to look out for your wellbeing. And of course, the Otaniemi campus is surrounded by nature! You can just get out of the metro, go to grab some food, go to the gym, or attend the lecture. I’ve visited 15 different campuses in my life, and Aalto stands out internationally.

I have to say that I find Finnish greetings to be super cute! When people say “moi”, that makes me so happy for some reason. And I had this great sense of relief when I realized that it's not just me, but a lot of other internationals also share the same opinion – there is no other language where hello is said so nicely.

Interview: Meeri Saltevo

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Inspired by the saying that you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand them, the ‘Walk in my shoes’ series aims to share some of the experiences, thoughts, perspectives and challenges faced by another Aaltonian.

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