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Not many job opportunities for international students

Few exchange students look for work during their stay in Tampere. Those who do have difficulty finding any.

For exchange students and international degree students, employment is hard to come by in Finland - at least if you donÂ’t happen to possess some special skills. The International Office at the University of Tampere receives only a few visits from foreign students looking for work.

My suspicions of the foreign studentsÂ’ difficult work situation are confirmed when I interview students who have been on a job hunt.

“At first it was even hard to find job openings in Tampere," says Canadian-Romanian Irina Pravet who followed her boyfriend to Tampere.

Pravet looked for work for so long that she gained a place of study at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki along the way. At the moment, she commutes to Helsinki to study management and economics a couple of times a week.

In the end, Pravet secured a job, too. She now works in Hervanta in an international software testing company.

According to Stefano de Luca from Italy, difficulties in finding employment begin with not knowing where to look. This is why foreign job seekers need a lot of patience.

“And sisu," adds de Luca in Finnish, referring to the well-known Finnish term that loosely translates into strength of will, perseverance and determination.

“Knowing Finnish was a great help in landing a job."

De Luca is writing his MasterÂ’s thesis and working alongside as a study advisor in the former International School of Social Sciences (ISSS). At work, international degree students and international degree programmes keep him busy. He is also the chair of International Students of Tampere (ISOT), helping foreign students with, for example, finding work that way.

Not knowing Finnish can be a real obstacle to finding work.

Pravet recalls a job that she was more qualified for than the Finnish applicants. The job was transcribing, that is, writing out interviews in English.

“I would have transcribed faster and probably made fewer mistakes than those who have English as their second language."

The employer stopped the application process short, however, by declaring that all applicants must know Finnish because the company trains their employees in Finnish.

“Some rules seem silly, and sometimes it’s hard to tell when they are only used as an excuse for discrimination," sighs Pravet.

Rules bring us to the fact that foreign job applicants seldom know their rights. Unfortunately, employers can use this unawareness to their advantage. De Luca laments that the University even forgets to tell foreign students that they need a tax deduction card and that they should sign a contract of employment.

“In my opinion, the University of Tampere does next to nothing to encourage students to stay in Tampere after they finish their studies," states Pablo Hernandez Loera Chavez. He worked in Mexico during summer breaks.

“I think they only pointed out the person who could tell us more about finding work in the exchange student orientation, and that was it," says Carolin Krause from Germany.

She is only spending four months in Tampere and chooses not to work because she wants to concentrate on her journalism studies. Like her, most exchange students donÂ’t want a job for their short stay.

De Luca came to Finland in 2009 to take a MasterÂ’s programme in International Relations in English.

“For the first term, my housing supplement was Mum and Dad," he grins.

When his savings ran out, he was forced to seek employment.

“I can’t deny it, money is an important reason for working. It makes me more independent."

Studying without a source of income is impossible, but having a job means that de Luca now studies on the weekends.

“I’ve heard rumours of people who can work and study on the same day. Personally I like to concentrate on my thesis on the weekends when there’s nothing else I have to do."

De Luca has also taken short temporary posts as an Italian teacher, when a familiar Italian teacher has asked him as a substitute. He thinks that those infamous connections people always talk about definitely play a role in finding work.

A joint project by the higher education institutions in Tampere, WorkPlace Pirkanmaa aims to strengthen contacts between employers and international students by, for example, arranging career mentors for international degree students.

Planner Kaisa Niiranen recognizes the problems foreign students run into when they are not familiar with job seeking practices.

“Although I think not knowing Finnish is the biggest problem in finding work."

She thinks itÂ’s a shame there arenÂ’t employment statistics for international students. Tracing students is difficult especially after they have graduated.

Many companies in the Pirkanmaa region could do with an expert on culture and language when their company plans to expand its activities into a new country or break into the international market. According to Niiranen, however, these jobs are hidden away, which means that the know-how of international students and the needs of companies rarely meet.

Annastiina Airaksinen, teksti ja kuva

Get help with jobs

-University of Tampere Career Services

- WorkPlace Pirkanmaa

- SITR - Studying in Tampere Region

- ISOT - International Students of Tampere

- Employment offices

- Aarresaari.net has international job openings

DonÂ’t get cheated!

- Sign a contract of employment.

- Make sure you are paid extra for evenings, Sundays and overtime.

- DonÂ’t forget holiday pay.

- Ask trade unions for help.

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Sivujen ulkoasu: Seppo Honkanen

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