As I hinted at previously, Finland is for most international students a quite unlikely destination. If you were a foreign student at Oxford, Cambridge or the LSE, nobody would ever ask “So, how did you end up here?”
That would be quite self-evident. The motives, the process, the reasoning behind it. However, most international students in Helsinki hear that question often, as there always seems to some kind of complex sequence of events behind people ending up at this university. Sadly, a state of the art education is not the primary reason involved in deciding to move to the 60th parallel. Perhaps unfairly so, Finland does not automatically get associated with excellence in tertiary education in the minds of students around the world trying to enter or continue their university studies.
From my experience within the international student community, romantic liaisons seem to be one of the premier reasons for moving to Helsinki. Partners or spouses, it seems, are Finland`s steadiest import. However, as a wise-man once said, different people are different. International students will have different reasons to come, different reasons to stay.
One question that is often asked of us is whether we intend to remain in Finland after graduation. The answer is generallyquite evenly divided 50-50. This may to an extent confirm the fears of those more conservative voices who claim international students are a liability. They come here, benefit from the free education paid for by Finnish taxpayers` money and then leave, contributing nothing in return. While that view in itself is obtuse and not at all accurate, I`d say that even if we did, having international students in Helsinki is invaluable to Finland`s future in this day and age.
In an increasingly interconnected world, cross-border interactions are going to happen more frequently, not less.
No individual, society or country is able to live in isolation, independently of others. It is better for children to grow up in a social environment where wide variations make difference the norm, rather than widespread homogeneity creating the false perception that certain people are simply different, and somehow untrustworthy. Whether international students stay here for three years, five or fifty, they will contribute to creating that cosmopolitan society Finland could greatly benefit from.
As for those of us who will leave the country after we graduate, this should not be seen as a loss either. As a demographically tiny country from the far North, of which very little is known in the rest of the world, Finland needs more ambassadors abroad. Imagine an army of highly qualified future professionals – be they managers, lawyers, doctors, politicians or state bureaucrats. All future leaders in their fields, all going back to their home countries with a Finnish education and a natural bond to Finland. Can you imagine anyone better for the job? The question is, will we be able to create that bond before we leave and what stories will we have to tell?
irina.subulica ( a t ) googlemail.com
The writer is a Romanian degree student who loves reading politics as much as she loves reading Harry Potter.