Meet our students and alumni

Former Erasmus student Adam Mackie returned back to Helsinki for his master´s studies to concentrate in political history.

“I was fortunate to receive offers from all my Masters applications. I wanted to study in Northern Europe and had offers from Lund University, University of Tartu and University of Helsinki. The University of Helsinki was my first choice because I had done my Erasmus here and I consider Helsinki my home so it was a natural decision to want to come back.”

“The European Studies masters is a flexible programme with few compulsory classes. So, in a sense, there is no study programme waiting for you but but rather an opportunity to build your degree around your interests. My interest is Eastern and Central Europe and its relationship with Russia and the EU so my classes are mainly from the Aleksanteri Institute, which, is an institute which centres its research on this region. “

“The most interesting class so far has been one on the current refugee crisis. It is interesting because there is so little research on the matter, so it is unusual in the sense that there is very little reading and the class has centred around the question of how this should be studied. “

Adam has clear professional goal: “After graduation I seek a career in the diplomatic service and I believe this study programme suitably prepares me for this with it’s focus on European relations and the EU.”

“My general advice to potential students is bias, I would tell them to accept their place if offered one. Helsinki is a fantastic city to both live and study in and the teaching is of a very high quality. My second piece of advice, for those who do come, is learn the language. It’s difficult but rewarding, in many ways I would say it is the most important class you’ll take. Thirdly, be active in your extra-curricular student life, there are many student organisations with great opportunities - this morning I had breakfast with the Swedish ambassador discussing issues such as Arctic security, Nordic security and the rise of populism in neo-liberal societies.”

Clayton Sullivan is studying political science.

Clayton chose the University of Helsinki because he wanted to gain first hand knowledge on European Studies in a political subcategory. “Since the University of Helsinki is well reviewed around the world and well known in Europe for Political Science, this was a perfect fit for me.

“So far in my studies the most interesting class I have had has been on the refugee crisis. In the European Union today, the migration crisis is a hot topic for the organization. It is interesting to apply what we know about the crisis so far and what we are still continuing to learn about to this day. “

Clayton is aiming at career in academia: “After I graduate from the University of Helsinki, I think I am going to pursue a doctorate. I want to continue my education further and hopefully one day teach students more about the political side of European Studies.”

“ENS is taught by some of the best and brightest scholars from all over Europe. There is so much knowledge and information that you can tap into from these professors and from their international student population. What is stopping you from studying here?”

Elina Sironen started her studies in 2015.

The city of Helsinki played key role when she was considering to which master´s programme to apply to. “Helsinki has such a vibrant urban life with lots of events throughout the year keeping you busy on your spare time. The city itself is big enough, but you still have the nature super close. Being a Finn, Helsinki was quite a natural choice for me.”

Elina has enjoyed to diversity of her year class: “Our group turned out to be nicely diverse with people from different backgrounds. However, it was very easy to get to know each other and start in the programme.”

"The studying environment in Helsinki is flexible and you have a lot of optionality in your studies. However, the independent nature of studies also makes it your responsibility to achieve your goals. Joint courses together with other students from our programme have offered the most inspiring learning experiences for me. It is very interesting to hear thoughts from people majoring in different subjects than you do. I have also enjoyed the courses on Nordic studies very much. Lecturers are very inspiring and I think that the Nordic perspective is something special only our university can offer. “ tells Elina about her experiences about the studies in the programme.

After graduation Elina is planning to work in an international environment related to either Nordic or Arctic cooperation. Doctoral studies might also an option for her at some point in the future.

“I recommend to explore the whole country instead of just staying in Helsinki. You won't regret it!”

In her studies Krista Heinonen concentrates in political history.

 “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 and 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 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 electives in the 120 credits of the Master's programme 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, but 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 where 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, but 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 because it's a cultural exchange experience you'll  be looking back on fondly in the future.”

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!”

Gökçe Sandal is currently studying in the European and Nordic Studies programme.

Gökçe chose University of Helsinki over all other options because of two reasons. "In addition to the university being among the best research universities in the world, I was interested in studying culture from a Nordic perspective, and the University of Helsinki was the only university that offered a Nordic studies program in English. "

Gökçe feels that the programme is quite focused on multidisciplinary studies, which has helped her in getting a complete picture of Europe and the Nordic region in particular by analyzing all the political, economical, societal and cultural dynamics that are in play. She feels that the studying environment is very interactive. "It focuses on the student’s individual learning process through weekly assignments and lecture diaries rather than traditional exams."

Gökçe feels that it has been inspiring to look at the societal and cultural topics that interest her through other perspectives of politics, law, economics etc.

"Having studied Literature and Liberal Arts for my Bachelors degree, I was not quite familiar with these aspects beforehand. Therefore, being able to analyze different dynamics that are influential in cultural affairs has been quite inspiring and useful for my future thesis and studies", she contemplates.

Gökçe is not stopping to Masters degree but plans to pursue an academic career instead. She would want to do a Phd and research on LGBTI immigrants in the Nordic countries.

All in all Gökçe encourages applicants by depicting how unique European and Nordic Studies programme is. "It is very flexible, and allows you to draft your own study plan and focus on the questions that interest you the most. Therefore, I am sure it will satisfy your expectations!"

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.