From studies to working life

Anastasia Chumakova, graduate of Tampere University of Applied Sciences (2014) in Tourism, administrator at the Stadion Hostel in Helsinki, accounts of her first higher education degree in Finland and her successful job search.

After leaving school in Murmansk in 2009, Anastasia did not apply to Russian universities but opted for Finland. She knew the country well since her childhood, thanks to frequent trips there with her family and she started learning Finnish when she was still at school.

"My Mom always wanted me to learn Finnish and when I was 12 she signed me up for language courses. Our teacher talked a lot about the education possibilities in Finland, so it was not a flippant decision. Therefore, having obtained the secondary school certificate, I decided to give it a try.

Anastasia made her way to Tampere via Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (KAMK), where she studied nature tourism:

"Studying was interesting and we travelled a lot outside, but Kajaani turned out to be too small a place for me. My Finnish friends praised Tampere as a beautiful busy city with many parks. I found the website of TAMK which also offered education in Tourism and started to plan the transfer."

"I liked Tampere at once," she recalls. "For the first year I lived in the Hervanta district. Locals do not particularly like it but I find it very calm and safe. Although it is quite densely populated, there remain places to walk and to be at one with nature. Now, living in Helsinki, I value it even more."

Anastasia says that it was the city life in Tampere side by side with the intact nature that captured her heart:

"When I was younger I was looking for places with more people and fewer trees. Now it's the other way round: the more trees surround me, the calmer and happier I feel."

The transfer between the universities went smoothly and Anastasia was able to continue her education in the field of tourism at Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

"I will never forget our classes in Intercultural Communication Skills. We always had a lot of fun: we were playing, doing some puzzles, drawing and meanwhile we learned."

"Another useful thing was a mentoring programme for Tampere college students. The idea is that if you are a member you get a mentor with whom you can discuss questions related to the job search in Finland. My mentor was a journalist from the Aamulehti newspaper. We met each other at our free time, refined my CV and discussed various things. For example, we discussed how to objectively estimate your chances as a candidate and present yourself well at the interview. It was useful to know about all these things from a Finn and to practise my Finnish."

While studying at Tampere Anastasia went to work as an elf in Santa Park in Rovaniemi for three winter seasons in a row. There with dozens of other Santa Claus's helpers she entertained tourists from Finland and abroad:

"Sometimes the number of guests reached four thousand per day. You should hug everyone, take a picture and have a talk. That was fun; I have some fond memories left."

After her graduation from ТАМК, Anastasia started looking for a permanent job in her field. She thought it would be worthwhile to start the search from the hotel business:

"In my opinion, hotels and hostels were the places friendly to foreign employees and valuing knowledge of Russian. I took heart and went to Helsinki to hand out my CV. The Stadion Hostel was the last hostel I wanted to visit that day. It was raining hard, the road was sloppy and I wanted to go home, but I decided to push it through. The hostel management answered the standard "We'll call you back", but eventually I heard back from them soon."

Anastasia thinks that the main obstacle for foreign students in their job search in Finland is their lack of knowledge of Finnish:

"You need Finnish everywhere. Even my boss, the head of an international hostel, keeps saying that you cannot be hired here without knowing Finnish."

She recalls that despite her good Finnish, the first working day in the Finnish team was quite stressful:

"It was a shock: three managers, each with a different accent, loads of professional slang, and you should understand everyone right now and in the correct way." "Sometimes I had to guess what they meant," she laughs, "but I got used to it soon and feel comfortable now."

The work at the hostel brings joy, and she has become accustomed to the life in the Finnish capital. Yet, Anastasia recalls that moving to Helsinki was a sad moment for her:

"The spirit of Tampere is much closer to me: it is calmer and more serene. In Helsinki you can feel the bustle, and, as for me, it is not a really Finnish city. Of course, it has some typical "Finnish" places, but they are scarce. I miss Tampere."

At her free time, Anastasia continues her education in Helsinki studying international business. Her plans are to obtain a master degree and to stay in Finland:

"It is a great country to live. I would like to find my way here in future."

Photo by Olga Javits