My Oulu: The Friendship Family Programme will start again at university – the friendship between locals and international students may last a lifetime

Any family or individual interested in sharing their time with international students in Oulu can get involved in the Friendship Family Programme. Photo: University of Oulu

My Oulu


Jaa sosiaalisessa mediassa:


A local family participating in the programme agrees to meet and keep in touch with an international student at least once or twice a month from September to May. The students participating in the programme are international degree students, who are usually studying for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree at Oulu University.

The students will stay in Oulu for a number of years, but the commitment to the programme is made for an academic year at a time. How the participants choose to spend time together is totally up to them.

Anyone living in the Oulu region can apply to the Friendship Family Programme regardless of their family arrangement.

“Over the years pensioners, singles and families with children have joined the programme. An interest in intercultural interaction and commitment to connecting with the student and spending time together are the most important things. Moreover, we expect the family participating in the programme, or at least one member of the family, to have a minimum of basic knowledge of a foreign language”, says Ulla Alanko, Solution Designer at Oulu University.

Families are matched with students based on their applications, and in early autumn an event will be organised for the families and students to meet for the first time. After this, the family and student will decide how often they meet and what they would like to do together. This is a recreational activity, i.e. not a home stay programme, and the students live in their own accommodation.

Good memories from various decades

Friendship Family Programmes kicked off in mid-1990’s at Oulu University when some of the exchanges students at the University of Oulu were connected with local friendship families. The friendship family experience of a Canadian exchange student Matthew Sawatzky in Oulu in the 1990’s turned into a decades long friendship.

“The Friendship Family Programme gave me an opportunity to have adventures, see places and meet people I would otherwise have missed out. The programme provides an opportunity to make lifelong friends and with a bit of luck the host family and student become a true family.”

Matthew Sawatzky still keeps in touch with the family and has just been to see them in Oulu in July 2022.

A Oulu University student Manushi Bashini Wanni Arachchige also talks highly of her friendship family experience a couple of years ago.

“Participating in the programme was one of the best decisions during my studies. It allowed a more in-depth introduction to Finnish culture, the connection with my host family is still growing stronger every day.”

The goal of the Friendship Family Programme is to promote intercultural exchange and provide support in building friendships between local residents and international students. The programme enhances internationalisation in the Oulu region. This programme also supplements the international students’ academic journey in Oulu and promotes their integration by providing an opportunity to be introduced to Finnish culture and way of life outside the campus.

Apply online to participate in the Friendship Family Programme by filling out an application form on the Oulu University website at Completed applications should be submitted by 2 September 2022.