Meet our Alumna! The research internship convinced Laura to the academic career

laura sibinescu

Name: Laura Sibinescu
Study field: Political Science
Graduation year: 2012
Employer and position: PhD student, Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki

How did you end up in Finland?

A few months before receiving my Bachelor’s degree I started looking into Master’s programmes on European studies. I wasn’t really satisfied with the options until one of my professors suggested I check what the University of Helsinki has to offer. This is how I found the Master’s Degree Programme in European Studies (MES), which was by far the best fit for my interests. There was quite a short time between discovering the programme and coming to Finland, so you could say that my decision to move here was pretty spontaneous. But I’m glad I followed through on it.

So you applied and got accepted to the Master’s Degree Programme in European Studies. What motivated you in your studies?

Definitely the fact that I had a lot of freedom to choose my courses. For instance, I was able to ‘build’ both elective study blocks required to complete a Master’s degree according to my interests – one on the topic I wrote about in my Master’s thesis, and one that turned out to be a really good introduction to the history, culture and society of the Nordic countries. For an international student with frankly little prior knowledge of these things this was very helpful.

There is a lot of flexibility here compared to my former university, and I have to admit that at first it was pretty confusing.  But being able to take charge of my studies, and the fact that I found plenty of courses covering my area of interest was a huge source of motivation.

Sounds good! What about an employability aspect? How did your studies support your career planning?

I did a research internship supported by my Master’s programme, and it was this experience that really convinced me to continue with postgraduate studies. I had for some time considered the option of an academic career, but never really got the chance until that point to see it from outside the ‘typical student’ point of view. During my internship I got involved both in research and administrative activities and I realized that I really enjoy it, that it’s something I really want to do.

Nice to hear that you have found your passion. Sometimes it might be difficult to do so and requires soul-searching. How did University of Helsinki provide you with support, advice and guidance?

Everyone, from the Student Services to professors and fellow students, has been very patient about answering dozens of questions over the course of my Master’s studies. There is a feeling that if you ask for help with something you are struggling with people will really try to do something about it.

What concrete benefits have you gained from your international background?

I had never studied abroad before coming to Finland, so one of the first things I told myself when I arrived was: expect the unexpected. So far the unexpected turned out to be mostly positive. One of the best things about being part of an international academic community is that you never know who you are going to start a conversation with on any given day – where they’re from, what they’re studying, what kind of experiences they’ve had here.

And disadvantages?

The first few weeks can be difficult though. Settling in, going through a lot of paperwork, learning your way around. The university does offer a lot of support. There are orientation sessions and a guidebook for international students covering everything from general information about Finland to practical topics, like resident permits and travel cards. But still, dealing with everything first-hand can be a little overwhelming.

For sure! It’s always exciting to move to the new place. What kind of plans do you have for the future in Finland?

I plan to complete my PhD here and ideally continue doing research and get involved in teaching.

Laura thanks for interview. Do you still have some good advice for the readers?

Don’t become isolated. Get to know and keep in touch with people, especially fellow students. There are plenty of opportunities to learn something new this way and this is just as important as the things you learn from your courses.