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Education Specialist – Finn Church Aid

Hanna with Mr. Khalid Idriss, Dean at the College of education.

Hanna with Mr. Khalid Idriss, Dean at the College of education.

Hanna Posti-Ahokas is working as an education specialist for the Finn Church Aid. As part of FCA Eritrea education programme, Hanna was sent to the Eritrean Institute of Technology, College of Education to work as an assistant professor focusing on staff development, pedagogical training and research supervision.

Hanna has over 15 years of professional experience from various education and development contexts. She has taught at primary and vocational schools as well as at university in Finland. Before Finn Church Aid, she worked for two UN organizations, the WFP and UNESCO.

Five years after finalizing her Master’s Degree in education, she returned to the academia for doctoral studies. During her university years, Hanna participated in various international research projects and North-South collaboration. She did her doctoral research on girl’s secondary education in Tanzania.

Hanna’s Master’s degree was a combination of home economics, education and development studies. From that time, she started focusing on of education and development issues. “Education is always contextual and linked to people’s real lives and futures”, she explains.

After working as a teacher, education specialist and project coordinator she wanted to return to the academia to further develop her understanding and expertise on education and development. With her Doctoral degree, she now feels equipped for various kinds of work.

Hanna is inspired by the energy and the willingness to develop in many African societies. “I love working in a positive environment where people treat each other well.” However, sometimes the expectations for bringing in Northern expertise is hard to fill as the contexts are so different: “Often I feel that I am coming from another planet”, she laughs. Hanna calls for more relativist approach when working in an international context. “Dealing with ambiguity and diverse perspectives is not easy for anyone.”

During her international assignments, Hanna has started to see how culture is framing our being – it is about collectively learned things that have often become visible and self-evident. Stepping outside your own immediate cultures make your own cultural biases visible. Every incident where a cultural stereotype is broken gives an opportunity to see people more clearly: “I try not to explain things by culture as it often leads to stereotyping”, she explains.

What comes to intercultural competence, Hanna emphasizes how experiencing and recognizing the intercultural is the key. “My strongest learning experiences have occurred in situations where I represent the minority.”

However, you don’t have to travel far for these experiences. “We sent university students around in Helsinki and asked them to go an experience something new”, she explains one of her research projects. “Small things, like talking to a stranger in a bus, provided meaningful experiences and helped to reflect on one’s own approach to diversities.”

For students thinking about an international career, Hanna gives an advice: “Do what you really want to do. Instead of being drawn by titles, destinations, good salary or such, try to look for opportunities that can take you forward professionally.”

Working with global challenges in international environments has made Hanna’s life substantially richer. “You start questioning your values when seeing different contexts where people live good lives. Things are somehow put in proportion and into perspective”, she reflects on her experiences.

CEMUS (Centre for Environment and Development Studies)

After debating a little while about what to write about, who to interview and what to focus on, I decided to concentrate my effort in something that has become an important personal project and that one day I hope to implement back home in the University of Porto; the establishment of a student-started centre that focuses on using multidisciplinary approaches, specifically about environmental, development and sustainability studies, to promote a more just and sustainable world, mimicking the concept already in place in the University of Uppsala in the form of CEMUS, the Centre for Environment and Development Studies.

I decided to interview the other person that has been involved in co-conjuring this idea, Jan-Ole Brandt, a student of the MSc in Sustainable Development in the University of Uppsala, in Sweden, and a course coordinator at CEMUS, the aforementioned centre we intend to replicate in the future.

Brandt’s background is in Sociology and Intercultural Business Communication, with a BA from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, where he was also chairman of the Sociology Student Council.

What is CEMUS?

“CEMUS is a student-run university centre focused on environment and development studies, founded in the 1990’s focusing on student-led interdisciplinary education.

The approach is that students are asked to organise their own learning processes and there are course coordinators (mainly students), acting as facilitators.

The teaching is essentially based on workshops, seminars and other more flexible methods of learning, though it is very versatile, because the students are part of the planning process and it therefore varies.

As part of that liberty, students are free to invite speakers and teachers to better suit their interests, and are also responsible for co-authoring their own evaluation criteria and material, in an attempt to make the student feel part of the whole process.

The courses offered by the centre are open to all students of the University of Uppsala, ranging from 5 to 30 credits, some including internships, and from a period to a semester.

As a student of the university, I was able to apply for the position to create a new course called “Experts in teams – Interdisciplinary projects for sustainable development”, which we are working on now.

I got the position because I had taken many of the available courses myself, I was and had been in touch with the people planning other projects in CEMUS and also from my previous experience as an intercultural trainer and team developer.”


Jan-Ole Brandt’s LinkedIn –


Centre for International Mobility (CIMO)

Jaana Mutanen enjoying the spring sun in front of the CIMO office, with the UH campus in the background

I sat down for a chat with Jaana Mutanen from CIMO, the Centre for International Mobility. She works with projects concerning international traineeships outside of the European Union: in Latin America, Russia, Asia etc., as well as with Spanish and German-speaking countries in general, sending students and recent graduates for traineeships abroad.

Before coming to CIMO Mutanen worked at the international relations office of the Ministry of Education and while she was there CIMO was founded. Working at CIMO became a dream for her, but she needed more experience to make it happen – which she eventually did. Mutanen’s academic background is in languages, international politics, educational sciences and Latin American studies. She says that the most important thing she learned at university and that has stayed with her after graduation is the all-round education these so-called ‘soft’ sciences have provided her with: knowing about and being interested in the surrounding world are important. They are also important for networking, as connecting with new people is easier through stimulating conversation.

Promoting mobility and internationalisation are important for Mutanen, be it through studying and working abroad or just travelling: seeing and understanding the world beyond the borders of Finland is vital for the construction of a more tolerant society. When Mutanen was a student there were fewer opportunities for students to go abroad than there are nowadays, but as a part of her studies she got to go to Germany for a semester, plus she travelled a lot around Europe in her youth.

Mutanen is very motivated in her job: it allows her to be creative (albeit within the framework of their budget) and to work with issues that interest her. She also gets to travel for work every now and then – not too much nor too little – which keeps the mind buoyant and provides her with the opportunity to meet new people. Indeed, networking is what she likes most about her job, a skill she thinks anyone can learn by doing. In an internationally oriented job such as hers the right attitude, courage and language skills are of great importance.

CIMO is an agency of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, founded in 1991 and dedicated to promoting internationalisation in and outside of Finland. More information on their website

ICCO Dijon – Intercultural Career Opportunities Seminar

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On Friday April 29 our colleagues in Dijon (University of Burgundy) organised a career event focusing on intercultural career opportunities. The keynote lectures and panel discussion were broadcasted to us in Helsinki so that we could also follow the event and ask questions. Afterwards, there were also workshops, but, they were unfortunately only for those in Dijon.

The five panelists were:

Bernard Fernandez, General manager of EKTA Asia Management and Professor of Cross-Cultural Management & Organizational Behavior at Dauphine University, Paris

Jeanine Karabi, Talent Strategy & Leadership Development Consultant – Certified Executive Coach, Opale Consulting Founder

Susan Salzbrenner, founder of Fit across Cultures, Co-author of Status Report on Intercultural Professions, 2014

George Simons, SIETAR France, creator of the award-winning diversophy®game series for developing intercultural competence

Angela Weinberger, Global People Transitions

The event kicked off with Susan Salzbrenner’s keynote lecture on the state of intercultural professions. The results of the Status Report on Intercultural Professions (2014) report she co-authored offered an interesting insight into what people in this field are doing.

The keynote lecture was followed by a panel discussion with the five panelists. The themes ranged from career development and opportunities to networking, the importance of which all five panelists underlined. Other things that came up during the panel were the importance of personal branding and specialization, language skills and most importantly: believing in yourself and what you’re doing.

For more information on the event, check ICCO Dijon’s website.


Visual Merchandiser – Makia Clothing

by Tereza Pavlyshche


The fashion industry is fast forward and has to adapt to the changes in the world and popular culture fast enough to survive, and even faster to prosper. The look of the retail stores is one of the key aspects in the fashion machine. It might greatly impact the number of customers, thus sales. To make sure all of this gets proper attention is the job of a Visual Merchandiser, one of my dream job positions.That´s why my interview was with Jani Fagerroos from Makia Clothing Oy.

  1. Jani, you are a Visual Merchandiser at Makia Clothing Oy. Can you tell me how you started working for them, please? What was your initial plan of the career path?

I started working for Makia first as an intern, then later on became a part-time employee for the Makia Webstore. I worked as an intern for our head designer, so obviously that was my plan to continue working with him. Unfortunately I didn’t have the necessary skills for fashion drawing or sizing, so they couldn’t hire me for that. Webstore manager was something new and challenging for me, and I thought I could easily fit in there. Then later on once we decided to strengthen our marketing program in Finland, we needed someone to take care all the visual merchandise and I got that position.

  1. Could you describe in few words what does Visual Merchandiser do?

The main thing for visual merchandiser is to make sure that Makia looks good in stores. On weekly basis I visit our key account stores in Helsinki twice a week and organize our sections. I also talk with the salespersons to receive information and possible re-orders. On daily basis I keep in touch with our Makia agent in Finland and if there is something I can help him and the stores with, I will. For example, stickers, catalogues, posters, pop-up shops, events etc.

Also twice a year when we design the new collection, I try to use all the information I receive from the field to help the designers. For example; which colours sell well, which don’t, which styles are good and which not, all that. I also take part of the design process when we figure out the new POS-materials and photos for the new season. Those are the main things to make sure your brand stands out loud and clear.

  1. What´s your work ethic, if you have one? Does the Makia Clothing have some special way of influencing how you work?

The strongest ethic to thrive my work is honesty. I want to represent an individual genuine Finnish brand, and I couldn’t think for a better one than Makia. Everything we do comes straight from our heart so it’s easy to stand behind it. I feel privileged to be part of this small company already in such an early stage, and I want to push that feeling and energy into my work also.

  1. Do you have any advice for those who want to start working in the fashion industry, especially in the same position as you do?

Finland is such a small place and the fashion industry here is small too, so don’t take it as a granted that once you graduate you will be on a dream job. One day you will, but you have to pay the dues and earn it.

Be true to yourself. Know what you do and do it. Everything else follows.

  1. What´s the best part of working for Makia?

People. Absolutely the people. Not just my colleagues but the people I meet everyday, whether it’s a customer, client or a partner.

Integration through art in Russia


This interview made with Anna Chizik who is famous theatrical photographer in Saint-Petersburg and already had here personal exhibition (devoted to the Salomea perfomance) and put many efforts to arts promoting in Saint-Petersburg. Also Anna works as a lecturer in Saint Petersburg State University. There are now big projects focused exactly on integration through art in Saint-Petersburg right now. Neverheless, personal responsibility on this way is really important as art is something that we create for others by ourselves. Anna is a great sample of this process.

-Tell me about your job and achievements in art area?
-I’m photographer and documentary films producer, specialist in acoustics and sound engineering. My specialization is theater area so part of my life is connected with journalism. Also I defended a thesis about theatrical plays semiotic. I try to combine IT technologies with fundamental cultural issues. Sometimes it’s even successful. My official achievements are “Golden feather” award winner and job as young lecturer of Information Systems in Art Department in Saint Petersburg State University.

-Have you ever worked with children?
-With students mainly. Their age is about 17-23 years. I teach producing of documentary movies and multimedia technology. According my observations each two year generations with totally different values are born. That changes typical opinion that generation is 10 years period. Those students who are 17-18 years right know are deep involved into the art and know more about some areas. On the other hand, 21-22 years old students don’t know modern national artists and hear nothing about important singers in our country. Nevertheless they’re on Art Studies. In job context I meet adults seldom. But this communication positive side is that they came to hear not to spend time. In other aspects of my activity I meet different age people. I had a project when I created movie with a preschoolers. It was about traditional Russian games and was very interesting for me as this children are representatives of the culture I knew only according books.

-Are there any projects connected with arts in Saint Petersburg legislative assembly?
-Yes, there is a committee in culture and art which is responsible for city events and problems in this area. It helps people to find contact with power; some youth take part in competitions. Sometimes there are exhibitions hold in Mariinskyi theatre. Activity in media space saving is also important. All city newspapers not depended on Smolnyi were closed but our deputies did a lot of job in finding money for saving the oldest newspaper brand “Evening Saint-Petersburg”. This brand exists for hundred years already. Nevertheless, legislative assembly is firstly law creating organization and its activity is quite hidden. So, on its base there are no great art connected projects, its closer to personal initiative.

-What art means for you personally?
-Talking briefly, art is looking for a beauty. It is an esthetical code in the person that creates our judgement about beautiful or ugly. There is “good” and “bad” from children books. We grow up on European arts model. Since childhood we visit museums, read books, listen to music, raising our attitude. We can fight with this settings but this fight also on the same art basis. What do we do when we need to make a decision and to do a next step in life? Often our mistake in future’s perception through the past. We already have some experience and trying to avoid our former mistakes in similar situation. But it doesn’t work, situations are never the same. Art gives us opportunities. It is the second life, huge experience. Person exists in spontaneous world. Our difference from animals is that we recognize it. We recognize the world through the art. We can make a choice and there is our freedom.

-Do you remember any samples when art helped you or your friends to understand other culture better?
-I’m not sure it is possible in fundamental art. Talking about arts and crafts, there are several photo centers and Universities in Russia where people try to realize and share their experience in cultural communication through photo journalism. For me it is very important to understand subcultures existing in terms of your culture. Living in Saint-Petersburg you are not always think about living in Africa, for example. But there are many serious problems which you are able to study through media projects – radical right political parties or religious minorities and majorities motivations. Here we come to new media formats in mass media. Is it art? I think yes.

-What are your future plans in art area?
-I’m making a film about Russian producer Marlen Huziev which is oldest from living Russian producers. My plans are not very wide right now – to finish this film in a quality good enough for the hero. Also I’m creating new electronic media devoted to cultural life. I hope it will be connected with art deeply. In other way I make pictures, write articles, live, generally. My intensions are mainly about subcultures and making life culture in sum.

Visit: Interkult Kassandra

The first visit we had regarding integration through cultural education was to the Kassandra Institute (Interkult Kassandra), where we talked to Catia S. Pedrosa, the executive director, and Venla Martikainen, the financial and administrative director. The young engaging and inspiring women informed us on Kassandra’s work promoting integration and diversity, and also providing workshops for the youth in Finland.

Interkult Kassanrda was founded in the year 2000, and works mostly on promoting integration through arts and culture. The organization was founded by theater director Ritva Siikala, whose goal was on building bridges among cultures, and supporting the further development of multiculturality. At first, it was aimed mostly on acting as a form of communication between cultures. Also, it was not only for “newcomers” but also for young Finns who wanted to meet new people as well as enjoyed theater.

Due to various changes, both politically and financially, Kassandra has developed and changed in how they work. First, the organization originally was supporting strongly feminism, which is why most of those who worked there were women. Nowadays, it is not only women who run the institute. Men are more active participants as well. Secondly, Kassandra provides more than theater and acting. For instance, it arranges various workshops for children and youngsters, where both the participants and the volunteering instructors learn from each other in a safe and fun environment. However, Kassandra has maintained one passion in their workshops, namely art!

Kassandra Institute organizes a special INTERKULTfest, a festival dedicated to performing arts for young adults.  Performers, both professional and amateur, are invited from all corners of the world promoting diversity as much as possible. The festival is organized once a year and cooperates with different schools from Finland in forms of workshops.

For more information visit:


Visit: Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture


The second visit regarding our interest in integration through cultural education was to the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. There we met Maija Lummepuro who is a Counselor for Cultural Affairs of the Department for Art and Cultural Policy, and Ulla-Jill Karlsson who works as a Special Government Adviser for the Department for Vocational Education and Training. The two representatives informed us about their work at their respective departments, and explained how the work on the political level contributes and changes the aspects on integration in Finland.

First of all, the work on a political level, unlike the non-profit one such as Interkult Kassandra, is completely different. It is more about cooperation between various ministries, and also between departments within the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The stimulating discussion was revolving mostly around internal factors (including financial resources) that affect the way the ministry functions as well as outside factors (politicians, circumstances in Europe and Finland outside the political sphere). Also, the recent budget cuts of the universities and of the ministry itself were mentioned. Due to this, the question of integration, especially among students coming from the outside of the EU, is critical as well as problematic. Non-EU students will not be able to come to Finland for their studies because of the lack of finances to provide their studies and also because of the unrealistically high tuition fees.

On a more positive note, the ministry’s fields in education, culture, sport and youth work hard on integrating asylum seekers and immigrants, especially nowadays despite the immense migration wave and economic crisis. Various educational programs will be provided not only for children but also for adults, so that they would be able to find training, employment and learn Finnish as well as Swedish.

For more information click here! 🙂


City of Helsinki Cultural Office

How is it like to create Finlands leading cultural policy? Interested in working in the cultural sphere, I decided to find it out through an interview with culture planner Sara Kuusi.

The cultural life of Helsinki is diverse: here we have the biggest cultural actors of Finland, but also many small and medium-sized theaters, galleries, circuses, artistic communities and so on. Together they form the wide community of culture workers, on whose work the “viewer” has a lot to say as well. A significant actor in the formation of cultural life in Helsinki is the City of Helsinki Cultural Office. It’s cultural houses provide accessible culture in neighborhoods. Libraries are the first step to culture for everyone in Helsinki and the grants the Cultural Office admits make culture possible in different fields. The department of Cultural Policies works with the latter: they organize grant application periods, admit grants and map the cultural needs of Helsinki as well as work in cooperation with different countries and cities and keep up-to-date information on what is happening with culture around the world.

My interviewee Kuusi works with EU matters, other international projects and, currently, with the regional inclusion project. Her days are always diverse and quite busy – the skill of prioritizing is of utmost importance. Working for the Cultural Office is not only executing ideas of the Helsinki City government; the city gives orders to research if something is of importance, but most of the job is rather independent and there is room to make a change. Indeed, it is important to be up-to-date about the cultural sphere of Helsinki and, even wider, Europe, as it is partly the job of cultural policies department to notice needs and changes and respond to them.

Kuusi started working for the city after a summer working for Aleksanteri theater during her university studies. She found that her job at the theater was interesting and creative. It also gave her the right connections and through them she was able to gain fixed-term contracts for different projects in the Cultural Office. Kuusi studied French language and culture, Philosophy and Social-Psychology and worked during her studies. Before getting a permanent position in the Cultural Policies department, she worked several years as fixed-term worker for the Cultural Office. Kuusi enjoys her work and finds the work community supportive.

The City of Helsinki seems a very good workplace: one can use up to 10% of ones work time for re-education and employees have the possibility to get valuable work experience in relevant fields outside of City of Helsinki by using their leave of absence. This brings new perspective and life in the work in City of Helsinki as well. This was also noticed by Kuusi, who spent her two years leave working as the international affairs manager in the CircusInfo Finland, the organization promoting Finnish circus art. As a working community, the department of Cultural Policies seems to have a good and supportive spirit. The other departments work separate, though collaboration is continuous. As a space, the office of the Cultural Policies department supported the job: they had impressive art, the office was located in a cultural heritage building and the view was a stylish city view.

The city of Helsinki is always recruiting trainees. The internship positions are published on the recruitment page of City of Helsinki and in the recruitment pages of the Universities. In the page of City of Helsinki you can also leave an open application. For me, the City of Helsinki is an attractive working place and I would recommend others to look into it as well.

Sustainability in Marimekko : Work life visit

Our path to understanding sustainability in work life brought us to a company visit to Marimekko. Marimekko is a Finnish design company founded in 1951. They are known for their prints and colours, lasting and timeless design and strong women. Sustainability is a major issue in clothing industry relating to for example the water and pesticide use in farming cotton, the working conditions of the farmers and workers in the factories along the supply chain and ending in how we treat the clothing we bought. During our visit, the sustainability manager of Marimekko Anna-Leena Teppo gave us a good picture of how Marimekko is dealing with these issues.

Marimekko is a value-based company and they find respect for the environment and people necessary for everything they do. In recent year Marimekko has for example started using renewable biogas in their printing mill in Helsinki, tightened their monitoring over their supply chain. In 2013 they became a member of Better Cotton Initiative. Marimekko still uses cotton in lot of their products, but they are looking into other possibilities such as wood-based fabrics. For Marimekko quality cannot be overlooked – cotton is still a good alternative when it comes to the lasting, feel and versatility of the fabric.

For Marimekko it is important to bring forth the life of the clothing after it leaves the shop. That is why Marimekko does timeless design – Marimekkos clothing is made to last the tides of fashion as well as the strain of using the clothes. As stated before it is important for Marimekko to choose the best materials and sustainability is a part of it as well. Marimerkko has animal welfare policies for all animal-based materials and they are willing to re-evaluate materials used, as was the case with angora after the public scandal concerning the cruel production conditions found in some factories in China.

As with every company, Marimekko still has ways to go to find the golden line to being fully sustainable and still a working company following current economic guidelines. However much is already done and more is to come. You can read more about sustainability in Marimekko by visiting their website: The new sustainability strategy is to be finalised in the coming weeks, so remember to keep track on Marimekko!