I am of Finnish origin and at different stages of my life I have been living abroad. I really see lots of value in challenging oneself and stepping out of one’s own comfort zone for going abroad for studying, training or working. Living in another country is not always easy and fun, but as a life experience it is something irreplaceable and greatly empowering. You do not only learn about the country and culture, in which you are residing, but you always learn about yourself. I myself consider international mobility as an opportunity rather than a threat, as a process of professional and personal development rather than a waste of time, and as an overall investment in one’s own life and future.
I would not be the person I am today without the following experiences in some other European countries - and I look forward to adding more experiences abroad to this list in the years to come:
Brussels, Belgium (March–December 2019): This opportunity to work in the EU capital can be seen as an experience of happenstance. I did not plan it, it just happened. A warmly welcome career transition to work on the European Commission’s new Europass portal on lifelong learning and career development.
Thessaloniki, Greece (June 2007–May 2012): For five years I was working as a Senior Expert at the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop, EU agency) located in Northern Greece. There I was in charge of developing lifelong guidance and entrepreneurship education within the EU policy and strategy framework for lifelong learning and sustainable employment. Close cooperation with the European Commission and the national education and labour ministries of the EU Member States was a key dimension in my daily work.
Copenhagen, Denmark (February–April 1998): Through the Nordic exchange programme for civil servants I was stationed at the Danish Council for Educational and Vocational Guidance (RUE) to become acquainted with education, training and employment in Denmark. While there I was meeting with numerous Danish experts and learning a lot from them, and bringing this newly acquired knowledge back to Finland.
Vienna, Austria (January–June 1992): I had the honour of being the first Finnish exchange student from the Helsinki School of Economics (HSE) at the Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Austria. I was really privileged when having this opportunity as in the early 1990s these student mobility programmes were not a regular thing in Finland yet. The studies that I completed in the German language and Economic geography in Vienna were recognised as part of my Master’s Degree at the HSE.
Norrköping and Rättvik, Sweden (June–July 1980): As a 14-year old school boy I spent two months in youth summer camps in Sweden to improve my Swedish skills. Indeed I became better in Swedish, but I also became slightly more “adult” thanks to the independence that I gained through this experience.
Stockholm, Sweden (May 1966–March 1974): I was born in Sweden as my parents (both Finns) had taken a decision the year before to move to Stockholm for work. So, my first years in life I spent in the Stockholm area until our family moved back to Finland in 1974. Clearly the foundation for my international orientation later in life was laid in my childhood in Sweden.