I was one of those students who didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life after high school. I knew I wanted to work in an international environment with people from different cultures, but didn’t have any specific job in mind. I had a knack for learning languages, particularly I loved Spanish and was interested in different cultures, so those ended up being the determining factors behind my initial study choice of Spanish Philology at the University of Helsinki. During my first years at the University, I became increasingly interested in the cultural aspects of my studies, so I chose the interdisciplinary Latin American studies and Intercultural Encounters as my minors. Later on, as I was finishing my Bachelor’s Degree, it was a natural step for me to apply for Master’s Programme in Intercultural Encounters with a specialization in Latin American studies.
The studies in the ICE programme included a lot of team work in practical case studies and mini-projects that required an ability to multitask, self-organize, take responsibility, and handle many processes and schedules simultaneously. Processing and summarizing large amounts of information was another important competence that I developed through my studies. All of the aforementioned are skills that have proved to be vital later on in working life. As an afterthought, it would also have been highly useful to combine Humanities studies with courses from a different field altogether, for example Economics or Environmental Sciences. In general, I would also recommend topping off the substance knowledge gained through Master’s studies with some complementary and transferable skills (like learning Chinese or becoming an Excel wizard or…) while still at the University. Later on there’s little time for these things!
Some of my most cherished experiences have been the semester I spent studying in Spain, and the study exchange I did in Chile. I would say including at least one exchange during the studies is recommendable for anyone for the invaluable lessons learned while living abroad. It’s also important to keep in mind that we can and do learn a lot also outside the classroom. Alongside my studies I worked part time in different customer service and fixed term project positions, did some volunteering, completed two internships, and trained as a yoga teacher - all of which taught me many essential work skills: networking, presentation skills, event organization, and perhaps most importantly, a proactive, ´learn as you go’ attitude.
After graduation, I’ve been managing projects related to internationalization first at a regional development and innovation center and now in academia. I’m currently in charge of a national project that supports science, technology and innovation cooperation between Finland and Latin American and Caribbean countries. I guess it’s kind of a dream job for me: extremely versatile and at times demanding work where I can use and develop my competences and work together with a dynamic, fun, multicultural team.
Kajsa Ekroos has been working as Senior Planning Officer at the Finnish University Partnership for International Development since 2013. She started her Bachelor’s studies in 2001 and graduated from the ICE programme in 2010.