Laura Kihlström, who graduated with a degree in plant production sciences, works as a project assistant at the Unit for Sectoral Policy of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Helsinki.  

1. What did you study?

I studied plant production sciences, especially agroecology, at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry on the Viikki Campus. In addition, I completed a study module in development studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences as well as courses in extension education and, during my student exchange period in Uppsala, Sweden, tropical agriculture and ecology.

2. What do you do for a living?

At the moment I am a fixed-term project assistant at the Unit for Sectoral Policy of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I am an assistant to the Senior Adviser in rural development and agriculture. My work entails preparing background reports, writing reports and speeches, issuing comments on statements and attending meetings. The best thing about this job is to be able to work on topics that I studied for my degree on a daily basis. I also like the fact that I must always keep abreast of new information and events in agriculture as much as possible. In addition, I like working in an international environment, which is what the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is. I will soon look for a fieldwork position abroad in order to put my studies in agriculture and development studies into practice. 

3. How does the future look in your field?

I daresay that it looks quite good, because people will continue to be needing food. Trends such as the demand for organic and local food as well as the effects of climate change on food production will generate employment opportunities in the future. I encourage all students at Viikki to also consider international career opportunities. There is demand for experts in the field abroad. In addition, they should use social media to familiarise themselves with the field and to contact potential employers. Twitter, for instance, is a great way to stay updated on what happens in agriculture. If possible, students should also consider completing their special practical training at the end of their studies – I do not know if the current Personal Study Plan regulations enable this, but I should think it increases career opportunities after graduation.

4. What is your favourite memory of your studies?

There are a lot of them! I remember well some good courses and lectures, as well as those moments of epiphany when I realised my opinion was not perhaps all that well-grounded and I learned to see things from a different perspective. Working in student organisations was also very rewarding. I was active in the International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences (IAAS) throughout my studies, and I got to know students and employers in the field from all over the world as well as to hone my leadership and presentation skills.