Jenni Ripatti recommends going abroad as an exchange student to all young people. She herself gathered a lot of confidence and courage during her exchange.

”My time in Ireland gave me a whole lot of confidence in my own work in Finland,” Jenni Ripatti describes her exchange program in Dublin.

Originally from Mikkeli, Finland, Ripatti spent a month in the Irish capital via an exchange program governed by CIMO, the Centre for International Mobility.

”I worked in both, the College of Further Education and the gym operating in conjunction with it. The college trains people to work in the field of fitness”, Ripatti explains. Primarily Ripatti gave Irish students advice on how to work as aerobics instructors. She also worked as a supervisor in the gym.

Ripatti’s job in Finland is athletic as well: she is an instructor at the Ladyline gym in Mikkeli. The job is a part of apprenticeship training, the contact teaching of which is given in the Varala Sports Institute in Tampere.

Learning Language via Routines

Ripatti’s options in addition to Ireland were Germany, France and Austria. “I chose Ireland because of the language. I speak a little German and a little French as well, but I thought I would make do best with English.”

Using English in everyday life was no problem for Ripatti. “I picked up new words as well – you tend to learn when the only language you use every day is English.”

Ripatti felt her time in Ireland was fairly easy-going in other respects as well.

She thought that the cultural differences between Finland and Ireland were not that great.

”When a train is running late by three minutes in Finland, there is an announcement apologizing for it. In Ireland, buses don’t necessarily run by schedule at all, and then after 30 minutes three buses will turn up in a row! Having patience helped me cope with these everyday issues, however,” Ripatti describes.

In work, Ripatti noticed one big difference. People from Ireland are clearly less punctual than Finns.

”Students might come to class half an hour late. I told them that no one would come late to my classes and asked the particular students to leave and come on time to the next class. They were absolutely astonished!”

”I had to explain to them that I am actually a nice person and that I do have friends in Finland,” Ripatti laughs.

Confidence Grows via Success

”I had both the possibility and responsibility to work very independently. I assumed I would have been an assistant instructor, but very quickly they gave me responsibility of my own group,” Ripatti says.

This is why Ripatti says that she has acquired a huge deal of courage and confidence from her experiences abroad. The first time she went abroad after upper secondary school was to work as an au pair in Belgium.

”The first time I left, I hadn’t even been in an airplane before. I felt like such a champion coming back after having managed a year there!”

This time around living abroad was already familiar to Ripatti, and the sensation was not as huge. Still, according to Ripatti’s employer, Salla Parviainen, she gathered more courage during her month in Ireland.

”I believe this was an eye-opening experience for Jenni. She may have become bolder in trying new things here as well. She got courage, confidence and energy from Ireland,” Parviainen reveals. For example, Ripatti started arranging different kinds of daily events for the customers of their fitness center. “This was an extra service to the customers as well,” Parviainen says.

Ripatti’s departure for Ireland was easily arranged, even though she had to miss a month of work. “Jenni took care of everything by herself, I didn’t really take a part in it. It didn’t cause me any grey hair at least!” Parviainen explains.

Europass Easy to Use

The exchange program Ripatti took part in used the Europass Mobility document. It describes education and training periods completed in different European countries which may include studies or work training. Applicants for the exchange program are also encouraged to use the Europass Curriculum Vitae.

Ripatti has not used Europass before. She has, however, familiarized herself with it and intends to describe her studies and competences with it after she graduates from her apprenticeship training. She got her job from Ireland so quickly, they did not even ask for a resumé.

”It is very easy to describe your competences with Europass. It must be handy for the employer as well, to see clearly what the applicant has done. I intend to use it in the future.”

Ripatti says Europass is easy to use as the documents are easily available on the internet. “I can find hardly anything to criticize about it!”

Studies in the Future

Ripatti chose a career in sports because she has had sports hobbies ever since she was young. She will graduate to become a Physical Education Assistant around Christmas 2010.

”In the future I would like to further my competence. I wish to specialize in rehabilitation; the next goal is the Degree Programme in Physical Therapy. I am not going to stop studying yet. This is a good base from which to continue further,” Ripatti explains.

Ripatti is also not going to stop traveling yet. “I will probably take part in an exchange program in the Polytechnic as well!”

Ripatti emphasizes the benefit of having experience abroad in seeking a job. “It is a good idea to get some experiences abroad as well. It is also beneficial to your language skills. And the world is shrinking by the minute.”

Ripatti encourages other young people to boldly go abroad as well. “I think it is very good if you have the courage to go. It is a terrible feeling going alone and not knowing what you are going to do but once you start coping, it makes you feel very confident!”