After graduating from upper secondary school and completing his civil service, Matti Minkkinen left Finland to study in London. Four years of university studies in a metropolis bolstered his courage and confidence.

”These days I wonder how I had the courage to leave,” Matti Minkkinen thinks back on his decision to go to London to study in a university.

Before leaving, Minkkinen had spent his entire life at Tampere in Finland. He had been to London on vacations, but Minkkinen had no idea what life in the metropolis would be like.

The relationship didn’t last but the interest in London did, and finally Minkkinen left for London alone. He stayed in the city for four years and completed a Bachelor degree in London School of Economics and a Master degree in University College London.

The Challenging New Life

Starting a new life in a big city was a bit of a shock for Minkkinen. “So much was happening at the same time – I moved away from home and abroad, began my university studies and met a huge amount of new people.”

Although living in a new environment was sometimes stressful, it was also educational. Coping on your own in a foreign country brought confidence. “It gave me courage and faith in being able to survive. Living abroad is not that exotic; people are inherently the same everywhere. I also noticed that things have a way of sorting out even if you do get surprises.

”The rate of study in the university was intense especially during the second and the third years. “When I spoke to my Finnish friends on a vacation, I noticed that studying in Finland is slightly more relaxed.”

In British universities, a Bachelor’s degree is completed in three years and studying is not as flexible as it is in Finland. Minkkinen recalls that essays had to meet their deadlines and attendance was obligatory.

Job Searching Difficult

Minkkinen returned to Finland as soon as he had completed his Master’s degree. “I decided to return during the final year. I enjoyed London but Finland is home.”

Getting a job in Finland has been difficult. Minkkinen returned to his home country right when the worst part of the financial crisis was beginning.

”My educational background is different, and not all employers might be familiar with it. I would have to be invited to an interview to explain that Britain doesn’t have similar minor subject studies as in Finland, for example.”

It is very important in Britain in which university you study – Minkkinen’s alma maters LSE and UCL are elite. “But for a Finnish employer they are simply weird acronyms,” Minkkinen points out.

To help him find a job, Minkkinen got a recognition decision from the Finnish National Board of Education for his qualifications. “If foreign higher education institutions and qualifications are not familiar to an employer, the decision will clearly describe the level of my qualifications.”

Work Minkkinen has already found – first making a research report for the Tampere University of Technology, then as a research assistant for a company in Tampere, which offers transcription services to researchers and scholars, for example.

”Even though the job is straightforward – transcribing interviews from tape – I am involved in the world of science.”

The world of science and scholarship attracts Minkkinen and plans on continuing his studies. “I am interesting in a career as a researcher, and it might suit me well. I would like to continue my studies in Finland if possible, but I am not sure if I can find a suitable instructor for a dissertation.”

Minkkinen recommends studying abroad if it is financially plausible. “It is good to do some research on universities beforehand, but you don’t need to know everything. Take the spirit of adventure with you!”