My career: From start to Finnish
Nicole Keng, Taiwan
University Lecturer in English
Nicole obtained an MA degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages when she was 21 and was the youngest PhD candidate when she was 23. She holds a PhD in language teaching and learning, and both of her degrees are from England. Her whole career path has been about developing language education. The reason she ended up in Finland is to learn about the best education in the world. She came here for an academic position but, more importantly, to learn how educators in Finland are able to create a happy environment in teaching and learning. The central message she’d like to share with everyone is: “Finland shows me how a happier teaching and learning environment should be!”
1. What I find surprising about working in Finland is… how much people care about work-life balance and flexibility at the workplace. People are efficient at work so that they can have a work-life balance! The working environment gives me a lot of autonomy. It also makes me feel valued and appreciated because of my professional contribution, not just because of the hours I spend at work.
2. If I could change one thing about Finnish working life it would be… to be more open and welcoming to different cultures and the concept of sharing and collaborating.
Finland has a lot of great examples and innovative plans that other countries can learn from, but it does not market itself boldly. It also takes a leap of faith when even considering working or collaborating with someone outside Finland. Sharing and collaborating will bring more understandings and create a more open-minded environment.
3. How I got my current job is… I had been working for universities in the UK for many years. As a language teacher and an educator, I thrived my whole career on exploring different methods and approaches to create a happier teaching and learning environment. I was looking for a place where I can practise what I believe in teaching. Here in Finland, I found a stable and secure working environment where I can claim myself a happier teacher.
I have to be honest that applying for academic positions in Finland has been the most difficult job-hunting experience in my life. Like I mentioned before, it takes a leap of faith for employers to shortlist someone external and to even believe that the person will actually stay in Finland! I had to go through more than two interviews and a teaching demonstration in order to get this position.
4. The Finnish word that best describes working here is… sisu. My understanding of sisu is “to keep going”. It takes time to open people’s hearts. However, just keep going and be proactive and you will see the beauty and experience the genuine friendliness of this country. I also think that sisu brings positive energy because, when you just keep going instead of complaining, you own more positivity to see your goals.
5. My initial expectations of Finland were… I expected it to be like other European countries with diversity, but the culture is more introverted, probably even unsociable and can make people feel very distant. However, even though Finns don’t say much, when they say it they mean it! This makes me feel that I can trust people and the interaction is genuine.
We are getting to know what people born abroad think about working life in Finland.
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