Experiences

Watch the short clip and learn about experiences from the first season!

COMMENTS FROM STUDENTS

Phyllis Fong, Master’s Programme in Intercultural Encounters:

Phyllis FongI would use the letters H and U to describe HITP; helpful and useful because I got a lot of accredited information from my mentor organization, the City of Helsinki. During HITP, I received all sorts of guidance, especially for my thesis.  Also, after joining this program, I held a panel discussion along with one of my mentors from the City of Helsinki, where we discussed our overall experiences, which contributed to my master’s studies by helping me practice my communication skills.

I would recommend to any international student to join this program because it is really helpful, but only if you are active. This type of program requires you to be brave and ask questions and be willing to collaborate with your mentor as much as you can to get the best of it.

Merijn van Bruggen, Master’s programme in European and Nordic Studies

Merijin van BruggenI enjoyed a lot HITP. We met our mentor from the division of international affairs from the city of Helsinki. She was specifically focusing on international relations related to Russia and Estonia, and we had very productive meetings both with her and with other people from the city of Helsinki and other institutions. It was beneficial to meet people who work on topics related to my studies. I think it was an excellent opening to working life.

As an international student, it’s pretty complicated to get to know the Finnish work culture or have exposure to any professionals from your study background. So it was nice to meet people who are actually working in my field. Overall, I think HITP was worth it. It’s not too time-intensive or time-consuming. And it’s an excellent way to really get a head start when you enter the job market.

COMMENTS FROM MENTORS

Tanja Malo, City of Helsinki:

Tanja MaloIt was a really lovely experience to be part of HITP from an employer’s point of view. We had five meetings together with the students, and it was really fulfilling to provide them with information about our working life. We learned that it is better to be more interactive during our participation, so the students would have a bigger role. For this year’s programme, we developed a project to teach mentees how we work on our day to day basis.

HITP is one way for employers to find future talents and create greater cooperation with them. I believe this is an excellent way of finding students looking for opportunities in Finland.

 

Heidi Orava, Nordic Culture Point:

Heidi OravaMy experience with the HITP program was excellent. This was a perfect opportunity to meet young people interested in our field. As a nonprofit cultural organization, HITP gave us the chance to meet young people interested in Nordic cultural cooperation and meet somewhere in the middle. I learned that listening is essential for the mentoring process. It was also helpful for getting all sorts of new perspectives for my career.

I really like that mentees dared to be provocative and ask those critical questions about what we do at work and were curious about Nordic cooperation. Not only did we get new perspectives, but we also had the chance to receive feedback on how to reach young people as a target group for our future projects.

Juha Jokela , FIIA

Juha Jokela, University of Helsinki alumnus, is a Programme Director of the European Union Research Programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA). In 2021, Juha Jokela, together with FIIA, took part in the HITP programme for the second time:Juha Jokela.
“I truly enjoyed the discussions and the openness of the group of students. We could discuss matters related to their studies, career aspirations, but also topics on a more personal note such as how it is being a master student at the Helsinki University and a person coming to Finland from abroad.  This was a possibility for FIIA to open up to the university world and the current student community. It was important to get an overall understanding of the current master programs, meet students from there, and identify potential areas of collaboration. What can we learn and how could the students benefit from our activities? We acquired quite a nice overview of people working on themes relevant to our research. ” Read more

Barbara Bergbom, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

Barbara Bergbom is a leading specialist in culture and diversity issues at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and a former mentor of HITP. Having collaborated with the university in letting students know more about diversity and inclusion in Finnish workplaces, Barbara accepted the proposal of becoming an HITP mentor and jumped right into the challenge of boosting the employability of international talents. Although Barbara had worked with international students from the University in the past, this was the first time she acted as a mentor. “It was a pleasure to participate in HITP, and in general, everything was very well organized,” she said gladly in her interview.

 Barbara said that she learned so much about mentoring and the international students’ situation in Finland. “It was excellent to hear from those experiences. They were brilliant and motivated to study; they learn Finnish to some degree, and their master’s theses were fascinating,” she said.  As a mentor, her tasks were to inform as much as possible about the mentees’ work field of interest in Finland. She managed the group’s needs by organizing meetings, inviting guest speakers, and structuring a plan to provide students with more information about a job application. “Since it was my first time as a mentor, I felt very well supported by the university staff, they guide me through all the way, and I could have even asked for more sport if I wanted,” she noted.  

Besides, Barbara shared her image of the international students from the University of Helsinki after mentoring them for six months. According to her, the performance of her mentees was remarkable. “The mentees took the mentorship very seriously, and the guest-speakers were impressed about how engaged they were in every discussion, she told. As the international students have a global scope of their own fields of expertise, they are the perfect fit for Finnish companies that would like to integrate into the global society. “Because of demographic changes derived from internationalization and globalization, working life is becoming more international in Finland, and we need people to understand how to work in multicultural workspaces,” Barbara added. In this regard, she noted that the belief that hiring international talent is too much work for Finish companies is incorrect. “When expat organizations hire highly academically educated migrant workers, they realize that they do not need to completely transform their working culture she argued. 

 Ultimately, in her interview, Barbara strongly recommended organizations to participate in HITP. “I think it is really worthwhile and really recommended, but I think it would be good to think beforehand what they want to get from this experience,” she added. Recalling her experience as an HTIP mentor, she explained what the Finnish Institute of Occupational health learned from HITP. 

  “We learned more about what we should do at the Finnish Institute of Occupational health to be more inclusive and diverse for non-Finnish people. We realized, for example, that most of our documents are not accessible for non-Finnish speakers. So I really suggest that organizations think in advance what they expect to achieve from their participation.”

 

 Anna Storgårds , HITP project manager 

Anna Storgårds, the Project Manager of the HelsinkiUni International Talent Programmme, sat with us to talk about this great initiative on behalf of the University of Helsinki. From the importance of retaining international talents in Finland to her learning experience of developing this project to changes derived from the first-ever round of HITP, she shared helpful information for future mentors and mentees.

As the main mission of HITP is to create a low threshold platform where companies and international students meet and know each other, some changes were made to fulfill this objective. “After the first round, we learn how to guide people better, and hopefully, this time we can bring better results and make participants feel even more satisfied”. Mentees from the HITP- 21 shared that they wanted to be more active and utilize this opportunity to showcase their talents in group work. For this reason,  during 2022 , mentors were encouraged to give short assignments to mentees to let them use their participation as relevant experience for their future career goals.

For mentees, having the possibility to meet in-person professionals from their field of interest is crucial. As a result, the importance of having face-to-face meetings between mentor organizations and international students. “In the second round, things are very different because we can meet live this time; last year, we couldn’t organize a face to face meetings because of the Covid pandemic,” she added. This means that now mentees can actually go to the premises of the company or organization of their mentor and meet the staff in person. 

Also, Anna mentioned the importance of supporting the transition of international students into the labour market. From her point of view, to thrive as a society, we need to bring new ideas, and international students bring these. HITP mentees bring fresh perspectives into any issue; we all know a more diverse team is more innovative in academia but also in any workplace. “As a career counselor, I can tell you that the only way to move forward is to step out of your comfort zone. I ask companies and organizations to not hesitate to hire international talents because there are many tools to help you take this step provided by the university”.  

Finally, Anna said that despite the short history of HITP, some students have advanced significantly by participating in this program. “We only have experiences from one year, but out of HITP, there have been opportunities for part-time positions and thesis collaborations, so from the pilot round, we can say that some magic has happened,” she said. After the pilot programme, Anna continues to feel enthusiastic about helping international students find a career path in Finland. “So far, I have been very excited about HITP, and so as everybody else who works with the Talent Boost initiative, I have no doubt that it will get even better in the future.”

 

Interviews with Barbara and Anna by Fransisco Rangel Bustamante, trainee at career services in autumn- 22 and HITP mentee.