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Céline, France

Céline is an ambitious young woman from France who came to Helsinki Summer School because she gets “bored very easily in the summer”. After surfing the web and finding that Helsinki Summer School offered an Introduction to Bioethics, she was hooked. “Instead of doing nothing between the semesters I’d have the occasion to go and meet all these people and of course discover interesting research material and get to know other teachers in my own field.”

Céline has completed her first year of PhD studies in Biolaw and Medical Law at the University of Lille 2 in Northern France. She found the Finnish way of academic thinking very different from that in France. “I realised that in the University of Helsinki critical views are accepted, and Thinking is Allowed just like the HSS slogan says. The courses are very interesting and people share very different views on the same topics. It helps me to understand things in another way but it also makes me insecure sometimes because I’m not used to giving my opinion on every topic. This is really new but that’s exactly what I’m enjoying.”

The open-minded staff and a lack of strict hierarchy also appealed to Céline. “I was expecting to go to a traditional university where people would be working individually and only focus on their own research without showing any interest in what others are doing. But here people can talk to everyone, even to teachers and professors. This, I think, is very democratic and a part of the University of Helsinki’s policy and target. But I’ve found it’s also related to Finnish culture.”

Céline has appreciated the range of different learning methods such as workshops, because the students have to cope with each other’s views and visions. “Another thing is that we are obliged to speak in public and speak in English. This is a kind of challenge. Some are more comfortable in English, but for us French speakers it is a good exercise.”

In addition to her course, Céline picks the first day of the Summer School and the beautiful opening ceremonies as the highlight of the HSS experience. “Seeing all these people coming from sooo many countries and listening to the song All you need is love was so sweet.” Céline found the welcoming exceptionally warm and it made her feel relaxed and happy since the beginning. “I felt that the energy and the people, including the organisers, were very positive about the whole project.”

This was Céline’s first time in Finland, but she has already created a plan for her future. “My dream is to come back and stay. I’d like to do research here so I‘m trying to find a second supervisor for my PhD. The resources here are fascinating and I really like the way people think here so I hope it’ll work out.” She also says that her big dream in the longer run would be to teach in Finland, or to find a job as a lawyer. She hesitates here and smiles: “Then I’d have to learn Finnish but it’s not a problem because I’m so motivated.”

Céline, who teaches in two different universities in Lille, is ready to promote HSS to her students when the new semester starts. “It’ll be such a positive and valuable experience, there’s no excuse for them not to apply. Meeting people from all over the world and taking care of yourself in a foreign environment makes you grow. Back home, the HSS alumni will be seen as students who achieve their projects.”

Text by: Lotta Wilkman
Photo by: Helena Hämäläinen

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