Student and alumni stories

Find out what our students and alumni would like to share with you about their studies and life in Helsinki.

Learn more about their career paths or plans, insights into the programme, studying in Helsinki, tips for your application process and much more.

New in Helsinki: Luiza

In our #NewInHelsinki series, senior students talk about their experience at the University of Helsinki and what advice they would give to their fresher selves. Once, Luiza was #NewInHelsinki. She came from Russia to Finland to study in the Master’s Programme in European and Nordic Studies.

Gabrielle Mantell

In 2017, Gabrielle Mantell started her studies in the Master’s Programme in European and Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki in Finland. She wanted to obtain theoretical tools to better understand the dramatic events taking place across the world.

Mantell not only wants to introduce more people to work with advanced technology, but she also dreams about making it easier to understand the complex world of today. Her studies in the Master’s Programme in European and Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki have helped her to better understand the world from different perspectives and angles.

Mantell also praises the academic freedom at the University of Helsinki. She can take courses in different disciplines than her own from more than one faculty.

“I must have about 50 extra course credits. When I began my studies, I was like a kid in the candy store. I value the broad selection of courses and the freedom to choose the courses that are most useful to me.”

Tamanna Sultana

Tamanna Sultana: "Finland has been my topmost preferred country for higher studies because of its reputation for quality education, beautiful nature, and continuous ranking as the world’s happiest country. I have applied to the University of Helsinki since it is one of the best research universities in the world and when I got accepted, it became a double delight for me.

As a graduate of International Relations, the ‘European and Nordic Studies’ programme is a perfect fit for me to study European and Nordic histories, identities, and policies. While living in a Nordic country, studying Nordic exceptionalism more closely as a part of the EU has been fascinating for me. 

The multidisciplinary study module triggered my interest and curiosity further since it has helped me to understand Europe from different perspectives, for example, cultures, economics, institutional cooperation, and politics.

After a long break from academic life, I am having a good time and learning will undoubtedly be an advantage to pursue my future goals. I recommend European and Nordic studies for future applicants because the programme’s flexible study plan and interactive study design makes the study enjoyable and develops you as an efficient and critical analyst." 

Jace Jordan

Jace Jordan: "I first experienced Helsinki during a two-year volunteer trip in Finland before I began my undergraduate studies, and I immediately became fascinated with the Finnish language, culture, and the unique role that the Nordic countries plays in the world. After I completed my undergraduate in the U.S. with a degree in Political Science, International Studies, and a minor in Russian, I knew I wanted to further explore these themes with a specific focus on Nordic Security, and the role that the Nordic countries play in influencing EU institutions, Russia, and trans-Atlantic affairs. The European and Nordic Studies Program, with its interdisciplinary focus and highly diverse and experienced faculty, provides me with the prime academic environment to further explore these themes in my own research.

One of the most remarkable elements of the University of Helsinki is that it sits at a political and cultural crossroad between the East and the West. This location, in tandem with the unique interdisciplinary aspect of the ENS program allows me to explore the overlap between critical academic fields. Whether it is studying the cultural and political impact of Finland and Sweden applying to join NATO, or analyzing the role that memory politics and populism have within the EU, the ENS program offers students the resources and flexibility to study nuanced topics that are critical to understanding contemporary geopolitics.

In addition to providing excellent opportunities IN the classroom, the ENS program also has incredible connections and relationships with institutions and research bodies beyond the University setting. The program has connected me to unique opportunities with organizations like the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) and Una Europa, which have provided me with invaluable insights for both my academic and professional career. There is also a vibrant international community on campus, which not only makes for great language practice, but also allows you to make personal connections and form a network with dedicated students and researchers from around the globe."

After my studies, I look forward to putting into practical practice what I have learned and plan to pursue a career in diplomacy and foreign policy. The ENS program really fosters an environment built around understanding the complexities and nuances of modern challenges, both in Europe and beyond, and I believe these insights will be critical in my ability to build bridges and enhance international cooperation and dialogue in my future career." 

Ekaterina Nekhay

Ekaterina Nekhay: "European and Nordic Studies is already my second Master’s degree from the University of Helsinki. After the pandemic, I decided that it is the best time to come back to studies and a new domain, which started to interest me during my studies in the Intercultural Encounters Program. I was looking forward to courses concerning politics as well as the social and cultural history of Europe, and, particularly, countries of the Nordic region. Currently, I’m in the first year of studies and my expectations match reality!

There are three things I especially enjoy about the European and Nordic Studies program, and the first one is the interaction with top researchers in the field of Nordic studies. So far in several lectures we were using materials written by faculty professors and had lectures with their participation. Also, I find it fascinating how there are different seminars and conferences organized by the research centers and the faculty. Secondly, I enjoy studying in a very international and diverse environment. Being a foreigner, who permanently moved to Finland, I find it very comforting and enriching at the same time. Thirdly, I consider that the European and Nordic Studies program offers significant freedom in choosing study topics. For me it was essential to have a possibility to select the courses which correspond to my scientific interests and future academic plans." 


Tuire Liimatainen

Tuire Liimatainen is an alumni from European and Nordic Studies (ENS) programme.

Tuire is from the Helsinki region so therefore the University of Helsinki felt like a natural choice for her. However it wasn't the only reason to study in the capital. "The University of Helsinki has always had a very good reputation being ranked among the leading universities in the world and in addition I could easily find a major I was interested in the most."

Even after graduation Tuire is contented with her choice. "Overall I can say that the studying environment in Helsinki was very nice and the university provides good facilities and services for students. The teaching staff is also very educated and specialized and I felt that I was supported throughout my studies. Nordic studies are very interdisciplinary by nature which I enjoyed a lot and I felt I could concentrate on topics that interested me the most."

Tuire feels, that the most inspiring learning experience was writing the master’s thesis. Independence and required work amount gave her a possibility to specialize in a certain topic and to learn about research in general.

After graduation Tuire worked as an exchange program coordinator in a non-governmental organisation for 3 years. "During that time I was able to utilize skills for example in intercultural communication." After those years she returned to the university as a Phd student at the Centre for Nordic Studies (CENS). "I feel that my previous studies have given me a good basis for postgraduate studies", she comments.

For prospective ENS students Tuire recommends exchange. For her the time spent in Sweden gave insight and practical experience on the diversity of Nordic countries.

Krista Heinonen

“I chose the university of Helsinki primarily because of its location in the beautiful city of Helsinki. It is also the overall best-ranked university in Finland and has a wide selection of degrees and minors. I applied to the European Studies master’s degree programme because of its versatile aspects, approaches and possibilities as a multidisciplinary study programme. I could not find any other master’s programme that had no tuition fee for EU students and offered the same traits. “

As a Finnish student Krista knew what to expect from the educational side of the university, but what surprised her were the positive studying environment and the team spirit amongst the students. “The upside of studying in a small master’s degree programme is that you get to know all of your classmates. We are a tight-knit group that consists of multiple nationalities and different types of people.”

“In addition to the skilled university lecturers, I have also learned from the fellow students in the programme. The class sizes are usually quite small and thus enable interactive discussion during the lectures. Sometimes we tend to share opposite views but are able to argue and discuss even sensitive subjects in good spirit and to learn from each other’s point of views.“

Krista considers that versatile teaching methods as a great asset of the programme. “The most inspiring course I have attended so far is called the Democracy in Eastern Members of the EU, in which I am currently enrolled in. There is no exam or final essay in the end of the course as the actual workload is being done during the course as group assignments. Every week a new interesting theme is being presented and the group is expected to elaborate on it and give a small presentation on each subject."

During her studies in the programme Krista has learned quite a bit also outside the university. “What is amazing is that I feel like I have been able to have an international study experience in my homeland. I have gained a unique opportunity to see Helsinki through the eyes of foreigners and it has resulted in me discovering new amazing things about the city I grew up in. “

One career path that is calling to Krista above all others is diplomacy. “I have already done an internship in the Embassy of Finland in the Hague. I am planning to do another one during my studies or right after graduation. I also see a career with the European Union or the United Nations a very pleasant option. “

“Studying European and Nordic Studies will teach you multidimensional perspective and ability to identify and analyse political, historical and cultural features that shapes societies. In addition, it may open doors to you that you never thought possible. For example, I never saw the field of economics of interest to me until I ended up volunteering for the Hong Kong office of the European Chamber of Commerce. An opportunity I would not have gotten without my studies. “

“If you are interested in a fruitful and challenging international study experience and career, European and Nordic Studies is definitely a master’s degree programme worth considering.”

Laura Sibinescu

Laura Sibinescu graduated in 2012 and her thesis topic was Democracy after accession; evidence from Central and Eastern Europe.  Currently Laura is PhD candidate in the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change at the University of Helsinki.

“My decision to come to Helsinki was pretty spontaneous. After getting my Bachelor's degree in Romania I started looking into different options for a Master's programme in European studies. I wasn't really satisfied with what I found until one of my professors suggested I check out what the University of Helsinki has to offer. The Master in European Studies programme was by far the best fit for my interests among all other options, so I decided to come and study here.”

As the curriculum includes large variety of optional studies you have the possibility to build your own study path according to your professional interests. “Flexibility is one of the biggest advantages of studying here. For example, the fact that there was a lot of room for elective studies meant that I was able to pursue my specific interest in Central and Eastern Europe as a region as part  of my studies. I was also encouraged to take courses from other faculties.”

“One of the first courses I attended as part of programme was an interdisciplinary lecture series titled 'Europe: Time, Space and Politics'. Each lecture was given by a different professor from various fields - political science, history, geography, cultural studies. It was very interesting to see different perspectives on and approaches to what European studies mean.”

Internship is an important part of the curriculum. Laura´s career plans became clear during her internship. “I'm a PhD candidate in the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change at the University of Helsinki and planning to pursue an academic career from here on. I wasn't actually 100% sure if I was going to do a PhD to begin with. However, in my second year I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Network for European Studies where I did some work as a research assistant among other things, and discovered that I really enjoy it. So the following year I applied for a PhD position. Now I work at the university's Department of Political and Economic Studies. In addition to writing my thesis I do other kinds of research, teach and occasionally do administrative work, such as planning conferences.”

“I think the internship, and the programme's hands-on approach to research were pivotal in my career choice. Before that I was considering working in public administration as a long-term career option. This experience helped me discover I really enjoy working in academia. “

Laura´s advice to all new students: “You'll be part of a very international environment, not just the programme but Helsinki as well. I really encourage you to get involved and meet new people. It's a cultural exchange experience you'll be looking back on fondly in the future.”

Saara Mattero

Saara Mattero graduated in 2015 and is currently working for the EPP Group of the European Committee of the Regions. The topic of Saara's master's thesis was From Global Responsibility to National Sovereignty – The Politicisation of the Financial Transaction Tax in the European Parliament.

 “To me, the University of Helsinki offered a truly unique and multi-disciplinary channel into learning about Europe - and looking at the subject of European integration through political science, history and economics instead of only having to choose one spectacles to observe the issue through.”  Tells Saara about her reasons to apply to the University of Helsinki.

She continues that though she knew the programme and network from her Bachelor studies, still the opening up of possibilities through the programme surprised her as well as its international and open-minded character. “Compared to many other options, I found myself inspired and privileged in these surroundings.” says Saara.

Of all interesting courses she took during her studies, she still remembers how it all started. “I actually enjoyed the opening course best with a proper overview of the whole programme while simultaneously bringing together all students from that year. That gave a great kick for the programme!”

In her current work Saara utilizes the knowledge and skills that she acquired in the programme on daily bases. “One of the reasons why I chose the programme was to deepen my knowledge of the EU and its institutions and I already worked with the European Commission and in the European Parliament during my studies. After my graduation I was called to join the Cabinet of the President of the European Committee of the Regions and now I am working for the EPP Group. I would honestly tend to say that I use my skills here every day, as I focused on EU institutional communication.”

Saara's reminder to all of us: “Be confident of who you are, where you want to go and work hard to achieve it. Anything and everything is possible – and remember to have fun!”