From Kosovo to the strange Finland
I initially got into applying to HAMK thanks to some of my friends who were studying in HAMK at the time and who recommended it for me. I didn’t know much about Finland, for me it was a bit odd and cold and everything. I was interested, since Finland wasn’t a place where I would choose to go for a vacation for example. So I thought: why not live there?
Before arriving to Finland and HAMK I expected the studies to be more strict and straight on point with an official introduction to the school and start studying right away. You know, how you see it done in the movies. But when I got there, I remember the atmosphere was really nice the people were friendly and we were playing games together and getting to know each other first. It was less stressful than I thought it would be.
Favorite things about HAMK: lots of traveling and the people
Valkeakoski is a very small city and there is not much happening all the time. But we got to travel a lot. I myself participated in excursions to Germany, Denmark, South-Korea, Sweden and Estonia during my studies. What I also liked a lot is that we got to learn outside the classroom. There is a lot of project-based work, so we got to do real business exercises. We get to learn from people who are more experienced, and I got to meet many extraordinary persons. These were definitely my favorite things about studying in HAMK.
When talking about challenges I faced in Finland, it’s first of all quite expensive to live there, compared to some other countries like Kosovo. I was looking for a job all the time, and it was hard to find work in Valkeakoski during those days. And of course, you have to cope with the cold and the darkness during the winter, but that is something you get used to, and I’m used to it already. Kind of. I do complain about it still, like all Finns do, because it makes you feel better about it when you can complain. But I’m fine with it, really!
In HAMK I found my love for marketing. There were no social media marketing studies in HAMK at the time, but one of my teachers was keen on social media and saw my enthusiasm as well, so he took me into projects and offered me possibilities to develop myself in that area. You can get very personal guidance and help if you just show your enthusiasm.
Finding work in a foreign country
Like I said, I was looking for a job all the time. I got my first job while I was studying at HAMK, but it was a commission-based job, and since I was studying a lot at the time, it didn’t go too well. I also got employed as a Prezi ambassador. But when I moved to Helsinki, I got my first “real” job as a latte art barista and customer service at a few coffee shops in Helsinki-Vantaa airport. I was applying still to other jobs as well, since I needed to make more money if I wanted to live in Helsinki.
Eventually I worked three jobs simultaneously. In addition to the job at the airport, I was working remotely as a social media marketing intern in a company in Amsterdam, and I was working also for a HR company here in Helsinki. My days were very long that time. I would work at the airport from 3-4 am till 8-10 am, then go home for a nap and for the rest of the day do the other jobs. So basically I was working from 3 am to 6 pm. But I never missed a day of work. My employers were quite flexible fortunately, and if I was feeling too tired after my shift at the airport, they let me work from home for the afternoon.
I had only a little study credits left to complete when I moved to Helsinki, since I had a lot of classes and extra activities during the beginning of my studies. I basically had to write my bachelor’s thesis while I was working. And that was hard, since it was hard to concentrate on writing. But I managed to complete it and graduate on time. My employers were really flexible and understanding when they knew I was working on my thesis. Actually I think in Finland generally companies care a lot about their employees.
Finding a more stable rhythm in life
My working rhythm was very intense for a long time. Eventually I said to myself that I couldn’t take it anymore, to wake up really early every day and work multiple jobs. So I decided to fix my schedule. I applied for multiple jobs and got invited to eight interviews, and accepted to two companies. I was also given an opportunity to stay at the company I currently worked for, and get a better position. I made the decision to join a company called Mapita and started there in June 2017.
Mapita is a small company, that offers a community engagement platform called Maptionnaire. It is a bridge that connects the municipalities and urban planners to the citizens. My official title in Mapita is inbound marketing and sales lead, which means that I’m leading the sales and marketing team. The company is great and my colleagues are so nice! I get to travel a lot. Two months ago I was in Sweden, and I have also been in the United States for a conference, and I will be going to Vienna in the spring time. I’ve come to love the area and industry of urban planning.
Since Mapita is quite a small company, all the employees need to wear many hats. I myself for example do graphic design, work with the customers, do customer support and work with our partners. I like that a lot, and enjoy going to work every single day.
Working hard and starting from the bottom pays off
I do have some valuable advice for those who wish to find work in Finland. It happens very rarely that you get a great job right after studies, because studying doesn’t mean that you automatically get the right skills for a company to hire you, but you need to work to earn money. So it is a small paradox. My advice is to start from a lower position, like I did in the coffee shop. No special academic skills required there. I was doing most of my work in the beginning as an intern or a trainee. I wanted to get enough experience to be employed by a really good company. You have to be persistent and hardworking, but it will be worth it!
Plans for the future
I really like the company I work for, and I’d like to work for them for some years. I want to do my master’s in the field of urban planning as a social science. I’d maybe like to move abroad at some point. Since Finland has become my home now, I feel like I want to change places, learn new languages and so on. And maybe go somewhere warm for a change!