Name: Laura Korhonen
Study field: Religious Roots of Europe Master’s programme
Graduation year: 2014
Employer and position: Kiuruvesi parish, Evangelical Lutheran pastor
How did you end up studying in the Religious Roots of Europe Master’s programme?
I was doing my bachelor’s degree in the University of Helsinki at the faculty of theology when Antti Marjanen came to my seminar to advertise the programme. I was immediately interested in the possibility to do my master’s in an international programme and international environment but still be able to live in Helsinki where I had already studied for three years. The combination of seminars in different cities abroad and studying from the comfort of your own home was most appealing. I was hooked with all the travelling that I would be able to do in this programme.
You have studied theology. What motivated you to apply to that programme and how would you describe your studies?
I had already studied Hebrew, Greek and Latin, languages needed in the programme and also done quite a bit of biblical studies. I was interested in exegetical studies and I saw a great opportunity to widen my interests and knowledge from Christianity and Judaism also to Islam and to the joint roots of these three religions that affect our world also today. I think it is impossible to understand where we are today if we don’t know where we are coming from.
The studies were a wonderful opportunity to see different universities and different top scholars of their field at work and teaching us all. It really taught a lot to see how things are done in Copenhagen or in Lund compared to Helsinki. Studying completely in English was hard at first, and all in all I had to do more work than I was used to in my studies. But it was definitely worth the work. And the best part, if I can name one, was probably meeting a bunch of wonderful people and brilliant students and making friends around the world!
What is your profession at the moment and have you worked somewhere else before that?
As I am writing this I am eagerly waiting for the start of my ordination training so I can become a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran church of Finland. So far I have only worked on summer brakes from university, mostly in different parishes as a so called “summer theologian”; a helping hand in the summer holiday season. I have also done my deal of customer service jobs.
Describe shortly what you do at your future work.
In a month, when I start as a pastor, my work will include liturgical life of the parish, Sunday services, christenings, weddings, funerals and so on. I will also focus on the youth work and missionary work with other employers, and do some public relations updating.
How did the studies support your employability aspect? Did you do an internship and if so, what kind of experience was that?
As a pastor in Finland you need to have master’s degree in theology to be ordained. So it would have been impossible for me to get employed as a pastor without my degree. And I feel that from the RRE programme I got so much wider knowledge and also social capital that it can only be an advantage in the work market. When I went to job interviews all the possible employers were extremely interested of my master’s programme, for most of them had also studied theology in the University of Helsinki but such possibilities for international studies were not an option when they were students. I had to do a mandatory internship during my studies, but that was not connected to the RRE programme. It was useful and supported my goal to become a pastor one day.
When looking back, how did the University of Helsinki provide you with support, advice and guidance?
I got all the support and guidance that I wanted and needed, and probably would have got more if I had only asked. So thanks! I was well looked after.
Are there any concrete benefits or disadvantages you gained from your international background in your study life?
Since I was (and am) a Finn studying and working in Finland, I can’t really say that I have international background. But it sure has widened my perspective and opened my eyes to get to know closely people from very different backgrounds.
What kind of plans do you have for the future? Any good advice for the readers?
For the near future I will focus and enjoy my new job as a pastor. Maybe later in the working life I can take more advantage from my international experience, possibly in Helsinki area where there is more need for international knowledge.
For the readers I warmly recommend to apply to the Religious Roots of Europe master’s degree programme. All the travelling and seeing different universities and seeing Rome was the best part of my student life. And I can still have some of it in my life, for I know I have made lifelong friends along the way. It’s not bad to have plans to visit London or Copenhagen regularly or even have the possibility to introduce Finland to your friends.