Push and pull factors for international mobility - is it an experience to aspire for?

Academic North -project happened to have very diverse personnel with loads of experience from different kind of mobility periods. On this page we have collected some of the stories which acted as one source of inspiration for the Academic North Call for Action. 

Daniela Kangnissoukpe, a 25-years 'old' Bachelor of Arts from University of Worcester and Master of Arts from University of Kent worked in Gender Studies at the Univeristy of Oulu. One of her main tasks during her intership was collecting mobility experiences of academically educated. The report was published in the beginning of 2020. On this page she is sharing her own mobility experience - push and pull factors for international mobility.

From this page you will also find a short report that includes four more mobility stories by Academic North project personnel. Katariina Huikari, who worked in the project as a coordinator had previous working experience from Sweden. Dr. Kanako Uzawa is a true cosmopolitan currently residing in Tromsø but in this project she was employed by LTU. Rebecka Högvalls is a Swede living in Oulu and she was employed in this project both by LTU and University of Oulu. Anu Rytivaara has lived in two mega cities in Asia and surprisingly her background as a BA student in Nordic philology played a role on this.

We hope that you would be inspired to share your own mobility experiences on our Facebook group The North is ON.

Daniela's story

I am originally from Kemi, Finland; I lived there for 16 years. After primary school, I moved to Oulu, another city about 100km south, to attend high school so the change was not too big and my dad already lived here so I had a support system if needed. After high school, I decided to continue to university and ended up abroad. The high school guidance counselling does not address the option to go abroad it just prepares the students for the tertiary education in Finland. I myself knew the option was there but I was too scared to apply because it meant moving away from things that I know. Therefore, I applied for Finnish universities. I had tried for a year to get into Finnish universities but with no luck on my first try. After one gap year, I decided I do not want to have another year where I do nothing thus I probably need to broaden my horizons just to be safe. I saw an advert for the University of Worcester in Facebook, I pressed the ad and looked what kind of university it is, I was satisfied with what I found so I decided to apply, and gladly I got in because later that year I again applied for the universities here and was not able to get in. I had never been to England before but now I was moving there. The whole experience was surreal because I had always wanted to go study abroad but mainly had thought I would do it while in high school and then continue doing something else here at home. I was slightly horrified by the move because I had no experience of the country, which meant there was going to be a period of adjustment. The university has a welcome week for international students specifically to help with the adjustment. The whole week has different events to help the students get new acquaintances and help with practical things. The university helped a lot with the basic stuff like opening a bank account and how to rent places (I was at the university halls so this was not an important info to me before my second year of studying). They had a lot of other possible help available for everyone but especially to students who came from abroad like helping with getting a national insurance number for working purposes. They tried to make the adjustment as seamless as possible. The real adjustment was with how things work in the new city; the language and the difference in general socializing with people around you. I managed to integrate myself pretty well quite fast, but I felt slightly down because I was missing home, mainly my own friends because now I had to try to make some new ones.

At first, I studied human biology. I did that for one year and then realized it was quite hard to study; I knew English language very well before moving but it was still lacking especially in this subject specific terminology, so I had hard time really understanding and learning things when at the same time I had to learn new language skills. I also realized that I was more interested in arts even though I had a passion for biology. I decided to change my major and transferred to do joint honours in drama and performance and film studies. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I came back to Finland and was not sure how to proceed; do I do a Master’s degree immediately or do I wait for a year. I did not try to find a job yet because I was not sure what I would want to do so I had the freedom to apply to universities and I did to several in England. I received an acceptance letter from the University of Kent. This was yet another new area for me. I had already moved from Finland to England but had only lived and really visited one area of it in the west midlands. Now I was going southeast to Canterbury.

I studied and MA from film studies. Half of the year was in Canterbury and because there was an option for it, I did half in Paris. Which is yet another country I had never visited before moving there. Adjusting to the new city was not as hard as the first time because this time I actually was familiar with the country after living there for four years though there were obviously new things especially the size of the campus and how tiny the actual city was. The university did not really advertise their services to the master’s students but I understood that the students coming for the bachelor’s will get mostly the same treatment as in Worcester and I am quite sure those services are available in every university in England. However, my main problems were when I had to move to Paris, the university did not really offer any help. They had couple of meetings for the students moving to Paris where they explained all the options to acquire an apartment and how to get by in Paris like how to use public transport. Despite this, there were no actual help in going forward in how to do those in practice. So I ended up taking a place with Airbnb which was quite expensive but reliable. I lived outside Paris in Ivry-Sur-Seine so I obviously had to learn how the trains, metro and bus work because I had to use all of them to get to the university. Because the department in France is the same university as in Canterbury, they had no services of their own and the department was so small that there was no specific people for helping, but it was made clear that everyone is always welcome to ask and help will be provided if there is a possibility for it. All in all I think I did quite well in managing the new city but what became a problem the longer I was in there was homesickness. I had not felt that since my first year in Worcester and now it hit again, because I was only months away from going back home permanently.

After finishing my lectures in Paris, I came back to Finland, roughly about a year ago, and finished writing my dissertation here. I completed my master’s degree last year and I am thinking about doing a PhD but I do not know where and from what. I am planning to elaborate on my Master’s thesis, which is about the impact of television on LGBTQ+ youth, but I am not sure if the topic will be the same. This is also, why I have tried to get into the job market but it has been very difficult because arts and culture jobs in Finland are far and few and not advertised on mainstream outlets very often so I might have to leave Finland again to get a job that I truly want. Because of this, I have also thought about doing my PhD abroad again. I am not opposed to being mobile but it always requires a small adjustment to the new surroundings and learning the ways of the new place. Finland has always been a place I do not want to abandon completely and it is amazing to come back here, so I will most likely never move abroad permanently or at least I will come to visit regularly.

In my own opinion, I had almost everything available to me. Help was always offered except with relocating to Paris. It would be important to help students with that because studying abroad has been an option in that university for a long time. They must know some students might have difficulties with going about getting an apartment. I assume help would be available if asked but it is not advertised or mentioned. My problem now in the job market is that there is no united platform for jobs, they all scattered around the web, and many of them are not public adverts either. It is very difficult to find a job because of this. I am part of a service provided by the public employment services where you can choose your own help provider who will work with you for six months to try to make you more attractive for employers. I am grateful for the service for providing help to try to jumpstart careers of young people but it does not really work unless there is more openness to job markets and I am still struggling to find how I will proceed to get the career I want. This is especially apparent in northern parts of Finland because mainly all the culture has gathered to the south but even there the opportunities and the information about those jobs are hard to find. This is why it would be easier to relocate to abroad because there is a bigger need for cultural talents and bigger appreciation for them. My mobility gave me two degrees and improved my language skills, English and French, exponentially. I wish I would be able to use my acquired skills and get a job that matches my degree. I have a vast knowledge of the theatre world and cinema, but on top of that, I have the knowledge to work in an academic surrounding.

In this video Daniela shares her own view why it is good to come back home.

Rewarding but Challenging

There happened to be multiple mobile people among the personnel of Academic North project and we thought that their stories would be worth conserving. These stories acted as an inspiration for the Academic North Call for Action but we also think they shed a light on the unjust and discouraging practices that prevail in the so called joint Nordic labour market. During the project we got to see in practise how difficult it can be to hire a foreign person for the job. These stories also show that working abroad can be rewarding and valuable experience.

Read the report here.

In this video Katariina shares her mobility experience shortly.


In the video below, Anu shares her story on living in two Asian megacities.






Viimeksi päivitetty: 5.10.2020