| 24.05.2024

Hanken International Talent: providing integration support to students from abroad

Elisabet Haapakoski och Anita Ratilainen i Hankens korridor.
In recent years Hanken School of Economics has welcomed about 80 new international students each autumn. Most international students join Hanken’s Master’s programmes in English, which offer major studies in the main business-school disciplines. For the 2023-2024 academic year, Hanken has international students from 35 countries around the world.

Integrating into Finland is not always easy for these students. Many are far from home and lack the networks that local students can fall back on. International students need a helping hand for settling into Finnish social, academic and business life. Hanken provides this support through Hanken International Talent, an initiative the Career Services team has been running since 2017.

Anita Ratilainen and Elisabet Haapakoski are two international students who joined Hanken’s English master’s programme during the fall 2023 intake. Despite their Finnish surnames, neither of the two was born in Finland. They each came to the country for different reasons, but have experienced the same challenges of learning Finnish, building social networks and finding employment.

“My parents are both Finnish, but they met in Australia. I was born and raised on the Gold Coast, where it’s almost always warm,” says Ratilainen. “I grew up around Finnish being spoken, but I never used it much myself.”

“Back in 2018, I wanted a life change. I had studied a double degree in civil engineering and environmental science, but never actually found work within those career paths. That’s perhaps what pushed me to do something else with my life and come to Finland. I first did an international-business degree at Haaga-Helia, then joined Hanken for my postgraduate studies,” she explains.

Haapakoski was born in St. Petersburg and moved to Finland at the age of 15 with her mother and sister. She went to a high school offering an International Baccalaureate program in English, then did a double bachelor’s degree before being accepted to Hanken for her master’s. Haapakoski is married to a Finn and has a one-year-old daughter.

“From the age of 18 it was my dream to study at Hanken. It feels like I can find my place here, as the university is quite a tight community,” she says.

Working while studying

Between their classes and personal obligations, both students have jobs as accountants. Ratilainen is part of an eight-person firm that serves sole proprietorships and companies of different sizes, while Haapakoski has a part-time job at Volvo Finland. 

When it comes to taking their next step in Finnish working life, the students appreciate the career support provided by Hanken International Talent. Both have participated in networking events organised by Hanken Career Services. Haapakoski has also tapped into the one-on-one career counselling available.

“I like accounting, but I'm not sure I want to do it for the rest of my life. My contract with Volvo will actually end in August, so I need to think about what to do next,” she explains. 

“I was struggling to decide which opportunities to apply for, so I arranged a meeting with Hanken’s Career Services. It was suggested that I may be a good fit for a consulting role, which I had never considered before. I took it quite seriously and have been doing a lot of thinking and exploring since. We’ll see where it brings me,” says Haapakoski.

Both students participated in the Hanken Network Day in fall 2023. Presentations from companies with operations in Finland – including Deloitte, EY, Fazer, Nordea and PwC – gave international students an opportunity to learn about Finnish working life and network with potential employers.

“I’d like to work for a larger firm, so I'm looking out for opportunities. Hanken International Talent helps me to keep a foot in the door,” says Ratilainen.

Opportunities for international students

Haapakoski and Ratilainen both closely read the monthly Hanken International Talent newsletter, sent out in English. It highlights opportunities specifically aimed at international students, such as scholarships, career events, language courses, jobs and more.

“The good thing about the Hanken International Talent newsletter is that it’s in English, as international students often miss information when it’s in Swedish or Finnish. The newsletter highlights jobs where you do not necessarily need to speak Finnish. I see it as a career-opportunities filter,” says Ratilainen.

Neither student has yet picked up Swedish, but both use Finnish professionally and socially. Haapakoski recalls her early difficulties with the language and sympathises with others who are now in a similar positio

“I know that fear of being afraid that the Finnish you write or speak is not good enough. Finland is not an easy place to figure out. The job market is very competitive. There are international roles out there, but it takes a lot of effort to find them. The Hanken International Talent newsletter is really important, as it helps with discovering these opportunities and figuring out the Finnish job market,” she says.

“Many who come here from abroad are excellent at their studies and in the workplace. It’s important for them to see the social, academic and business opportunities that are available during the journey towards graduation. Hanken International Talent is great at helping these students to integrate in all aspects of Finnish society,” says Haapakoski.

Text: Andrew Flowers
Photo: Jessica Gustafsson

The vision outlined in the new strategy, Hanken 2030 - For an international Finland and a sustainable world, is for Hanken to become an increasingly highly regarded international business school contributing to the future of business and society. One of the key objectives is to foster the integration of international students. Hanken International Talent (HIT) is the business school’s initiative to support international students’ integration into Finnish society and working life.