“Ich bin eine Berlinerin”, Finlander, Brummie…

04.09.2008

A 23-year-old girl from Finland pursued one international experience after another with help from EURES, which gave her the advice she needed every step of the way. Henna Eskonsipo, a 23-year-old Finnish girl from the city of Lahti, was sparked by EURES and the Leonardo da Vinci programme to pursue a trail of foreign working experiences – and they’re probably not over yet!

After finishing high school in Finland in 2004, Henna took a year off before deciding what to do next. Being interested in opportunities abroad, she started making enquiries, and quickly found out about EURES through a Finnish recruitment agency. Then, during a meeting with Lahti EURES Adviser Aija Sievanen, Henna was told about the EU Leonardo da Vinci programme (see Focus On article no. 43 for an overview), a scheme of which she had never heard before.

It seemed like the perfect project. After getting tips and contact details from Aija, Henna applied, was successful, and received a grant to work as a teaching assistant in Berlin’s Die BIP Kreativität Grundschule – all within a matter of weeks!

In September 2004 Henna set off by herself, at only 19, to discover German culture. Her job, which consisted of taking care of comprehensive school children and assisting the teachers where necessary, was both enjoyable and instructive – a great introduction to the job market. However, equally important was her exposure to the German language and the new friends she met, many of whom she is still in contact with four years later – including her boyfriend Jonathan, a Brit who also took part in the da Vinci scheme in Berlin that autumn. In particular, her host family, with whom she lived during the four months, took care to show her the sights and help her to settle in to the city.

Henna reluctantly left Berlin at the end of 2004 – but, during her degree in German philology, political science and EU studies at Helsinki University, she was able to return there for a year on the Erasmus exchange programme, studying at Humboldt University. She also came into contact with EURES again during a summer job in 2006 at the Employment and Economic Development Centre in Lahti, while the two offices were undertaking training and promotion work together with employers. The time spent on this project cemented her friendship with Aija Sievanen, the very EURES Adviser who had helped her two years before.

Of course, it wasn’t long after her graduation from Helsinki University in 2008 that Henna got itchy feet again, and started to look for the next challenge – and EURES was her first stop. Henna wanted to move to Birmingham, UK, to live with her boyfriend, and was after advice and guidance. The UK Advisers helped her with information about the UK job market and pointed her towards certain employment vacancy listings, and it wasn’t long before she found a post as a German Meetings Consultant for InterContinental Hotels Group.

“EURES brought me and Jonathan together and it’s also helped us to be able to live together once again in a different country,” says Henna. “I’m so glad that I followed Aija’s advice back in 2004 – it’s led from opportunity to opportunity.”

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