“The Finnish state and universities invest in international expertise by giving foreign students the opportunity to receive a great education here. Finnish companies should seize the opportunity to employ young international expats”, says Stefanie Zenzen, who has moved to Finland from Germany. She was interviewed by EK’s American intern Anna Bogdan as part of our #STAYinFinland campaign.
Stefanie Zenzen, a law student in the Master’s Program in Global Governance Law at the University of Helsinki, began her time at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in 2020 as a trainee in Legal Affairs. Following her traineeship, Zenzen continued working as Legal Support in the Legal Affairs Unit at the ECHA via StaffPoint Oy, which is the primary work agency providing interim professionals for the ECHA in Finland.
Having also studied law in Germany with a focus on European and international law, Zenzen plans to continue working and offering her expertise in Finland once she passes the bar exam in Germany, showing a keen desire to continue living in Finland shared by many international students.
“You get different perspectives, habits and ways of working”
As an EU agency, the ECHA embodies an international work environment, one Zenzen says she feels the moment she walks through the door, and one that allows her to feel like she fits in as an international student.
It’s not just international agencies that benefit from such work environments. With international employees and students bringing their knowledge and expertise from their home countries to Finland, companies and organizations can benefit from a wealth of knowledge. “You’re getting expertise from abroad,” says Zenzen about international workplaces more broadly, “it’s an asset for Finnish companies”.
While ECHA employs people from all over Europe, being in located in Helsinki, Zenzen has also noticed some Finnish habits amongst her coworkers, adding to the multicultural atmosphere. When asked, she immediately thought of 11am lunches.
“When my Finnish colleagues say they’re going to lunch when I’ve just had my breakfast,” laughs Zenzen, “it’s something I always have to smile about.”
“Do you actually need the Finnish language for all tasks?”
Though Zenzen was able to continue working at the ECHA as an interim professional through StaffPoint, she also applied to other positions and sent several open applications in Finland. Between her own experiences and those of her friends, she notes how language requirements can make the job hunt more challenging.
“Even if the working language is Finnish, with certain tasks, the question is always ‘do you actually need the Finnish language for the task?’ Even though your colleagues speak Finnish, maybe the work would actually be in English–it’s worth considering when an international student is applying”.
As Zenzen notes in her interview, learning Finnish quickly is a challenge for international students, who are often unable to reach a proficiency required by working life before they must start searching for internships or jobs. By considering what tasks can be completed in English–even if a company’s working language is Finnish–companies can gain from the international expertise already in Finland.
“The Finnish state and universities invest in international expertise by giving students the opportunity to receive a great education at Finnish universities. However, many students leave the country after their graduation as they struggle with finding work. Finnish companies should seize the opportunity to employ young international expats.”
Zenzen’s advice for other international students:
- Send open applications: Taking the initiative can help you stand out, especially for positions that have not yet been listed. The employers see that you’re proactive, and even though they might not have considered hiring an international student, it’s a good first step to give it a try.
- Start making connections while studying: A strong network is important, and it’s never too early to start!
- Consider applying to multinational companies or those that do business in your home country: These businesses could allow you to leverage your language knowledge or won’t require Finnish because of their global activity.
The interview was made by our American intern Anna Bogdan.