"I'm happy I found this unique programme that has truly broadened my career horizons in global business"
Six months of studying in the Master's Degree Programme in International Business and Sales Management (IBS) at the University of Eastern Finland has convinced Tiia Heikkinen that she is definitely on the right track.
"I'm already anxiously waiting for the next courses to start, because the studies have really inspired me to learn more and more about international business and sales. I have also broadened my horizons a lot in terms of career options", says Tiia.
A blend of theory and practice
For Tiia, the main reason behind the decision to apply was that the IBS programme is one-of-a-kind as it combines the themes of internationalisation, business-to-business sales and cross-cultural communication with a very practical approach.
"The best part has been the strong focus on working together with companies. On each course we have a partnering company so we learn hands-on how things are done in practice." As an example, Tiia mentions a project that was conducted on the course Cross-cultural Communication. "We interviewed the CEO of a company that specialises in Russian trade consulting. It was very interesting and educating to hear how they take the cultural aspects into account in their every day work."
Of course, on university level the latest theoretical findings play a significant role in the content of the studies. "Learning the certain terminology, research methods and preparing for the Master's thesis are naturally a part of the curriculum, and it's good that they are included in the programme from day one".
Learning together - from experience
Tiia gives credit to the lecturers of the IBS programme for combining business theory with their own background in their teaching. "It is inspiring to listen to our lecturers since they speak about their own experiences on working in international sales. They each have their own personalities and passions they share, and you can always ask if you have something in mind or you would like to know more about a certain topic."
Tiia points out that in the end, every day in the IBS programme is about learning cross-cultural communication, since the group of students is international. "We have a close-knit group of international students from Russia, India, Tanzania and Nigeria, as well as Finnish students from all over the country. We do a lot of group projects together so you learn how to work with different kinds of people all the time."
Of course, student life is not all about lectures. "We like to spend time together during evenings and weekends too. For example, our group has organised dinners, movie nights and a Halloween party together. There's also a lot to do in Kuopio from students' point of view", explains Tiia.
"I have learned there is not one, correct way of being a sales professional"
When Tiia started in the programme, she had graduated from Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences with a Bachelor's degree in International Business and an idea to work in the field of digital marketing. However, now after the first IBS courses that idea has evolved a lot.
"My ideas about working in sales have changed dramatically during my studies. I have learned that anybody can be a sales professional. Our lecturers have encouraged us to think there is not an archetype of a sales manager and that everybody can work with their own strengths to develop a personal style of doing and managing sales", comments Tiia.
Tiia believes the programme offers the students the required tools to navigate in the turbulent, modern-day working life. "The teaching methods are modern - we don't just read books but work interactively and are encouraged to find information ourselves."
Finding the perfect job
Tiia is definitely happy with her choice of a Master's degree programme. "I don't think this kind of programme with the practical orientation to sales, the company contacts and the scientific background of business studies is available in many universities. The international atmosphere in the group supports learning every day."
After graduation, Tiia would like to work in an international company, but she has not defined yet whether it will be in Finland or abroad. "The studies and the lecturers' case stories really make you believe that you will find the perfect job for you after you graduate. I don't know yet what it is that I will be selling - I'm a sports enthusiast, though, so maybe I could combine these two passions."
"Or something else. We'll see!"
Tiia was successfully working as the student ambassador of the Master's Degree Programme in International Business and Sales Management during the academic year 2017 - 2018!
"Studies are engaging, gratifying and social"
It was through a friend who already studied at the University of Eastern Finland that Mikhail Milovanov first heard about the Master's Degree Programme in International Business and Sales Management (IBS) and the university itself. Mikhail, who originally comes from Russia, had earned his Bachelor's degree from the UK and the IBS programme seemed like an interesting option to further his qualifications.
"The possibility to study under professor Mika Gabrielsson convinced me to apply. I had come across his publications on Internationalisation before I even knew about the Master's programme. He is a huge source of inspiration since he speaks about his own experiences working at a multinational corporation and he always comes up with examples from real life to help students digest the theory", says Mikhail, who is now happy to start working on his Master's thesis under Mika's supervision.
Application concerns dispelled
Now Mikhail is on his second year of studies and life in Kuopio has found its way. When he looks back to the application stage, he recalls he found the essential pieces of information online without a problem and the application process was fairly simple, but - what is more than natural - he also had some concerns. "Coming from the UK, I was thinking of things like what level of English language proficiency the lecturers have or how heavy the workload is going to be."
However, after starting the studies, these concerns turned out to be irrelevant. "I have noticed that everybody in Finland speaks English - and really good English. The lecturers definitely do too, but they don't overcomplicate it. They always make sure you understand the terminology and abbreviations that are used. Also the workload is well manageable and in case of overlapping courses the lecturers have been flexible."
Settling in with the help of the "best tutor ever"
Neither did the practical arrangements at the beginning of studies cause too much trouble for Mikhail, since besides getting help from the Student Services and department staff members, he was appointed the "best student tutor ever".
"The peer tutor system at the UEF is really fantastic and something I didn't experience in the UK. My tutor, who was doing the same programme, explained everything to me, showed me around, helped me with course registrations and answered my every question. It helped a lot and made me feel happy and stress-free."
Mikhail would also like to give special thanks to the international student's organisation ESN Kisa and the business student's association Preemio Ry for arranging a lot of activities, making it easy for a foreigner to settle in, feel welcome and become a part of the local student community. "It feels like the city of Kuopio is full of students, so the social scene is fantastic. Never a dull moment!"
Working in teams on enticing projects
Like many other IBS students, Mikhail mentions that the most engaging part of studies is working together with companies on real-life projects. He could give several examples of memorable projects and pitching sessions but the first one to come to mind is one that was successfully applied by the company.
"We were working on finding new markets for a company that makes custom printings on extra thin wood. Our team really had to think outside the box and in the end we came up with a great solution that actually has been taken into use by the company and is working well. We were really pleased to find out that our idea worked and made a difference!"
Working in teams is something that the IBS students definitely get used to, and the social aspect of the international group is something that Mikhail values. "It's a very diverse group, in terms of nationality, gender and age. I have made a lot of new friends, not only from the IBS course but also from other faculties."
Although Mikhail has been studying Finnish language alongside business, he thinks most likely his future job will be in a multinational company with English as the company's internal language. "I've received a few job inquiries from Helsinki through LinkedIN, so the capital region of Finland might be an option. I wouldn't want to go too far from Kuopio area though, since I have family here."
All in all, he thinks the IBS programme opens doors to many kinds of job opportunities. "The programme is multidimensional, constantly evolving and encourages creativity, so I think the employment options are numerous, both in Finland and abroad", Mikhail concludes.
"Coming to Finland and becoming a part of the UEF family was the best choice I ever made"
After around two years of living in Finland, Mariia Pohorila, a student in the Master's Degree Programme in International Business and Sales Management (IBS), feels like "this country has always been my home".
Mariia, who originally comes from Ukraine, had dreamt about coming to Finland since she was a child, as she had heard stories about the country and its culture from her Finnish relatives. This dream finally realized when she was accepted to the IBS programme in 2015. "When I got the acceptance letter, I was the luckiest person in the world, jumping from happiness with tears in my eyes. One of the best moments in my life, definitely".
Finding information and moving in
The application process was fairly straight-forward for Mariia, as she found all the vital information online on the websites of the UEF and the Embassy of Finland.
"My only concern at the application stage was that I'm not suitable or good enough for the programme, because the level is high." However, with her previous qualifications from Ukraine, the doors of the UEF opened and Mariia started preparing the move to Finland.
"Getting in is just the beginning, like the first step. After that I started taking care of the practicalities: collecting necessary documents for applying for the residence permit, applying for housing from the student housing company Kuopas and booking plane tickets and such."
On her first week in Finland, Mariia was happy to meet her Finnish relatives who hosted her before she moved to Kuopio to her student flat. "I'm very lucky that I have a small part of family here. Besides that, I had a really nice guy as my peer tutor. He even picked up my keys to the student flat because I arrived on the weekend and the office was not open. He helped me a lot in getting to know the city and the student life in Finland."
Theory and practice well-balanced
Mariia thinks the level of studies has been as high as she expected. "Students have all the necessary facilities to support the studies and the courses are highly motivating, consisting of theoretical and practical aspects that are well-balanced".
As one of the most interesting courses Mariia mentions Global Brand Management. "The course was intense and consisted of a big chunk of theory, but it also featured very interesting individual and group exercises. As a team, we created a cloth brand that we adapted to Spanish markets. Even though it was a virtual, made-up example, it was fun to work with and we learned a lot."
Another favourite of hers was International Sales Camp, where the students got experience of a real sales process in a real company. The team analysed potential international markets for the health products of a local company and after that they actually contacted the leads. "We ended up analysing the Russian market and as I speak fluent Russian, contacting potential customers there was easy for me. However, as we started basically from zero, we did not achieve that much sales, but it was a start and definitely an educating experience of a real-life process", explains Mariia.
While studying in Kuopio, in the middle of Finland and a bit further away from the big metropoles, might not be the option for the everybody, for Mariia it has been a really good choice. "I don't see the smaller scale as a negative thing at all, because you can always spend time with friends and just relax and enjoy life in this cozy city."
Especially the nature is something that Mariia likes about Finland. "I love to walk in the amazing forests and beautiful nature that surrounds you everywhere. Even the climate is mild compared to the North of Finland", laughs Mariia.
Also the short distances between the university, the city center and student housing and the cost of living are positive things that come with life in a smaller city. "Student housing, food and transport are not that expensive here than for example in the big cities like Helsinki."
However, according to Mariia, there are more than plenty of options for recreational activities for someone who is looking for action.
"The student associations are very active in organising all kinds of fun events, for instance. I'm involved in the international student's organisation ESN Kisa that aims to bringing international and Finnish students together, helping international students to adapt to life in Finland and making their time in Finland unforgettable."
While Mariia is still considering different options for employment after graduation, she knows for sure that she would like to stay in Finland, working at an internationally-oriented company. Her previous education in Ukraine was more connected to finance and economics, whereas the current programme prepares her for many kinds of international business and sales duties, so the options are undoubtedly numerous.
"Thanks to this highly diverse programme, I truly believe that I'm standing on the threshold of a bright future."