Travel: Lugano, Switzerland

At one point, after having a few trips behind me, I realized I had a little dilemma… In no case a bad one! I found myself thinking if I should go backpacking or go visit some of the people I had met along my previous travels. Time seemed precious but never have I regretted any trip I have taken! Even if it was with my backpack or just a little carry-on. You might remember Alessio, whose interview was the first one I published. I had met him in several countries usually by amazing coincidence so we decided to actually plan one rendezvous. Visiting him in Italy was such an adventure as I also got to visit Switzerland for the first time. The mountains took my breath away!

Lugano Switzerland essiparkkari.wordpress.com

Interviewing Sanja

Through a very good friend I got to know a great organization called CISV whose web page (CISV) state their purpose to be to educate and inspire action for a more just and peaceful world. Greatness! They organize international camps and other things. Once when I was helping out with a happening in Helsinki I met Sanja. Soon after meeting her she moved to Switzerland. Here is an interview with her about what she’s up to over there!

What is your job title?

I am currently a graduate student at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. I’m doing my second year in a multi-disciplinary master’s programme in international affairs, and active in a number of the university’s student initiatives, such as the Junior Diplomat Initiative, the Academic Writing Initiative and the Bible Study Initiative. However, during the first academic year of the master’s programme I did a 6-month long internship at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, which turned into a summer job the past summer. I started with a title of intern and during the summer worked as a junior programme officer (JPO). I will now focus on telling more about this work experience.

Where do you work? 

In Switzerland, in the city of Geneva at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP). The GCSP is an international foundation at the heart of international Geneva. It was established in 1995 on the initiative of the Swiss Confederation.

How did you get in to the line of work?

I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Political Science at the University of Helsinki, Finland, majoring in International Development Studies and minoring in World Politics and African Studies. I came to Geneva to continue with graduate studies in international affairs, focusing on issues of peace and conflict. As security policy is a viable angle into these issues, I was happy to get an internship at an institute specialized in security policy.

Did you feel lucky landing your job?

I felt very lucky getting the internship opportunity and later the summer job. The field of international affairs is highly competitive and it may not be easy to find an internship one is interested in, let alone an actual job.

What qualifications are needed?

To get an internship at the GCSP, one needs to have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field of study which can range from international affairs to journalism and from physics to marketing. The working language is English and knowledge of French, German or other languages is an advantage. However, I find that first and foremost one needs to be motivated to work diligently, to express one’s capabilities and to be humble to learn new things.

Are you striven by the work you do or your paycheck?

The interns at the GCSP received a renumeration of CHF300-500 per month (that is approximately 300-500€), depending on the hours they worked. The salary of a JPO was not big either. Therefore I’m quite confident in saying that it was the work itself that was driving me and not the paycheck.

Does your work match your expectations?

Yes, for sure! Although I must say that I didn’t quite know what to expect when I started my internship at the GCSP, but the expectations that I had were met. I expected to work in a multinational and multicultural environment and to work on various foreign policy issues. In practice that involved organizing and coordinating courses, conferences, seminars and public discussions; conducting research; doing market analysis; writing reports of meetings etc. Many of these were skills that developed a lot during the job or that I had to learn pretty much from scratch.

Describe a basic day at work. Does it vary day by day?

A basic day at work would have been a day beginning at 9am, starting by reading and responding to the emails that had arrived the previous night or early in the morning, followed by a few phone calls to organize logistical issues for instance with conference facilities or catering. Afterwards I would have started focusing on a report or a research project that I was working on, and continue until lunch time. In the afternoon I often sent a few emails or called course participants and speakers to remind them of any necessary information or documents that were still missing, and afterwards either I would have attended a meeting, a public discussion or a lecture, and/or continue with working on a report or a research project. The afternoon usually included a coffee break and a chat with a colleague, and the day ended at 5pm.

What is the most exciting thing about your work and why?

The most exciting thing was learning new things every day, whether it was new skills and knowledge, or maybe something about another culture from a colleague. I found that very intriguing and inspiring.

What do you get asked about your job by friends and family?

I was often asked by friends in Geneva: “Why do they always wear suits at the GCSP?” The dress code was indeed quite formal and one would often see men and women wearing black suits and dresses when walking into the glass building. The GCSP trains government officials, diplomats, military officers etc. who tend to wear business clothes for work and that was also the custom at the GCSP.

What is the best part of your job?

Fantastic colleagues and course participants. And as said before, learning new things every day.

Do you have bad days or moments? Why?

Absolutely – because I am a human-being!

Do you have any advice for people considering your line of work?

I would advice you to talk to people who already work in the field and to those who are interested in doing so. Build connections and networks, work diligently, take care of work-life balance and value your free time. There is a lot of work to do in the field of international peace, conflict and security, so if you really want to dedicate your working hours to working on them, if you are ready to work with people from all around the world and are willing to constantly develop your own skills and understanding, you will surely succeed in finding a job in the field.

Thank you Sanja!

Travel: Sydney, Australia

Australia is huge, obviously. I spent the most amazing year there and still plan on returning as I didn’t manage to travel to every corner. The first experience there for me was Sydney. People called me crazy as I started covering the city by foot. The time I spend walking from North Sydney to the central business district and beyond is still as vivid in my mind as I did it yesterday. I love city life, and my time in Sydney is something I still reminisce with a big smile. I met some of my best friends while living there. People make great places become superb experiences!

Sydney Australia essiparkkari.wordpress.com

Interviewing Luca

Reading through an exchange students essay about saunas made me realize I might not know that much about my own country! So keeping an open mind pays off and in this case my Italian friends taught me something new about something I thought I knew. I met super athlete Luca from Italy when he was on exchange in Finland. He was studying architecture (therefore the essay on saunas) and now works as an architect! Read about his journey.

What is your job title? 

I’m an Architect.

Where do you work?

I work in Italy, in my hometown Cuneo, a medium/small city in the southern part of Piemonte near the mountains. I work in an architecture firm, Studio Undici, with two other architects (my bosses) and a surveyor.

How did you get in to the line of work? 

I studied and lived 5 years in Torino, got the master degree and tried to find a job in my hometown to stay closer to the mountains and near my friends and family.

Did you feel lucky landing your job? 

Luckily I found the job where I wanted to. And I found really good and nice colleagues.

What qualifications are needed? 

To be architect is needed a degree (three years degree or master degree). In Italy with the degree you are “only” doctor in architecture, to be “a real” architect and sign the projects you have to pass a national exam (a skills test, which actually is really tough) in order to sign into the National Public Register of Architects (is the same for the engineers, lawyers etc).

Are you striven by the work you do or your paycheck? 

I like my work and I know that I’m very lucky to work for my two bosses that give me a lot of clients. Although the first year of work is always difficult to manage everything and in Italy unfortunately architects are not so well paid.. Anyway, we all are young in the office and we are excited about work and, I can say, we are quite good in what we do. So I’m very optimistic about the future!

Does your work match your expectations? 

Part of the answer is the last one I wrote. So, yes, the work definitely match my expectations and I really like it (hopefully growing in the future).

Describe a basic day at work. Does it vary day by day? 

Yes, fortunately the work of an architect is really various. So, nothing boring! Usually the basic day is in the office, but, every day there is something to do outside like visits in the construction sites, meeting with customers, meeting with other colleagues, different things to do in several offices like Municipal, Province etc. You have to manage a lot of things and not only “design and projects” and, our office projects both new intervention and renovation and also interior design and business premises like bars, pubs, restaurants etc… So, basically we do everything concerning architecture and design.

What is the most exciting thing about your work and why? 

Of course the most exciting part is seeing your ideas and projects being reality, growing up step by step and became true.

What do you get asked about your job by friends and family?

I think what all parents want is to see their son/daughter with a good and right salary to be financially secure and independent. Of course both my family and friends want me to be happy with my life and work, so if I’m happy with what I do they are fine. Very common for relatives is also the question “what have you done today at work”. You know, like when you were at school!! 🙂

What is the best part of your job?

As I told before is very grateful to see your idea growing up, so I think that one of the best part of my job are the visits and the meetings at the constructions sites where you can follow the work in progress.

Do you have bad days or moments? Why? 

Sometimes there are difficult moments due to some problems that might happen during the work in progress. And the architect has the responsibility of everything, so you have to take care of them and try to fix everything. And that’s not easy sometimes. But, that’s work, and that’s life; if everything would always be perfect it would be boring.

Do you have any advice for people considering your line of work? 

Being an architect in Italy is really difficult. Clients often doesn’t want to pay, you have a lot of responsibilities and sometimes you have to work also during the weekends or something. Then in Italy there are too many architects, so is also very difficult actually to find a job. You have to be patient and hopeful for the future, or you have to go abroad like lots of people do. But, I love this work and if I had to do it over again, I’d do the exact same thing. In Italy, because I want to make it here!

Thank you Luca! 

Travel: Yang Shou, China

I can never pick one place, when asked to name the most memorable country or city I have visited. I would name them all. There is always something special about each country. It might be due to my early experience of living in Asia, though that I have a special place for the area in my heart. I have seen quite a few countries in Asia (but of course I would choose to visit all of them) and as the second largest country there, I had the most thrilling backpacking experience in China. What a spectacular and diverse country it is! There is so much to see and do and it keeps on changing along the way, so we had no dull moments! In Yang Zhou we rented bikes and rode around the country side and met interesting people and animals! I’ll be sure to return with more posts about China later on!

Yang Zhou China essiparkkari.wordpress.com

Can you name the largest country in Asia or is it too easy of a question? 🙂