“It’s of the utmost importance to attract more international students to Finland,” says Elina Lehtinen, director of communications and fundraising at Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). Prior to CMI, Lehtinen worked in the United States, the Middle East and the United Kingdom. In addition to graduating with a master’s degree from the University of Helsinki, she also has a master's from Harvard Kennedy School.
As an alumna of two universities, Lehtinen has a broad outlook on the significance of international studies. Students returning home from Finland take with them everything they have learned in Finland, importing Nordic values to their own country: equality, appreciation for high-quality education and the notion that every person should have the same opportunities to get on in life.
“Young people with experience of studying abroad are agents of change in their home cultures,” Lehtinen says. “Back home, many international students find employment in the administrative and business sectors, transforming their country through their work. This trend, which stabilises societies and increases understanding, also benefits Finland in the long term,” Lehtinen points out.
Fresh perspectives and ideas to Finnish society
“Finnish society needs different viewpoints and ideas from outside its borders, particularly from outside Europe. International students are a prime example of international encounters that enrich the Finnish university community and the entire society. Interaction with Finnish students results in friendships, and through these friendships, Finnish students also become more familiar with their new friends' countries of origin,” Lehtinen says.
“These kinds of contacts wipe out the worst enemy of all, prejudice.
We must put effort into providing international students with an opportunity to stay in Finland for a longer period, as their skills and expertise would benefit Finnish business life and the entire society. In this, traineeships and finding a job are key.”
International experience opens doors
Based on Lehtinen’s own experience and that of her fellow students at Harvard, studying abroad makes one grow as a human being and establishes global networks that will be useful throughout one’s professional career.
“My international work experience and studies abroad have opened doors for me and provided opportunities that would otherwise have been out of reach.”
Lehtinen’s own workplace, CMI, is a perfect example of an international work community. Nearly half of the organisation's 80 employees come from various parts of the world, representing more than 20 nationalities. The other half are Finns, although almost all of them also have experience of working abroad. A demanding and international professional field requires that CMI staff have an understanding of different cultures, the ability to work in international contexts and foreign language skills.
Lehtinen encourages the University of Helsinki to further increase its investment in international activities on all levels.
”In addition to international students, researchers and visiting scholars from abroad should be made an increasingly integral part of the University community, contributing their expertise to society at large. In a global world, diverse international encounters are a resource for everyone.”