I am studying Community Education at the HUMAK University of Applied Sciences. I have also completed studies in social psychology, and I have quite a long work history in the field of social care and psychiatric work. As the sum of all these, I know that communality is an important tool and resource. The feeling of social capital, or inclusion, is a key factor when talking about subjective wellbeing and mental health. The term refers to networks and the reciprocity and feelings of trust happening in them. On the other hand, experiences may be very subjective – a strong community spirit may be business as usual for someone else. According to one idea, the term ‘group’ refers to people who are repeatedly in mutual interaction, and communality is the glue holding this group together. A group also has a shared objective. In my case, the objectives were studies, professional growth and reflection, or the interest in similar societal work. But what if a group does not have any meetings in real life or there are very few meetings?

My earlier experiences of multiform studies go back to the beginning of the last decade when I studied nursing. A number of things have changed, and multiform studies have become more communal. We studied theory at home alone and used each other for mere needle practice when we met, and nobody knew each other’s names unless the names came up in the cafeteria line. Today, the advanced information and communications technology, online learning environments, and social media enable reciprocal learning and a sense of cohesion even on the couch at home, and building this sense is even encouraged.

Earlier, we talked about adult studies, and the term is not completely wrong since many multiform students have ended up between professions. My current group also includes people with immense proficiency. They have lots of experience, contacts and completed studies, and they could get credits for practically anything. But all this needs to be combined into a sensible package. An ongoing dialogue helps the students reflect on their professional identity and see the field through different glasses. Conversational learning has been a massive step forward: in my own courses, the tasks are often delivered publicly, and you can receive feedback from everyone instead of getting back one person’s messy red marks.

Communal learning has been especially significant for me in terms of energy. The multiform students have a shared Facebook group and are linked to each other on social media, and the students of one teacher have their own channels for more intense discussions. My group quickly found common ground through Microsoft Teams, which enables easy discussions on acute problems or future plans. Or just venting. The significance of one’s private life on studies cannot be underestimated, and I feel privileged when I can vent from behind a screen – for some, this is easier than daily social face-to-face situations. A coaching group working all over the country and crossing fields also offers information from behind the scenes: how is everything working elsewhere, what kinds of opportunities could there be? In my own field, most people are naturally communal, but I know that this isn’t always the case. Some may feel protective of their personal boundaries or just want to concentrate on studying and face their problems alone. I would still like to encourage everyone to test the flexibility of their comfort boundaries and make friends with their fellow students – at the very least, it could make long studies feel a little bit shorter.

My study autumn went well, and now I’m happy to go on to maternity leave: the abyss from where some never come back, or stretch their return for several semesters. With the help of my group, I can stay involved in my studies even during the break and am excitedly awaiting the final crunch in my studies.

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