When plans change – How 2 years in Turku turned into 7 (and counting…)

January 10, 2020, by Kristaps Kovaļonoks and Mária Kubincová

Kalypso Filippou is originally from Cyprus and has spent the past 7 years studying and working at the University of Turku. She first moved to Finland back in 2012 to pursue a Master’s Degree in Education and Learning (previously known as Master’s Degree Programme in Learning, Learning Environments and Educational Systems). Back then, she thought that she will pursue and complete her studies in 2 years, and then she will return back to her home country. Life, however, turned out quite differently! She has recently graduated from the Doctoral Programme on Educational Policy, Lifelong Learning and Comparative Education Research (also known as KEVEKO) and is now teaching at the Faculty of Education.

After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in her home country, Kalypso was eager to go abroad and pursue her Master’s studies. Prior to coming to Finland, she had spent one year as an exchange student at Stockholm University in Sweden, and hence wanted to return to the Nordics. Kalypso even admits laughingly, that before coming here, she had never heard about Turku before.

I had opportunities to continue my Master’s studies in different countries, such as UK, Sweden and Finland. I chose Turku because the content of the Master’s programme was so different from what I had seen in other programmes. In fact, I found the programme structure and variety of courses both appealing and unique. I was also confident that studying in Finland will be an advantage in comparison to other students in my home country.

As part of her Master’s studies, Kalypso completed an internship within her department, which eventually led to her Doctoral studies.

Kalypso wrote her Doctoral thesis about “Thesis Supervision in International Master’s Degree Programmes in Finnish Universities”

Adapting to the new environment

Kalypso comes from a seaside city called Paphos in Cyprus, where they have 300 to 340 sunny days a year (time to start planning your next vacation!).

I do miss the sunshine, especially during November and December. When I talk with my family and friends and I express my excitement about the sunny weather in Turku, they don’t seem to understand me.

Despite the climate differences, she found it more exciting than challenging to adapt to this new country and environment. The fact that she had lived and studied in Sweden before also helped but generally, when it comes to winter, she believes that you should learn how to dress better, stay active, socialise, eat well and take vitamin D!

Winter wonderland here in Finland

She also points out that being an active student by taking part in different volunteering activities helped her to easily meet new people, both local and international. At that time, her Master’s degree programme had only 8 students, so it was easy to get close with each other. Everything was new and exciting, so she didn’t feel homesick.

At the beginning of her studies, Kalypso was part of the ESN Uni Turku student organisation. She was first an active member and then she was elected as Member of the Board and had the position of the Secretary. She continued as an Active for many years and she was also actively involved in activities carried out by TYY International Council. What Kalypso enjoyed was the international environment and building friendships inside and outside of the classroom. Students could study a bit of everything, including educational leadership, comparative and international education. The challenging part in the beginning was the level of flexibility and independence; also, the lack of many fixed deadlines, in comparison to studies in Cyprus, was quite unusual for her.

Alongside her doctoral studies, Kalypso together with two of her classmates established a non-profit organisation in Finland called EmJoy (Embrace Joy in Education). They were all living in different cities, and with no background in business or marketing, they managed to organise local and international events in Finland, Greece and Switzerland. The organisation’s goal is to bring educators together, create a supportive community and learn from each other. Another aim of the organisation is to bring the university research closer to the practitioners.

The brilliant team behind EmJoy

Kalypso stated she is surprised how much people can accomplish remotely when they put their heads together. She also stressed that EmJoy successfully organised a two-day educational conference in Athens, Greece earlier this year. There were participants from 10 different countries, and everyone took part in interactive workshops while listening to inspiring speeches as well. Some of the speakers, workshop facilitators and participants have been their master’s studies’ classmates or teachers, so the conference was quite a reunion and reminded them all that they are part of a bigger alumni community. They are now planning their next events.

You can learn more about EmJoy in their website and social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

EmJoy conference in Athens, Greece

The importance of networking, while staying true to oneself

Kalypso thinks networking is important, but it was never her priority. Presenting your work in academic communities, taking part in research projects and generally networking is part of the doctoral journey. Networking in conferences even led her to the University of Auckland in New Zealand as a visiting PhD student. She stresses the importance to stay who you are in the process and, at the same time, to never underestimate the beauty of networking during conferences. As for funding, doctoral students were always informed about grant applications, but it was not always easy to receive one. Nevertheless, Kalypso stated that everyone in her department was very supportive. People often said that once you secure the first grant, the rest will follow. In addition, she has also participated in the Three Minute Thesis competition at the University of Turku, where she received the People’s Choice Award. Important achievements like this one can also help secure some funding for research purposes.

Kalypso right after her Doctoral thesis defence

Ways to stay active and improve

In her free time, Kalypso heads to one of the many gyms designated by CampusSport, which is by far the best deal for gym service for students in Turku. Locations are excellent as most of the gyms and sports halls are located on campus or close by. Everyone can get involved and she even used to teach a course called Indiaca herself. If you are interested, you can read blog posts by international students about CampusSport and their services here.

Kalypso recently completed her doctoral studies and aims to continue her research and teaching. One of her priorities for the upcoming year is to continue improving her knowledge of the Finnish language, which is the key to finding a job here in Finland. Furthermore, knowing the local language helps students feel like a part of the society, especially if they want to stay here. Luckily, there are many places to learn the Finnish language, including Centre for Language and Communication Studies and Finnish Language Circle for Foreigners.

There are several Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree Programmes taught in English at the University of Turku, ranging from, for example, education, natural sciences to social sciences (you can check the entire list here).

The next application period for the International Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree Programmes is on 8-22 January 2020. The studies start at the end of August 2020.