The Tri Assessment Factor Pyramid: A Model for Internationals (Students) Integration into Finland

TEXT | Francis Oyeyiola


The number of students choosing Finland as their destination for studies has increased and will continue to do so. This is as a result of the changes put forward by the current government to making Finnish higher institutions self-reliance and independent. As such, many higher institutions have embarked on the journey across the globe to recruit international students. Furthermore, international competition and the need for highly skilled workforce have allowed students from developing countries to seek better education opportunity in a country like Finland. This has created an international mobility of students helping to create a new perspective in science, technology, industry, economics, politics, culture, and the world (Dağdeviren-Ertaş et al., 2023).

These students will be taking a leap of faith to travelling to a country they have no idea. Particularly, the cultures, career prospects and potentially calling their new place “home”. To make things even more difficult, most of the intended students, just finished high school in their respective country. This means, they need to become adults overnight. This can be challenging at best. Culturally, there is a level of expectation their families and friends placed on them due to their current situation – living abroad. This adds an extra layer of expectation, pressure and can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Thus, there is a need to have a uniform model that can aid the smooth transition of these brave young students’ transition from the “known” to the “unknown”. This publication aimed at proposing a model that can aid their smooth transition and to offer practical tools for adaptation. Additionally, this model will also serve as the navigation apparatus through which the students and internationals can refer to whenever they face any challenges or shortcomings.

This article will be released in series based on each element of the model. This is to allow the ease of digestive reading and the practice of the tips provided. Therefore, it is advisable to pay attention to the subsequent releases of this transformational approach to understanding the effective principle to living and succeeding in a new country. The model proposed in this article is not only meant for students, but can equally be used or applied by internationals working in another country or aiming to work outside their native country as some of the challenges facing internationals working in other countries are no different from that of students. As an example, living in a new country requires a level of assimilation leading to one needing to immerse themselves into the new culture as a result of the change that have occurred. Furthermore, becoming successful in a new culture or environment require understanding who you are – strength and weaknesses. This is achievable through personal development, setting goals and gratitude. However, gratitude plays a major role in time of lack or when things are not going the way one intended it to be. It allows reflection in the acknowledgement and focus on what one has and achieved.

The Tri Assessment Factor Pyramid (TAFP) model introduced in this article provides a novel model for the understanding of the relationship between change, cultural immersion, personal development and how setting goals and gratitude can play an important role in becoming successful in a new community or country. This article further explores the theoretical foundation of the model through the establishment of scientific literature in the field of psychology, sociology, personal development, Buddhism and stoic philosophy. Inspiration is drowned on research by Emmons & McCullough (2003) on the science of gratitude, Seligman (2002) on positive psychology, Markus & Kitayama’s (1991) development and work on cultural psychology and Dağdeviren-Ertaş et al. (2023) on exploring international students’ preferences will offer an empirical support in establishing the relationship between the outlined model. Furthermore, other sources such as audios (podcast), videos (YouTube) and print materials such as newspapers  also provide the support needed in providing a holistic understanding of the concept.

By position the change at the summit and placing cultural immersion or personal development at the base of the pyramid, the model elucidates their external roles in fostering holistic understanding. Furthermore, the core of the pyramid, with the bottom lager part allocated to gratitude and the remaining upper to goals constitute the heart of the model. This is aimed at providing a complete well-being look at how setting goal and gratitude can affect the transformation of one’s identity from “lacking” to “surplus”.  

The Tri Assessment Factor Pyramid (TAFP) offers an inclusive model for personal growth by providing a structured guide for students, internationals or expatriate the ability to assess their current state through setting meaningful goals, cultivate daily appreciation and engage in a true transformative experience that can transmute into self-improvement and fulfilment. For instance, studies have indicated that setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) can increase the possibility of achieving desired outcomes (Locke & Latham, 2002).

Fig. 1: The Tri Assessment Factor Pyramid Model


It is often said that the only constant thing in life is change. This notion emphasis the need for greater awareness to the transformation happening around us. In the case of internationals, moving into a new country is a magnificent change. For students, this is even more drastic shift in their life. This is due to the fact that, majority of these students often have just graduated from high school. As such, they are yet to develop the necessary skills to survive and live on their own. This can be extremely challenging for many of them. Imagine been told what, where, when and how to plan your life and suddenly having to make decisions on your own? This can be very challenging for many, but it is something that is unavoidable as one transition from childhood to adulthood.

Change can be said to be the process of transitioning from one state or place to another. This in many cases can be challenging especially when there is no or limited support. However, it is essential for personal growth and development with research showing that individuals who embrace change are more likely to achieve their goals and aspirations through the creation experience leading to satisfaction (Rose, 2002; Wenger, 1999). The Buddhism view on the concept of impermanence is something that when focused on can help in the smooth transition of change. This is referred to as Anica or Anitya in Buddhism. Change can be difficult for many and for others, ruthless that can lead to panic attach, anxiety, depression and grief. But the understanding of impermanence, can help create and foster peace. Buddhism believe that “everything changes and nothing last forever.” According to Somerset Maugham, “nothing in the world is permanent, we are foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we are more foolish not to take delight when it lasts”. The statement requires one to acknowledge the transformation irrespective of the duration of occurrence – either in a second, minutes, hours, days, months or years. Therefore, it can be said that impermanence is the only guarantee in human existence and life itself in general.

Furthermore, change cannot be said to be just externally. Rather, this can also be internal. External changes could be attributed to the movement from one place or location to another or physical changes occurring outside our bodies. These changes are often noticeable not just by an individual but others as well. On the other hand, this cannot be said for the internal changes. For instance, changes such as thoughts and feelings can only be experienced by the person going through it. For this to be seen by others, they are often translated to emotion such as happiness, sad, anger, joyful etc (De Haas, 2010). To over come these emotions, particularly the negative ones, the words of Marcus Aurelius can help. Marcus Aurelius, a wide stoic philosopher says, “You have power over your mind, not outside event, realise this and you will find strength”. By understanding this, one can regulate how they feel especially when they are down because of emotional changes.

Change can also be both negative and positive and this can play a crucial role in the moulding of one’s experience particularly for those living in a new country. Often there is a complex adjustment that ensue due to the cultural adaptation. This is deeply intertwined with overall well-being and getting to either study or work. The process of acculturation may impact both social and psychological well-being. According to Berry (2005), during g acculturation, groups of people and their individual members engage in intercultural contact, producing a potential for conflict, and the need for negotiation to achieve outcomes that are adaptive for both parties. This could explain why often it is difficult for people to fully express the willingness to show their cultures for the fear of misunderstanding, hence leading to a situation whereby individuals feel isolated because of not seeing themselves as part of the society. This proves the negative side of change especially when moved to a new country. Equally, negative transformation can also pose a great challenge for individuals’ ability to navigate the cultural landscapes due to the adjustment needed for the psychological changes in the construct of socio-cultural adaptation (Ward & Kennedy, 1999). The detrimental effect of cultural misunderstandings, discrimination or homesickness may contribute to stress and a decline in mental health. This can lead to a defensive acculturation strategy such as isolation or cultural distancing as a way of creating self-preservation (Berry, 2005).

However, positivity can be experienced in change. Positive change can be said to be synonymous to growth and adaptation through a dynamic force by facilitating cultural integration and immersion. The concept of immersion in this model will be dealt with in the subsequent series of this article. Nonetheless, immersion couples with the acculturation framework by Berry (2005) can foster the individual to experience positive change in a new cultural environment. This can be achieved through the adoption of a more integrative acculturation strategies which involves a willingness to embrace the values and practices of both the host and home cultures. This can lead to the enhancement of both physical and psychological well-being. For example, joining local organisation, clubs and groups will not only prevent loneliness but also help provide a platform for cultural exchanges. Additionally, viewing change through a positive lens can manifest and contribute to an increase in the acquisition of intercultural competence, expanded social networks and a sense of belonging that can lead to a more fulfilling cross-cultural experience (Valero-Garcés, 2021; Wagner & Byram, 2017).

Positive change can create the development of an adaptive coping mechanism and resilience through the dynamic change cross-cultural context. The work of Ward and Kenedy (1999) identified positive coping strategies that can help increase sense of worth in building resilience in a new environment. These may include seeking social support, developing intercultural communication skills and engaging in cultural learning activities in the host community. The ability to develop a resilience mindset can make it possible to overcome any challenges faced during the acculturation phase. Ungar (2011) explained resilience as the ability to bounce back from challenges, becomes crucial in the mitigating the negative impact of change. Similarly, the words of Marcus Aurelius on knowing that we have full control over our mind can support create a resilience spirit in one’s life.

In conclusion, change allows one to develop competencies that can help them determine their future. Since most students and internationals moving to a new country often aim to have a better life, acculturation when implemented properly can provide a sense of belonging through the practice of social integration, engaging in local activities and understanding the impact of developing resilience as a means for adaptation. Furthermore, the concept of change, either positive or negative, can significantly influence the experience of an individual living in another country. Hence, by participating findings from a more cross-cultural psychology as indicated by Berry’s framework and the sojourner adjustment of Ward and Kennedy (1999), we can gain significant valuable insights into the various nature and dimensions of change in a diverse community. Our lives are often juggling act between friends, families, works and social life. Finding harmonies can be a delicate task due to the ever-changing landscape of personal development. Marcus Aurelius’ once said, Nnever let the future disturb you, you will meet it if you have to with the same weapon of reasoning which today arm you against present.” This reminds the need for embracing change; be it positive or negative.

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