26 February 2020 by Yukie Ikezumi

About one year has passed since I submitted my application to one of the International Master’s Degree Programmes here at the University of Turku in Finland. I had been working for several years and made a career for myself, but one day I knew that I had to do something for myself, follow a dream of mine. I remember the feeling I had one year ago, when I clicked submit on my application.

I am currently a first year student in the Master’s Degree Programme in Futures Studies at the University of Turku, but one year ago I was working in Tokyo as a sales solution manager at a large company. I finished filling in the application form in about one day, using my free time after work. No one knew what I was up to. I had not disclosed my wildest dream to study again to anyone else, not even to my closest friends. They were just taken aback when I shared the news that I had been accepted to a university in Finland and would leave my job to become a student there. Most of them took a few seconds to speak, then shot the following questions.

Why study again?

Had I regretted my choice of an entire career until that day and wanted to start all over again? No, that was not the case. The job was very demanding for sure, and I was able to learn a lot from it. I am still thankful that I had been blessed with great colleagues and bosses. There was no imminent reason to leave the stable and familiar working environment. But, here I am, in Turku. What drove me to make such a drastic change?

Studying for a master’s degree, and hopefully studying abroad, had been a far-fetched dream to me for forever – ever since I graduated from my bachelor’s programme in a university in Japan. However, back then it was impossible for me to pursue my dreams due to financial difficulties. I chose to get a job right after graduation to stabilize my life, and it was non-stop after that. I worked a lot, changed jobs for better salaries and working conditions. The longer I worked, the more difficult it got for me to stop what I was doing and start a new life. When I finally did it, more than 20 years had passed since my graduation. I had even forgotten about my wish to get a master’s degree. But, one hot day in the summer of 2017, it suddenly hit me. I realized that I could easily continue to live like this and die like this – without fulfilling a wish stuck in the back of my mind. Some people may call it a midlife crisis. No matter what it was, it doesn’t matter. I just knew I had to do something for myself before I die.

Then the idea of studying for a master’s degree gradually started to take shape.

Yukie Ikezumi and her classmate are giving a presentation in the course strategic foresight, which is a manadatory part of the Futures Studies programme. Straegic foresight is a practice where students act as futures consultants and analyze current and future issues of a case company, and provides the company with a future vision, directions and recommendations.

Why Futures Studies?

Some of my friends expected me to provide logical explanations on the choice of the programme – that Futures Studies would be indispensable for my further career development, or, that I wanted to change my career path and pursue to become a researcher, for example. But to be honest I did not have grandioso plans when I selected the programme I applied to. I was browsing through international degree programmes available in Finland and came across this one. It just intrigued me.

What is Futures Studies? I had never heard of such studies before, and there are not many other universities offering similar programmes. I was going to take on a big challenge, which would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Why not choose a very unique – even strange-sounding programme then? Finland is known to be the happiest country in the world. I became very interested in knowing how futures are perceived and studied in a Finnish university. This two-year Programme is run by the Finland Futures Research Centre, a department within the Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku, and is the world’s premier hotspot of future-minded scholars. 

That’s the reason why I chose Future Studies, and it was enough for me.

The Programme is offered by Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku. TSE has earned AACSB Accreditation (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), the highest standard of excellence in business education worldwide. 

Why Finland ?

Because my last job was at the Tokyo office of one major Finnish company, I had the luck of visiting Finland several times on business trips. Every time I went there I became more curious, and later on also fascinated by the working style of my Finnish colleagues. I was astonished when the office in Finland got deserted after 5 pm and the security guard encouraged me to go home. Back in Tokyo, it was not unusual for Japanese employees to work more than 12 hours a day if necessary. “Are we really working for the same company? How they can go home so early but the business is still running?” These questions had floated in my head ever since. Then, on a hot summer day in 2017, I received an email containing a picture from my former line manager (a Finnish gentleman) who was on vacation. I was sweating like a river, exhausted from a long customer meeting, feeling chased by heavy tasks every day. Taking summer vacation for more than a few days seemed just surreal. I looked at the picture from the email and saw his beautiful summer cottage in Finland. He sent it to his subordinates, saying, “you guys should take more vacation too!”.

I think on that day, I decided that I would definitely do something about my life.

Is it too late?

It took me another year and a half from that day in 2017 until I finally submitted my application to the University of Turku. About one year ago, in January 2019, I hit the submit button of my application in the dark room of mine in Tokyo. I still remember the feeling, excitement mixed with fear. When I disclosed the news that I had been admitted to the university, some people called me crazy. But here I am in Turku, and I do not regret a single thing about my decision. Currently I am fully enjoying my studies and living in Turku.

Several months have passed since the start of my studies, and the Futures Studies programme has surely turned out to be very unique. My preconception about the programme was that we would learn some techniques on how to predict future events. Something quite superficial. But in reality, Future Studies is a very deep and thought-provoking study. What would be possible, desirable, plausible futures? For whom is a certain future good or bad? Why? To what consequences? The teachers challenge students about our existing thinking.

In addition, Futures Studies is truly an international degree programme. Students with different backgrounds can stimulate each other to consider futures from different viewpoints, not only from a single cultural point of view. It is quite a precious experience to me. As my mindset was narrow and too focused on my work and its surroundings, I was not successful to grasp things in a longer view before. Now it is a good challenge and a refreshing experience for me to try to see things in broader perspective with students from various backgrounds.

If you would like to know more about Futures Studies, the blog posts by my fellow student ambassador Jonathan gives a great overview of the programme.

Sometimes I struggle to study, as I have been away from the academic world for so long. But I enjoy the very experience of such struggles, as they give me more learning opportunities than my previous job. The people I have met here would have never been in my life if I wouldn’t have hit that submit button of application one year ago.

For the future – a saying that describes the study environment at the Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku in Finland.

You might have reached this blog thinking about going back to school, but are unable to make up your mind in the fear of discarding a long career. If yes, then you are not alone. And you have a good hunch to reach the University of Turku! Many people at the International Master’s Degree Programmes came here with prior work experience. There is even a person with more than 20 years of working experience who is studying once again (me). The generation and background of students are diverse and such diversity provides a value.

Of course, changing your environment takes enormous energy. And it is not guaranteed to be a success all the time. But, if you are considering starting something else but are hesitant about it because you think it might be too late, I would say it is not.

Nothing is too late to be started!

Summary of the article in Japanese.