The Drivers of Student Engagement: In-Person Attendance to Final COSM Lecture and the Journey Traveled

A large, white Helsinki sign pictured from the front. There is a park in the background and a dark-haired woman is standing beneath it with jeans and a hoodie on.

Lauren Bouvier, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

In January 2022, an email asked students of the Arts, Festival, and Cultural Management Master’s program to engage with the COSM courses through Humak University of Applied Sciences. After reading the description and course content, I knew that the program was a great fit for me. The topics of interest dived directly into my field of interest: Festival Management, and career interest in organizational leadership and sustainable practices.

My interest in the course grew immensely when I learned just how broad the scope of reach the program made around the world. Students and presenters represented a plethora of countries and experiences. I personally believed my scope before attending my post-graduate program in Scotland was limited within the United States. I learned mostly through history and the sociology of America. When I started my course at Queen Margaret University (QMU), I took the next step with a class in Cultural Policy. The natural progression of my knowledge and framework regarding theories of culture encompassed the material of the COSM three-course module.

1,000 Miles of Travel for COSM

When I began the course, Senior Lecturer Marcin Poprawski mentioned the last meeting of the course could potentially be held in person. With a 1,000-mile trek between Scotland and Helsinki, I wanted to attend in person. QMU hosted a grant program for current students, The Student & Vice-Chancellor’s Development Fund. The Fund is contributed by alumni of QMU to support current students towards their academic, personal, and vocational goals. Applying for the grant presented me with an opportunity to plan and prepare my trip well in advance.

When May rolled around, I prepared to take the flight to Finland. Besides my move to Scotland, traveling to Finland was my first solo excursion.

Marcin welcomed me and other students to the final lecture in Helsinki. Not only did I get to meet other students in person, but I also met with the teaching staff. Each person on the team welcomed us. Marcin hosted the four-hour lecture, accommodating both online and in-person students. My experience was deepened through presenting my group project with the other members present in the room. This highlighted my first time being able to meet the people from the courses in person.

My four lectures flew by in person. The conversations, I believe, were stronger and more robust than online. Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet with Marcin in person to discuss the course and the next steps, an experience that would be incredibly different online.

Experiencing the City of Helsinki for the First Time

For the following two days, I explored the city of Helsinki. As part of my excursion, I visited museums and galleries such as Kiasma, Amos Rex, the Museum of Helsinki, and the Vantaa Art Gallery. Furthermore, I visited must-see locations such as the Helsinki Cathedral, Uspenski Cathedral, and Suomenlinna.

I also visited the Oodi Library and could not believe the scale of resources available. My personal favorite feature of the Oodi Library included the instrument rental service for residents. Architecturally, the building created an immense presence and housed a range of services. On the Wednesday I visited, the library was busy, and that further surprised me throughout the experience.

A piece of art in a showcase.

In Helsinki, Lauren enjoyed particularly The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Helsinki Central Library Oodi.

After viewing the library, I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. Each level of the museum housed a myriad of carefully curated pieces. One key difference between my previous experiences in the UK and US is the use of audio-visual exhibits. The Kiasma housed at least one audio-visual exhibition per level. Since I traveled by myself, I was able to meander throughout the museum and sit in each room to watch and listen to the exhibitions. The sheer range of the mediums represented at the museum was incredible.

My future within the Arts and Cultural sector will integrate the material and presentations from the COSM series. Moreover, my definition of culture expanded immensely and will support my future academic work. I do believe that the opportunity to partake in the courses supported my other academic projects as well. If a student in the course has an opportunity to meet the team and see Helsinki, I highly recommend it. It was a pleasure to meet everyone and to see Helsinki.

A picture of the Sibelius monument with a blue sky and green trees in the background.

Lauren also visited the Sibelius Monument.

Growing the Self-Confidence to Travel

My last day in Helsinki, I went to the Sibelius Monument. The experience of taking the bus and being able to walk through the park presented a slow-paced day before my flight back. I sat at the Cafe in the park to protect my cinnamon bun from the birds to watch the water. The weather brought sunshine, much earlier in the day than I am used to. A calm end to my first trip.

Throughout my journey to Helsinki, part of the experience focused on growing the self-confidence to travel while also serving as an opportunity to learn about a new culture. Aspects such as public transportation and the Oodi Library were awe-inspiring. I saw the trams throughout the city and the beautifully painted buildings throughout the city center.

Text: Lauren Bouvier, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

Last modified: 27.6.2022