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Gizem Yozgyur ja Aravinth Ravichandran in portrait.

Gizem Yozgyur and Aravinth Ravichandran.

UEF Trainee programme is a stepping-stone to Finnish working life

The UEF Trainee programme for international degree students has opened its second call. “The programme offered an excellent opportunity to get work experience from Finland,” says Aravinth Ravichandran, who was selected to the programme in the first call.

Launched in 2020, the UEF Trainee programme aims to enhance the employment opportunities of the university’s international degree students. The trainees work for two months in UEF’s research groups or administrative services, or in placements provided by collaborators, thus gaining work experience in expert tasks and becoming familiar with the Finnish world of work and workplace culture. The call for applications for the second round of the programme is open until 13 November 2021.

Aravinth, who studied in the International Master’s Programme in Photonics, landed a traineeship in the Computational Spectral Imaging research group led by Professor Markku Hauta-Kasari. “It was highly relevant and correlated to my studies and allowed me to learn new things, such as Python programming,” Aravinth says.

“I had an interest in the Computational Spectral Imaging research group, and the traineeship offered me an excellent opportunity to get to know them better by closely working with them.”

He did his trainee period in the Color Research Laboratory in Joensuu Science Park last summer, with Research Manager, Dr Dmitry Semenov as his supervisor. “My tasks included characterising a fluorescence spectrometer, developing testing methods and providing them to others, as well as writing an instruction manual. After my supervisor’s initial instructions, I had full freedom to carry out my work independently, which was one of the things I liked the most.”

More generally, Aravinth says he was impressed by the freedom and independence enjoyed by employees. “In addition, the working environment was really nice. Everyone was friendly and encouraging and I got to interact with new people, even to have lunch with a Swedish professor. These were invaluable experiences to me.”

“The trainee period enabled me to spend my first summer in Finland, which I enjoyed a lot,” Aravinth adds. He completed his Master’s degree just before the start of the traineeship and is now looking for PhD opportunities. “It would be fantastic if I could continue at UEF.”

Obviously, Aravinth can recommend the UEF Trainee programme to other international degree students. Any advice for new trainees? “Get to know your employee benefits and use them! In addition to occupational health care, you can get a discount in many shops.”

From traineeship to employment

Gizem Yozgyur, a student in the Linguistic Data Sciences Master´s degree programme, was already looking for a job or an internship in Finland when she saw the announcement for the UEF Trainee programme. “I applied because I thought it would be a great starting point to gain some Finnish job experience in a place I already knew.”

She did her traineeship in the university’s Development Services, where she supported the YUFE (Young Universities for the Future of Europe) team, mainly working with the Student Journey and YUFE in Our Cities work packages. “My tasks included managing the YUFE catalogue for courses and civic engagement activities, and handling some of the communications with teachers and students.”

YUFE is an alliance of ten European universities and four non-academic partners. Indeed, Yozgyur says the most positive aspect of the traineeship was being able to work in such an international environment.

“There is a lot happening in YUFE throughout the semester and adapting to that quickly was a challenge at first, but my supervisor’s support and guidance helped me get used to it without much trouble. Other UEF co-workers were also always ready to help.”

“I felt that the tasks I was given made a useful contribution to YUFE, and they were balanced well. I was also offered a position to continue working as a full-time employee afterwards, for which I am grateful and excited!”

As a Planning Secretary, she is still involved in the same YUFE work packages but now has a more active role in guiding incoming and outgoing YUFE students as well as in the development of YUFE’s civic engagement activities.

Her insights on the Finnish working culture? “It is important to be independent and reliable. Supervisors will not monitor what you do all the time, but you are expected to complete your tasks on time by yourself. On the other hand, workplace hierarchy is less visible in a Finnish office than in other parts of the world. Communication is often on a first name basis and direct, but still respectful.”

Any other advice for future UEF Trainees? “Don’t be afraid to ask questions! That is the best way to understand how to do your tasks, especially in the beginning. The traineeship is a valuable learning experience for you, and your supervisor will be happy to answer your questions.”

“For many of our international students, the UEF Trainee programme is the first contact to the Finnish world of work. This kind of an introduction to Finnish working life was well received and found beneficial by our students,” says Marko Pietilä, Coordinator of the UEF Trainee programme.

“To smoothen the transition from a UEF student to an employee, we held a webinar about work contract issues, health benefits, taxation, and other peculiarities of Finnish working life to our trainees.”

In the first round, placements were offered by the university’s research groups, departments, and administration.. “For the current round, we are also seeking placements from companies and organisations other than UEF.  Our networks of collaboration will hopefully open new employment opportunities for our international talents,” Pietilä says.