Because the world is not flat.

Category: Teaching

Experiences from Erasmus+ Teacher Exchange

In spring 2019 I had the pleasure to visit Estonian Business School (EBS) in Tallinn, Estonia, and Josip Juraj Strossmayer University in Osijek, Croatia. During these visits I held a course, had presentations and met interesting people, but how did all this come about?

In spring 2018 I met in Turku two researchers from Osijek, who were interested in SME internationalization. Our research interests came together nicely and we decided to meet again. Next thing I got an invitation to visit Osijek in spring 2019. In early 2019 I got an email from a colleague in EBS asking about the opportunity to organize a course on qualitative research methods for doctoral students in Tallinn. Naturally, I could not resist the opportunity to talk passionately about methods to yet new victims.

Here is when the Erasmus+ Teacher Exchange stepped in. This European-level financing instrument is targeted for university teaching staff, who wish to gain more teaching experience and particularly experience in teaching in a foreign university. I had excellent time in my exchanges, and can warmly recommend this experience. But this comes with a grain of salt; the Erasmus funding application procedure and the instructions were not always the clearest and the financial support one receives may barely cover the travel, accommodation and daily allowance costs. This made me admittedly wonder during the process whether the hours spent in getting all the paperwork done at your home and the inviting institution with all the appendices before and after the visit were worth it. A lesson learned from here is that one should also apply for additional funding from other sources to make sure that after the exchange the remaining costs do not land on your own desk. This nearly happened to me.

If you are a doctoral student or a post doc in need for a CV entry, extension of your teaching skills, looking for new international experiences or wishing to meet colleagues in European universities alongside teaching, the Erasmus+ teacher Exchange could be the right choice for you. It is a good instrument for a first visit, but in case you plan to return and perhaps make your foreign visit to the target university an annual tradition, obtaining e.g. a visitor status could be advisable. This would enable you to also obtain some compensation for the teaching and course/lecture preparation you have conducted in the destination and establish your visitor status in the host institution.

In addition to the aforementioned, the teacher exchange can also result in something more. My visit to Osijek supported and strengthened a research collaboration that is still ongoing, and at EBS I have been asked to organize the course again next spring. And as a bonus, I was humbled at EBS by the Best Visiting Lecturer award in 2018-2019 academic year. Importantly, on top of these, you have also the great opportunity to meet new people, make new contacts, visit new places, see new things and broaden your network. Private flights and tiny airports, missing and eventually found luggage, birds sitting on your lunch, and getting lost in a changed city may also characterize your exchange, but that is another story.

To conclude informatively, the University of Turku university services and international office offers further information (and they reply to emails rather swiftly) and the websites on staff mobility and Erasmus collaboration give instructions for the practicalities and guidelines for application.

Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki

Associate Professor, International Business

What lies ahead for International Business professionals?

“Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be”

This popular award winning song by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans was introduced in 1956 in the Alfred Hitchcock film ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ but its message seems very true still today. Even with all the big data collected on us humans, with more information than ever just a few clicks away, and with all the accumulated scientific knowledge published in numerous books and journals, it seems that we certainly don’t know too much, not even enough, about the future.

Indeed, as a Nobel Prize winner physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962) once said, ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’. This holds true also for the future of International Business (IB). For instance, at the turn of the millennium, Sheth and Parvatiyar (2001) predicted the end of international and its reincarnation into global, along the emergence of a borderless world characterized by regional integration, ideology free world, technology advances and borderless enterprises. In this borderless world, differences between cultures, countries and regions were considered diminishing, suggesting that the global markets could be served by standardized marketing mix tools with less and less need for international adaptations.

For more than a decade, this prediction seemed to hold true. We even started to take the globalization development for granted. We do have technology advances and borderless enterprises, but otherwise, the course of history has taken unanticipated turns: instead of ideology free world, we got the rise of strong nationalistic and religious fundamentalist movements, instead of increasing regional integration we got Brexit, and instead of the triumph of globalization and free trade, we got Trump and increasing protectionism.

So, what kind of future is there for those studying to become International Business professionals? This question was dealt with our master’s level students on a new foresight course ‘TULEVA’ launched this autumn. With the future research methods they had learned during the course, teams of students were asked to create different future scenarios on what their professional field might look like in 2050. The scenarios were presented to audience with posters, videos or other types of presentations on computer screens at the course closing fare at Mercatori in October.

The future scenarios of teams with IB students recognized a number of possible development paths and their likely effects on international business. For instance, digitalization and the development of artificial intelligence are likely to effect also the work of international marketers as routine tasks will be automated; increasing world population and climate change might cause drastic changes on our consumption patterns and international logistics and trade; and the political tensions and conflicts between countries may lead to new sanctions and protectionist measures that eventually would slow down world trade. At the first glance, this latter scenario certainly doesn’t seem as a positive one for IB professionals. If this is to happen, will we be needed in the future?

Even in the scenario of diminishing world trade and shrinking global markets, the students didn’t see the future for IB professional overly gloomy. Instead, they envisioned that in such a world, global trade requires strong competences of people specialized in international business.

Hence, whatever will be, will be, but even in the darkest future scenarios, international contacts between people and global trade will remain, and therefore, the skills of IB professionals will still be needed. And let’s remember that future is not entirely given, it is also what we make of it!


Happy New Year 2019!


D.Sc. Elina Pelto