The company, which aims to increase the number of European students going abroad to Asia, formed in 2007 when co-founders Harri Suominen and Tuomas Kauppinen returned from their own exchange experiences in China.
Suominen told The PIE News that he and Kauppinen saw a significant opportunity to encourage more Finnish students to engage with Asia and develop opportunities for them to do so without a formal agreement between universities.
The success of the company has seen it expand from an initial exchange program of 79 Finnish students abroad to Phuket, Thailand to almost 1,000 European students from 30 countries in 2017, which Suominen said was having a significant impact on study abroad trends.
“In the beginning of 2000, only 5% of all the student mobility from Finland was to Asia. But now it’s close to 20%,” he said.
“The same trend is happening in many other countries, and young people are more willing to go further.
“It’s also related to travelling. You are not only travelling to a neighbouring country anymore, but you are willing to travel further away, and Asia seems to be very strategic.”
Among the strategic value of studying in Asia, Suominen said many students now understood the benefits of connections and cultural competence with Asia to future employment, an idea he first came across when he found his first job after university.
“You are not only travelling to a neighbouring country anymore, but you are willing to travel further away, and Asia seems to be very strategic”
“They looked at my CV and my studies they said: ‘Oh wow! You’d been studying abroad in Shanghai. Tell us a little bit about that.’ No other applicant had been outside of Europe,” he said.
With more Finnish and European companies setting up Asian operations, he said there were increasing opportunities for students.
Since launching Asia Exchange, Suominen and Kauppinen have turned their attention to inbound international education, co-founding Edunation, which aims to more than triple the number of foreign students in Finland by 2020.