Margarita Khartanovich, MSc (Social Sciences), graduate of the University of Tampere (2015), major in Journalism and Mass Communication, reflects on how studying in Finland helped her to understand herself and to fulfil her dreams and explains why Tampere is the best Finnish city for her and why the University of Tampere is a students' paradise.
Margarita was 23 when she decided to enrol in a master's degree program in Finland. By that time, she had obtained two higher education diplomas in Russia and had had a job in her field for over 5 years. Yet, the throbbing pulse of Moscow life left no space for dreams, travels or even friends.
It all changed in 2009: a crisis in the mass media industry induced a wave of layoffs which hit thousands of young specialists, including Margarita. Though having lost her job at a TV channel, but gaining spare time to rethink her future, Margarita prepared her documents and applied for the universities of Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Vaasa. She received admission letters from two universities – from Tampere and Turku.
"I did not hesitate to opt for Tampere," recalls Margarita. "The university offered a very interesting experimental course at the confluence of three disciplines: International Affairs, Journalism and Cultural Studies. One course I found especially appealing – "Politics of Putinism" given by the Russian professor Sergey Prozorov. We did not have such up-to-the-moment courses in Russia where everything was very obsolete."
"The university is always student-friendly."
Thinking of her impressions of studying at Tampere, Margarita says the things that impressed her most were the university procurement and the possibility to modify your curriculum:
"At the University of Tampere, Russian students would think that they are in paradise: you have your personal account accessible from any computer, you can print out or scan documents for free or you can use excellent libraries with convenient E-services and a reading-hall open 24/7. I was completely amazed when the university opened "Oasis", a ground open for all students where you can lie down with your laptop on enormous pillows, have a cup of coffee, play video or board games, read a book in a huge barrel filled with plastic balls or even have a nap under a warm rug blanket."
"Another big surprise was the flexibility of the curriculum. In Russia, the curriculum is very strict and you have zero chance of changing it. In Tampere, you had to make decisions which courses, besides the core ones, to include in your programme and when to take the exams: to specify the academic year, the date and the time. Such freedom left some room for self-determination."
Moreover, the freedom is not limited to the choice of the courses: the student can influence the syllabus itself:
"During the first year, we had a very complicated course in the theory of international affairs," says Margarita. "For us, future media specialists, it was not of top importance – deep knowledge of the theory of journalism was of a far higher priority. We gave our opinion to the course coordinator, he agreed and the syllabus was modified!"
"The university is always student-friendly," she assures. "My requests were never rejected when I needed to extend the term of apprenticeship. It was always extended with respect to my planned internships and jobs."
In the four years of her studying in Tampere, Margarita had four internships, participated in several interesting projects and obtained a permanent job in a Finnish company. Meanwhile, she was a member of ISOT administration, contributed articles to music magazines and was an editor of the English department of the Oulu Student magazine.
Margarita found all her internships on the website of the University of Tampere. It was there where a vacancy of the company WordDive was placed which eventually was offered to Margarita:
"By that time I had been working at WordDive as a speaker and the author of a Russian language course for over 3 years, and had a deep understanding of the product. When the company opened a position of Marketing, Sales and PR Manager, they thought that I would be a good candidate."
Margarita points out that practical training, active participation in NGOs and various social projects are also regarded as work, and your experience in such activities can be decisive in finding a job.
"I agree that it is difficult for a foreigner to find a job in Finland. Like anywhere else, no one would find you and offer you a job unless you show initiative and make an effort."
Everyone is helpful
Margarita has warm feelings towards the Finnish corporate culture:
"I had great colleagues at WordDive who were easy to work with. I could feel that no one was bothered with me speaking English. All information about the company life was open and everyone was always ready to help. It was a different experience from my work in Russian companies where everyone tries to show off in front of the superiors and is unwilling to share information."
"I liked by boss's attitude towards me – it was so fatherlike: he always asked how I was doing and whether he should pay my salary earlier.
It goes without saying that the requirements were also high: the result of your work should be evident from the very beginning. At a small start-up you work has a direct impact on the sales, and it is very satisfying."
Margarita believes that if she could go 7 years back and choose the university in Finland, she would stick to her choice:
"Here I have found something that was impossible in Moscow: the balance between life and work. In the Russian capital, you had no chance to break the vicious circle where you turn into a money-earning machine with money going nowhere. In Tampere, I became myself again: I developed a new pace of life, new aims and a new worldview. I can tell that Tampere is my fairy godmother from Cinderella fairy tale."
"Undoubtedly, it is the best city in Finland and maybe in Europe as a whole. I adore its vivid and spontaneous character and tranquillity of nature, the capital-scaled events and its small size: you can reach every place on foot or by bike. And, most importantly, people are not strangers here: they are open for contact and in no time you become a natural part of the city life."