Ellen’s Journey: Hard Work Always Pays Off

Ellen Nguyen is finishing her Master’s degree in Teacher education at Tampere University. When she was in Vietnam, she could only dream about studying abroad, but now she’s about to start a new life chapter after graduation in Finland.

When Ellen considered pursuing the degree in Europe, she knew very little about Finland. It was due to her sister who at that time was already living here, Ellen was convinced to apply for a few Finnish universities. Ellen got pleasantly surprised how easy the application process went and was happy to receive her acceptance letter from Tampere University. 

Ellen’s been in Finland for 2,5 years, and even in such a short period she got to taste every aspect of living in Finland. Ellen was determined to spend her time meaningfully when she came to Tampere as a freshman and she started her journey then.

Photo credit: Laura Vanzo, Tampere City

Being as hard-working as Ellen is, she got a first job in Finland as soon as she came here. Her first try on a Finnish job market was a cleaning part time job. Being a student in Finland, she was in need to have some additional income, and working as a cleaner seemed as a good idea.

“It’s common to hear that being a cleaner is not a respected job, but in Finland, even a cleaner is well treated and appreciated”.

During her freshman year at university, Ellen was also able to find her first internship position at Polar Partners, as a market researcher. “That internship was not a mandatory part of my curriculum, but I convinced my study counselor of its benefits to my professional development”.

It’s clear that Ellen is not the type to sit around and wait for the opportunity to present itself, she goes out hunting for those opportunities. That attitude has led her to having a second job – teaching Vietnamese to children at local schools. 

Ellen keeps her two jobs, managing time between last days at the university, having a part time internship at Edunation and running Vietnamese pop-up restaurant with her sister.  “Proactive. Being proactive is a quality you need to succeed in Finland,” she states, “I’ve been like that my whole life and my personality definitely has helped me when I moved abroad”. Ellen is convinced that it’s important to take every opportunity you see, even if you don’t  think you’re ready for that. “Apply, try and see how it goes.” she says.

Ellen and her sister at the pop-up restaurant

Aside from being proactive, Ellen believes that other things also contribute into success after your graduation. Networking is one of them. “As in any other country, networks are quite a big part of your life”. Ellen was able to meet many people at her university, but also participating in events organized by the city of Tampere. When asking about how to network successfully, Ellen replied: “Be nice to everyone,” then she added, “you never know maybe those people will end up as key figures in your life after some time”.

“I don’t find it difficult to make friends with Finns. Having an international background makes me stand out and seem attractive to other people.” 

Ellen can tell from her own experience that Finnish people are very kind, caring and friendly. Being a student in a foreign country may feel lonely at times, but Ellen is happy to experience only positive emotions from staying abroad. “Even when I travel outside of Tampere to smaller towns, I meet only friendly people who are ready to talk and are very good at English”. As an international student and in her working life, she’s never experienced any mistreatment or an ill will towards her.

“The only thing that saddens me as an international student is that I lack in Finnish”, Ellen says.

Ellen is certain that knowing the local language is essential. Even though local people are good at English, Finnish is the official language. If you want to fully integrate into the society and reap the benefits of being in the country, the best way is to master Finnish. Ellen has made great efforts for that and after taking courses at the university, she became confident in daily conversations. “I can communicate in Finnish on regular topics, ordering food and things like that”. Ellen keeps developing her Finnish skills by practicing speaking with her friends.

When it comes to working, a limited language proficiency doesn’t seem like a big concern to Ellen. “It’s more about skills that you have, the experience”. Ellen’s spent time evaluating Finnish working environment and she can tell that it differs from what she used to see in Vietnam. It wasn’t difficult to integrate into the environment, since everyone at work is appreciated and cared for. At the Finnish company she works for, Ellen admires the relaxed atmosphere and the freedom she’s given there. “I can speak my mind freely”, Ellen says, “At first, I was a bit reserved, unsure about saying things I thought everyone knew about, but quickly I’ve learned that every contribution is valued and welcomed”.

From what Ellen says, it becomes clear that Finnish people appreciate know-how and a person’s background more than anything else. That’s why it’s important to be prompt like Ellen and strive for development.

“Of course, the university degree matters, but experiences and skills you possess are more significant”.

After graduating from Tampere University, Ellen will have one more year to look for a permanent job. During that time, she plans to improve her Finnish skills, develop herself in different professional areas and spend some time on her hobbies.

Ellen likes spending time outside. She explored a key to Finnish well-being: going from a hot sauna to an icy lake!
Photo credit: Laura Vanzo, Tampere City

“I’d like to stay in Finland, in Tampere.

I feel free. I feel like I can do things that I like here, not being judged for that”.

“I hope, in the future I have a stable job, doing what I like in the education field. Companies like Edunation inspire me, I’d like to actualize my potential working for such company, improving the education system and helping students to pursue their dreams in Finland”. 

Watch the video interview we had with Ellen to know more about her perspectives on studying and living in Finland!

Make sure to read more about studying in Finland:

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