Thao Nguyen, is a young Vietnamese student, currently on her second year business management studies at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences in Finland. To gain more worldwide working-experience, Thao decided to go to Luxembourg for her internship. Let’s check her story and what was it like to study and work in two European countries.
Why do you choose to study in Finland?
Finland is one of the world-leading higher education systems in the world. Its education bridge is built with an innovative study program and gives high scholarship opportunities for international students.
Secondly, a great chance for me to explore an educational environment which is totally different from my home country – Vietnam. Getting to know people with diversified backgrounds and cultures as well as listening to their study-stories were fascinating, too.
Thirdly, I love taking pictures of beautiful landscapes in Finland’s nature! The country is famous for its endless opportunities to discover about the wildlife with bears, wolves, even lynxes along with taking pleasure in many outdoor activities.
Lastly, going overseas helped me become more mature, independent and well-organized. This also helped me gain more living experiences and improved my language skills both in practical situations and in an academic environment. The longer I stay in Finland, the higher chance for me to immerse myself in the real Finnish culture, which makes my study journey becomes easier!
What is the most unique thing in Finland that you are impressed and would remember forever?
From my point of view, it would be the unconditional love of Finnish people for Sauna. I noticed that Finnish people are quite shy to people that they are not familiar with. Nevertheless, they are totally enthusiastic, comfortable and excited when conversing with other foreigners about the sauna. Having a small-talk conversation is easier when they are in a sauna room, I think.
In addition, most Finns visit their summer cottage in the countryside at least once or twice a week for their sauna habits. It is not unusual to have a sauna room in their home or a moving sauna in a truck. I find it quite interesting to know. One used to say that “If somebody wants to understand what it is to be a Finn, then they have to understand what a sauna is. If you do not experience the sauna then you do not experience Finland.” Well, that’s totally true!
How do you enjoy your free time here after school?
During school time, I usually spend my free time completing assignments and group-works to meet deadlines. After that, I can enjoy reading books, watching films, cooking Asian or European foods and baking cakes. Sometimes, when I have more free time, I play jigsaw puzzle game or do DIY-craft things.
On weekends, I come over to my friends’ house to make home-cooked meals, play board-games or just enjoy outdoor activities- like doing exercises, taking a walk and playing at the park. In the summer, it is possible to go swimming to get rid of the extremely hot weather. I would also love to obtain additional knowledge and skills so I also take online courses. For example, enhancing my digital skills on image and video editing, python programming, logistics and even finance.
Well, I feel pleased and I’m happy here – I am grateful because I made the right decision which is studying in Finland. I have made many good friends here, who are willing to support me during hard times and being able to enjoy life!
Tell us about your internship in Luxembourg?
Well, the application process is easy-to-follow because I found the info on the school’s website with detailed instructions. I carefully prepared all the required documents and had them signed by my employers. Then, I submitted those and waited for the approval of my teacher.
After that, I sent them to the International Affairs Office at school, and they would decide how much support funding I might get for my internship. Depending on the country of my internship – Luxembourg and how long my internship lasts. Throughout the process, I received conscientiously guidance from the school office every time I need help and this also speed-up my application.
Online Erasmus language test
Adding to the Erasmus application info, it is obligatory to do an online language test to prove that the intern has sufficient language knowledge and skill. After my language level is determined, I can access to the Erasmus learning portal in order to learn whenever I have time. That is all for the preparation phase of the procedure before I go for the internship.
Online job interview
For my internship job, I just had an online interview. This is all about answering related questions, showing my qualifications and how I could deal with strict questions in a very limited time range.
Real working field
My internship will last about 5 months from June to October. I work exactly 40 hours, 5 days a week as a receptionist for the Hôtel Français in Luxembourg – a substantial 3-star hotel. My main duties include providing overall reception services, ensuring an exceptional and efficient reception experience for the customers. It means checking in/out; completing audit procedures as required and maintaining a high level of available customer service at all times.
The other qualities and skills of a receptionist are also to demonstrate knowledge of hotel room categories, to act in accordance with regulations when working; and other general product knowledge necessary to perform daily duties. If I have spare time, I help in the restaurant like taking orders and bringing food/drinks to the guests as well as preparing things in the bar as well. One must have consistent dependability.
How prepared are you before working in an international environment?
Expect the unexpected!
Always be ready, regardless of how long the trip is and how well you have been preparing in advance, expect the unexpected. Hence, I just try to give my very best effort in learning the local language, improving and getting familiar with my work and skills that I could enhance. I’m also into setting small goals in order to achieve my expectations and also fulfil the job requirement at my work.
Find the right information
Before landing in Finland, I have watched informative videos and vlogs about the country and the Finnish language. By doing so, I can immerse and at least, prevent culture shock. I also made an effort to research more information before actually working. For example, what I should wear to be more professional in the workplace, how I should address the guests and customers in an efficient manner, the job requirements and what responsibilities I must take to fulfil the duties and so on.
Lastly, could you give some honest and truthful advice for students that are coming to study in Finland soon?
Personally, for the incoming students, in general, make an effort to prepare, research the country you are going to study. For example, the local languages used by many, the culture, lifestyles, local people and study methods. This will help them reduce/avoid culture shock when coming to the new environment for the first time.
Next, they should research from trustworthy sources to learn more about studying abroad procedures. For example, how to choose a suitable school, how to apply for it, when and where the entrance exams take place. If applicable, the students should know their interests and what they want to study in order to get the best out of it without dropping halfway.
Furthermore, after being accepted as an international student, he/she should be aware of the next procedures and steps, such as how to apply for a student visa, where to find affordable apartments or even finding the best tips on how to get along well with roommates in advance.
All things considered, it is best to have everything prepared beforehand rather than coming to the country and know nothing or getting false information and expectations.
Your favourite quote
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. All is riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is my favourite quote because I believe everything happens for a reason and things are connected together somehow. If we do something positive at any point in time, this will lead to something better for us in the future. We should always study hard and learn by experiencing and accepting the consequences of making mistakes, so as to become more mature, successful and to live a positive life!
More importantly, we can’t know everything before it really happens, so just let things come naturally, live life to the fullest and do your best without any regrets. Being prepared and extra care is good somehow, but it is better to explore the world which is full of surprises and mysteries. More like creating good habits and well-balanced life.
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