Tutor Oskari Ponkala: Tutoring experience makes you grow

Electronics and Electrical Engineering student Oskari found introducing Finnish sauna culture to international students and interesting conversations unforgettable
Kuvassa Oskari Ponkala talvisessa maisemassa
Oskari Ponkala. Photographer: Jieming You

Oskari Ponkala why did you become a tutor?

I was interested in international activities. I had travelled alone before I started at Aalto University and I was interested in what it is like to study in foreign countries. I wanted to get to know other people more deeply than just for a fleeting moment.

Guild of Electrical Engineering (SIK) had a recruitment event for international tutors, and I got to learn more about it there. I then decided to apply together with a friend.

What did you do with the people you tutored?

Tutoring started already before the students arrived in Aalto. I was surprised how many questions there were about coming to Finland, and I had to forward many of them to the Learning Services. I was also surprised by how many of my group’s students were from Finland. This, however, made many things easier, for example during the exceptional orientation week of 2020. The situation was pretty serious in the autumn, and it was sometimes hard to meet with our group because some didn’t participate in the orientation week due to the situation.
When the students arrived, our guild organised welcome saunas that were very popular but also planned with the restrictions in mind. I got to introduce Finnish sauna culture to international students, play board games with them, and help with cooking. We also organised a campus tour with my group. There we introduced some history of the university buildings and the surrounding environment of the campus.

What were the highlights of being a tutor?

My favourite thing was the welcome saunas. It was nice to get to know the people of my group personally and to have a chit-chat in English. The beginning was slow this year due to the corona situation, so it was nice to finally get to do things together.

It was interesting to hear about Ukrainian sauna culture from a Ukrainian student. And I enjoyed learning about other countries’ universities on the campus tour. Different kinds of backgrounds offer new topics of conversation. I think that in multicultural situations one learns to enjoy those things that once were seen as totally ordinary, as well as to enjoy things that had never previously even heard of.

What are the most important qualities of a tutor?

Tutors are often the first contact at the university for students. It’s enough that a tutor is just a normal student because in the end tutoring is just explaining and teaching the basics. It’s important that there’s someone to turn to with questions.

It’s enough that a tutor is just a normal student because in the end tutoring is just explaining and teaching the basics.

Oskari Ponkala

What are the benefits of becoming a tutor?

I had never led a group or been a tutor before. I learnt a lot about group management and organisational skills. My tutoring pair was experienced, so I learnt a lot from them. This isn’t rocket science, but the experience has educated and prepared me well for similar tasks in the future.

Why should others apply to become tutors?

When you are a normal tutor, you get the opportunity to relive your own fresher year. But for international tutors the starting point is different. The exchange student activities are very diverse and multifaceted. People are like wild cards and nothing can be assumed – people come with versatile backgrounds and from many different countries. It is a challenging but also enriching experience. You get to know not only your own group members but also other international students because exchange students tend to form groups with other exchange students.

The details and everyday aspects of Finnish culture get highlighted when you get to share them with international students who are experiencing them for the very first time. At the same time, you also get to hear about their everyday things that might be new for you. In a multicultural situation, I often don’t think about the situation very seriously, instead, I just adapt. This is why these situations give energy that is hard to get from anywhere else.


The application time to become a tutor at the School of Electrical Engineering for autumn 2021 is open now!

Application form to become a tutor for Guild of Electrical Engineering SIK here. Application time is open until 28 February 2021.

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