When it’s time to graduate from high school, you face the biggest problem of all – what university and what programme should I choose? This decision is the first step in your professional career, and that is why you feel yourself under the pressure to ‘choose wisely’. You are a lucky one, if you know for sure what you want to study and where you want to live. The situation is much more difficult, when you have no idea what kind of future you want for yourself.

My story

I’d like to share my story with you. My hometown in Russia is Vyborg, a truly nice place near the Finnish-Russian border. There is a distance of 70 km only between this town and Lappeenranta. Local people have got used to seeing big crowds of Finns walking along the streets, eating in restaurants and chilling in bars. The same situation is in Lappeenranta – Finnish people attract Russians tourists to come for short and long vacations, go shopping, spend money on cafes, restaurants and other types of services.

My mom has been working in the tourism industry since 2000, and that’s why we’ve made many Finnish friends from all over the country. At the age of 9, I visited Finland for the first time – we spent 3 amazing days in Helsinki. It was my first foreign country and a great start to explore the world. Since 2002 we’ve come to Finland at least once in 1-2 months. At the age of 14, I got to know that my mom’s colleague sent her daughter to get higher education in Finland because it was absolutely for free. My parents got really interested in the opportunity to give their girl high quality education abroad. We had three choices to go: Tourism and Hospitality, Mechanical Engineering and International Business, and I had to choose myself what I want to study.

International Business as a choice

I’ve never been interested in engineering, so this option was dropped first, and I had to choose between the remaining two. To be honest, even after 8 years I still don’t understand what pushes people to get a degree in tourism. In my opinion, after graduation you just have two options – whether to become a waiter/receptionist or to start up your own business (sorry, tourism students). That’s why it was easy for me to make a choice – International Business. I had still 4 years to study at high school, but I knew for sure – I was going to study IB in Finland, and my parents started saving money for my student years.

Language certificates

My high school was specializing in English, however, even 5-7 hours a week were not enough to get sufficient language skills. That’s why my parents decided to invest more money into personal lessons which I had twice a week to prepare for the IELTS test. I think that I should write a separate blog entry about this test and preparation. But anyway, after 1,5 years of studying English on a daily basis I got my certificate with the score of 7.0. Besides that, against my will my mom singed me up for Finnish language classes, so that I could get at least some basics in Finnish. In 2010, I got my first certificate proving my A1/2 level in Finnish. No words can express how grateful I am to my mom for pushing me to study Finnish. I would have had nothing that I have today, if she did not make this decision back then.

Universities of Applied Sciences

In January 2011, I got the IELTS certificate, gathered all the needed papers at school and filled in the online application. My goal was to study in Helsinki; however, the bureaucracy issues broke this dream. No universities in the capital of Finland accept applicants who have not graduated from high school before the application period starts. Despite the fact that studies at most universities start in August, and Russian enrollees graduate from high schools in June, there is no discretionary admission. That’s why I had to choose among other universities which offered this option. My #1 choice was Lappeenranta because my friends were studying there at this time, and I had some solid information about the programme and life in this town. The second option was Kymenlaakso, and the third one was Mikkeli.

Entrance exam

In February or March, I received an invitation to participate in the entrance exam that was held in the end of April. I was studying hard because I couldn’t even think about the worst scenario ever – not to get in. On the examination day, I was fully prepared, and after the exam, I got a feeling that I’d definitely get a study place there. And the rest of the story will be continued…

If you believe in something and do your best to achieve this goal, you will get what you want. There is a simple truth – if you do nothing, nothing will come to you. Working hard will always pay off.