Céline Kylänpää made a career in Finland after moving to Turku as an exchange student
Céline spent an exchange year in Turku, which became her new home town. She is currently working as a project coordinator at the University of Turku, responsible for taking the KiVa programme to international markets and supporting existing KiVa license partners in implementing the programme in their region or country.
I did my master’s degree in international business in France at La Rochelle Business School. Within my degree, I was able to do an exchange year abroad and so I was looking for a suitable destination. When I looked at different opportunities with Erasmus, at that time I didn’t have any wishes where I could go. One of my goals was that I wanted to improve my English. The UK was somehow too close as I wanted to get a bit of experience away from home. So, I looked at what partnerships my school had with other schools abroad that also offered studies in English.
Then, one of my teachers told me that, our school has a partnership with the University of Turku in Finland. Back then I had no idea where Turku was but since I was always interested in Baltic countries, Turku turned out to be a good option. I was also thinking that this was a unique experience to visit Finland not as a tourist but as a student. I got my exchange student place in 2007 and I ended up studying in Turku for one year.
Student life in Turku was quite like what I had in France. I studied in a business school that was quite the same size as the Turku School of Economics. We didn’t have that many lectures in big amphitheaters, for instance. The only difference for me was that at the University of Turku, the student support is strong. Before I came to Finland, I was working in the UK in a summer job. It was a hectic time. Because of that, two weeks before I had to move to Finland, I still didn’t have any accommodation sorted, so I was thinking like I must do something about it. But then everything went smoothly as soon as I contacted TYS and got right away a place for me close to school. The accommodation was furnished – so that made moving super easy.
Then I got my very own tutor who met me as soon as I arrived. She helped me to get the practical aspects of moving to a new country sorted in no time. We opened a bank account, and I got a SIM-card for my phone. It felt a bit like I was being given everything, which was a good feeling. It reduced a lot of stress involved in moving to a foreign country. It was overall a pleasant experience.
Making first friends
Through my tutor I met a lot of other tutors who were also Finns and I made long-lasting friendships in the process. My tutor and her friends spoke a bit of French and so we developed a bond over that. In no time we were inviting each other to French evenings so that’s also how I met more Finns, I networked and now we are good friends. They’ve also really been supportive the whole way.
Returning to France to finish degree studies
So, after my exchange ended, I went back to France to finish my degree. I also took a break for one year where I travelled a bit. After I graduated, I moved back to Turku because during my exchange I had also met my boyfriend who is now my husband so that was the reason I came back to Turku right away.
Moving back to Turku
After moving to Turku, I started to look for a job, which as a recent graduate wasn’t easy. I didn’t have even that much of work experience from France. So, I decided to take part in the integration program for a couple of years where I studied Finnish and that time was helpful even though for me it was quite challenging. As the teacher was only speaking in Finnish, I learned a lot and improved my language skills quite rapidly but on the other hand the language courses were more meant for us to get to a certain level in the YKI test to get the Finnish citizenship which was not my goal at that point and still isn’t.
Because during my studies I found out that my way of learning is more through listening, I would have wished that the language courses would provide more discussions and watching more videos and things like that. I have been taking language courses at Turun Kristillinen opisto first, then Paasikivi opisto for the longest time and finally at Brahea centre at the University of Turku. It was nice that in Paasikivi we learnt also about Finnish culture as they organized Finnish Pesäpallo for example and other interactive learning activities.
After two years of Finnish, I decided that I wanted to build more on my work experience and do an internship to build my professional network, which was possible through the same integration path. I found this first internship by just discussing of my plans with my Finnish friends and asking if they knew of any open positions as we used to meet very often. They always asked me how I was doing. The integration program financed the internship.
First, I got an internship for 2 months in a startup in Salo where one of my friends was working. I was doing market research which was related to my studies and after that ended through another friend, who was working at UTU, told me that she had spoken to her supervisor, who was excited and would like to meet me. That’s how it happened, and I got my first job at UTU. I joined as an intern and from there I switched a few roles and got to where I am now. I worked on coordinating Erasmus + projects at the Brahea Centre for about 8 years and I recently joined the KiVa team once a position opened there.
Doing meaningful work has always been motivating me. Like for instance during my year-break I went to India to work in an orphanage as an English language instructor. It was a lifetime experience. And with Kiva we also help children in schools by reducing instances of bullying and anxiety that children may go through. It has a meaningful purpose, and I am so happy that I am doing something I have always wanted to do and with amazing colleagues. Working at KiVa is also related to what I studied in international business. At Kiva we are doing education export and we have clients all over the world. I mostly do marketing and negotiating with potential customers to develop partnerships.
What we do at KiVa
We do prevention by providing the KiVa schools with tools to inform about bullying and its consequences and we equip teachers with clear guidelines on what to do when there is an actual case of bullying so that they can help students better. The program is evidence-based which means that the effectiveness of KiVa has been proven scientifically. The program is easy to use as we provide readymade lesson plans and concrete tools. The tools consist of both digital materials and methodologies that schools can benefit from. They include different themes that the teachers go through with the students within the school year. And for the children to understand those methodologies better we have well-designed exercises to activate the children within their group.
At this point it's not only about bullying but it's also about learning about yourself and how you can support others based on how the group is working. It’s also useful later in life.
The Kiva program has also been proven to increase the wellbeing of the children and their motivation to learn. We have a lot of incredibly positive results.
In addition to giving tools, we also do monitoring at the end of each school year through student and staff surveys to see the impact of the KiVa lessons and evaluate the general school wellbeing.
Read more about KiVa program at www.kivaprogram.net and follow our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kivaprogram
We often hear that it is hard without a degree from Finland to find employment and develop a career within Finland. For me what helped was building a network of people in Finland. That’s why it’s good that all international students have tutors, and I would recommend them to use this possibility as much as possible to get to know people and start networking.
And networking not just for the sake of getting something from Finns but instead build trustworthy and long-term connections and friendships. Just have conversations on how to look for internships or about what you are currently studying and interested in. Getting a recommendation from a Finnish employer is very important, it is part of building trust and showing commitment
Networking can be done through volunteering too, within the studies or outside. While working at the University of Turku I joined the Expat Turku Network, created by the City of Turku and the universities in Turku. I used to coordinate it for some years, and I would recommend both for students and non-degree students who are planning to stay in Finland, to joining the network to meet other people who are already living here and well settled. Participating within your community makes you aware of happenings and encourages you to meet new people.