Life in the fast lane - International Business student Emma knows how to keep busy

Emma Lilja

Emma Lilja, 22, is on the final stretch of completing her Bachelor’s Degree in International Business at Arcada. One thing is certain: she hasn’t been sleeping through her studies. Not only has she managed to shave a whole year of the time it normally takes to finish the degree, she has also secured a job (during one of her work placements) that is waiting for her when she completes her studies. All this, while also working on her Swedish language skills. Emma is not one to sit around twiddling her thumbs. 

 – Where will I be in five years? By then I will be a very successful career woman, Emma says with a laugh. I will be doing an excellent job while working for a great international company. I just haven’t decided yet if that company will be located in Finland or abroad.
She is joking when being pressed about her future plans. Even though Emma has plowed through her studies at Arcada, she is nothing if not modest. One thing that was meant to be taken seriously, though, is that she has her mind firmly set on working for an international company in the future.
– I’m not sure why, but culture clashes have always been what makes me tick, Emma says. I’ve always wanted to see the whole world. I think that studying business in English will allow me to do just that.


A multi-cultural environment


After first being told about Arcada by her Swedish-speaking father, Emma moved from her hometown Porvoo to study in Helsinki two years ago. She saw it as an opportunity not only to get a state-of-the-art education, but to also improve her language skills.
– Finnish is my mother tongue and it has been extremely rewarding to study in another language, she says. The programme I’m studying is in English, which is the international language of business. At the same time, I’ve been surrounded by the Swedish language every day and it would have been impossible not to improve. Everyone knows that employers in Finland consider Swedish skills as an added bonus, so this is something I think that more Finnish-speakers should take advantage of.

Just as important as language skills when focusing on an international career in business is cultural understanding. This is where Emma feels that she has benefited the most, with more than half of her classmates being of foreign origin.
– I get to study with people from all over the world, and it has given me important insights, Emma says. It is fun, for starters, but also something I will have use for in my career. You have to know the culture of the people with whom you are doing business; it’s as simple as that. Business is conducted in such different ways in different parts of the world, and studying and working in teams with students from Southern Europe or Asia, for example, really broadens your horizons.


Versatile studies


One year into her studies Emma realised that if she dedicated herself to her studies she could finish the programme in 2.5 years, rather than the usual 3.5 years.
– Okay, I might be a little bit of an over achiever, Emma admits with a smile. If there is the option to work hard and finish something quickly, then that is the option I’m always going for. I’m just wired that way. Once or twice I’ve had to compromise with my social life, but in general it has gone very well. You just have to be organised and prioritise.
To make all the pieces of the puzzle fit when combining courses to speed up her studies, she had to take one course at the Aalto University in Helsinki.
– This shows the flexibility of the Degree Programme in International Business, Emma says. In general, I love how flexible and versatile the courses are. I have friends who study business at other universities and in comparison I really have had lots of possibilities to shape my own education. You can choose to focus on areas like entrepreneurship or business in the Baltics. You can even choose a second major if you want.

Emma’s class was the first International Business class at Arcada that got to choose a major for their Bachelor’s Degree, either in e-Business and Distribution or Financial Management. For Emma, the choice was easy.
– I’ve never been too good with computers, but, on the other hand, I love the numbers, she says. Financial Management was, and continues to be, my cup of tea. Definitely!


A job waiting for her


Normally, International Business students have two periods of work placement in their studies – at the end of the second and third years. However, since Emma aims to finish her Bachelor’s Degree before she even reaches her third year, she did one five-month period instead.
– I was really lucky and ended up at the pension insurance company Ilmarinen, where I got to take on really big responsibilities, Emma says. I actually found the work place offer at the Job Board here at Arcada, and the position turned out to be fantastic. When portfolio managers bought and sold shares, I was the one handling the back office part of it. It meant being in constant contact with people all over the world.

Emma wasn’t the only one really happy with her work placement, so was her employer. With one course and the thesis left of Emma’s studies, she already knows that there is a job waiting for her at Ilmarinen when she finishes. Yet, Emma being Emma, it’s far from certain that a full-time job will be enough to keep her busy.
– I am planning to apply to a Master’s Degree programme in Business at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki as well. We’ll see. It shouldn’t be a problem to combine it with work, Emma concludes.