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Finnish exchange student Milana Virtanen is back home in Helsinki, safe and well, thanks to the help of Otago Polytechnic staff who, like Milana, have gone the extra mile.

Taking the concept of distance learning to the extreme, Milana is completing a Bachelor of Applied Management through Otago Polytechnic – but she’s now doing so from a desk on the 60th parallel north, where the angle of the Sun’s rays means day-light currently comprises almost 18 hours.

“I am very grateful to Otago Polytechnic's teachers for making remote studying possible.

“Although some of us international students have returned home and are participating from different sides of the world, this means we can finish our exchange semesters.”

A student at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, Milana had arrived in Dunedin at the beginning of February to do a six-month exchange, arranged through Otago Polytechnic’s Study Abroad programme.

However, a few months later, she found herself among the thousands of New Zealand-based international students who have been repatriated in recent weeks because of Covid-19.

“The Finnish Embassy offered me a chance to take part in a repatriation flight organized by the German Government, leaving from Auckland and heading to Frankfurt on April 11,” Milana explains.

“However, the date of the departure from Auckland to Frankfurt was brought forward a day – at the last minute. There were no other flights available (from Dunedin to Auckland and I almost gave up on the hope of getting home safely.”

Milana then recalled an offer made to her by Otago Polytechnic’s Global Engagement International Market Manager Kerrie Hodgson.

“Kerrie had urged me to contact her whenever I needed. So I did – and she immediately sprang into action.

“Within a few hours of me calling her, she had organized a ride from Dunedin to Christchurch, accommodation from there and gave me a good advice about how to change my flight with Air New Zealand.

“And on top of it all, Kerrie wanted me to keep in touch with me and update her how my journey progressed. I truly appreciate this effort and kindness during these most difficult times. The help and support from Otago Polytechnic have been priceless,” Milana says.

“The teachers and personnel at Otago Polytechnic truly care about us students and they are the kindest and most helpful people, which has been a huge relief during these times.”

Megan Gibbons, Otago Polytechnic Deputy Chief Executive: People and Performance, says Milana’s comments reflect one of Otago Polytechnic’s core values – caring.

“This example typifies the lengths to which we are going to support learners in these unprecedented times.”

Milana, who is about to be reunited with her family having spent the requisite two weeks in isolation on her return to Finland, says she was sad to leave Dunedin.

“It is a unique town, with gorgeous nature and the most friendly people I have ever met.

“However, during these difficult times, everything was so uncertain. Not knowing when I would be able to travel home safely next time, I realized it was best to leave in order to get home safely.

“I had many unforgettable experiences in Dunedin with new people that I met along the way and, hopefully, I will be able to return there in the future.”

Published on 29 Apr 2020

Orderdate: 29 Apr 2020
Expiry: 30 Jun 2022