The University of Helsinki (UH) is currently in the process of renewing all its degree programmes. Already for a number of years there have been several Master’s Degree Programmes available in English. Starting next academic year (2017-18) there will be a new set of programmes on offer by the faculties. The biggest difference compared to earlier years will be the introduction of fees to non-EU students. As a result of current developments together with years of experience, UH is stepping up its services provided to international students. The aim is to improve the support offered to students both inside and outside the university; from student services to different housing options, leisure activities and information on local culture.
As students arrive in Finland and start settling in, they are naturally eager to find employment. They will also be searching for trainee positions during their studies, as work experience from one’s own field is extremely valuable for career development. Many also wish to stay after graduating. Some succeed in finding their place in the labour market, others don’t. Research shows clearly that one of the biggest challenges for international students settling in Finland is related particularly to finding employment and how open the new host country appears to them.
One challenge is the lack of contacts with employers and society. Also language skills is a factor the students mention as limiting their job search. When moving to a new country, students do not have the networks and connections which could help them in their job hunting. There is a lot to learn about how the local labour market works. At the Career Services of the UH the employability of international students has been on the agenda for a long time. As an example, in 2009 the VALOA-project brought together the Career Services at UH with 19 other universities, city councils and entrepreneur organizations in creating a framework to support the employability of international students (find out more at studentintegration).
What else do we do for our international students at Career Services? In a nutshell, we meet with them on a regular basis, supporting their career planning and job hunting processes. We offer individual career counselling, we teach these topics in our own courses as well as take part in work life oriented courses offered by the different degree programmes. We organize job hunting info sessions and CV workshops as well as meetings with alumni.
The latest development is the UH Career Forum group on Facebook. We invite everybody to join who is interested in supporting the employability of international students: students themselves, alumni, UH staff, representatives from the labour market and so on. The UH Career Forum is an informal meeting place where information and best practices can be shared, and it is a platform through which networks can be built. Jobs and traineeship positions will still be announced in Rekrynet and in Flamma, UH’s intranet.
Anna Storgårds, career counsellor