1. How did you find out about University of Jyväskylä?
2. Why Finland?
To answer the questions, I have to say it was somewhat fate. Yes, I do believe in fate. Everything happens for a reason.
I graduated from Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam with a bachelor of art in International Relations and I had chosen to study it because I am a proud Vietnamese and I always wanted to become a diplomat and serve my country. But things did not work out the way I would hope it to be. Failing the exam to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I started looking for jobs in other professions and found myself falling love with development work while working for Oxfam Hong Kong based in Hanoi. I wanted to pursue this profession but I honestly had no idea how to proceed from there. So, I turned to considering my options of higher education abroad, which was one of the childhood dreams I wanted to achieve. Since I had only been working for 2 years at that time, I did not earn much to afford a full self-financed study abroad. I had to ask for my parents' support and they could only support me with the living expenses, not the tuition fee. That's too much!
So, while exploring some scholarship options, I found out about the free education for international students in Finland. To be honest, it was hard for me to believe at first. For us Asians, education (especially higher education) is a privilege that we have to work very hard to earn, so it is rarely (if never) offered free of charge, at least in Vietnam. And also due to the free education, some posed the question of the quality of the education I will be getting, which I will be coming back to talk about later.
My goal, in general for my Master's degree, was to study development so that later on, I would be able to score jobs in NGOs. And I thought, even though I did not succeed with my dream of becoming a diplomat to serve my country, helping the people in needs in rural areas of Vietnam would also be a way to serve my country. As I was searching for information of development courses in Finland, University of Jyväskylä came up with the most potential and promising programme called Development and International Cooperation. I went through the programme's structure and found it perfect for me.
I finished my application documents two weeks before the deadline of 2012 and sent it out with a lot of hope but I did try not to keep my hope so high. I did not have a very good-looking transcription from my previous study though. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I received the invitation for interview. However, I was torn because the interview invitation meant that I clearly had a shot at being accepted into the programme but at the same time, I was also offered a job in the Philippines. I am a greedy lady when it comes to opportunities like these. I decided to go with the flow just to see how it would turn out.
The acceptance letter came quite late that year. And since I had not known if I would be accepted, I took the job in the Philippines to be a journalist in the conflict zone in the southern part of the country, Mindanao region. The email telling me I was accepted came when I was already in the Philippines. You would think I would be extremely happy but I was not. I was deeply depressed when I received the acceptance letter. "Does this mean I will have to apply again next year? What if I won't be accepted again?" - I actually panicked. Then, after finishing panicking, I wrote an email to the programme and explained my situation. I asked for the possibility of postpone my study until the next academic year. It was one of the happiest moment of my life when they said yes.
Yes, I finally had the next 3 years of my life figured out!! (Well, I will also have to come back to this later!)
So, after finishing the one year contract in the Philippines, I came back to Vietnam to prepare for my departure to Jyväskylä with extreme excitement and nerve-wrecking as well: The paperwork for my visa could be a pain in the ass. However, surprised as I was, the Finnish embassy in Hanoi managed to return my visa in exactly 3 weeks after my application. It was a big relief after all!
Well ... I eventually arrived in Jyväskylä on 15th of August in 2013 and until now, I have not been over my jet-lag yet, haha =))
Nah ... just kidding =)) I had no problem whatsoever with the time difference. It was a good sign though!
I still remember vividly the second day I was here in Jyväskylä. As I was walking my way from KOAS student housing in Roninmäki to KOAS office in the city center to sign my lease, it was a beautiful and sunny day, I could not stop smiling. Still, I could not believe that I made it. I was finally here in Finland, starting my Master's.
Coming back to the point where I mentioned the quality of the free education in Finland, so far, I have had the best time in my life actually enjoying going to lectures and studying every day. I feel like a sponge absorbing as much as I can: knowledge, culture, international environment, friendship and living the student life yet once again! Free education does not mean there is no assurance for good quality. Free education means providing opportunities for more people to receive the education they cannot afford otherwise. I am grateful for everything that I have gone through so far since I received the invitation for the interview. It has been an amazing roller-coaster ride which, of course, has its ups and downs, but always stays exciting.
I know this blog has come quite late since I only started it when I became the student ambassador of the university. But I do hope to share with you all the stories and experiences that this roller-coaster has been and will be taking me to.
Studying is important. That is the priority of my stay here. But I do not use study as an excuse to limit myself from the whole new and exciting world. I came to Jyväskylä not only to receive high-quality education but also to explore the Western side of the world.
And so far ... I have had a blast!