Hey there foreigner, and welcome to Jyväskylä. By pursuing your studies at the University of Jyväskylä, you are a part of either the fourth or fifth best university in Finland, depending on whom you ask. According to the report recently published by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the University of Jyväskylä is ranked between 400 and 500. Considering that the our university’s position on the list was between 300 and 400 just a decade ago might suggest that our administration has been on the wrong path in recent years, but that is a topic I won’t go in at this time. Feel free, however, to discuss this problem with your peers.
In previous columns I have tried to emphasize how important it is for students of non-Finnish background to learn the language during the time that they are here. If, at the beginning of your studies, you have no intentions of staying in Finland after you graduate, there might not seem to be any point in learning one of the most obscure and useless languages in the world. I’ve been here for a few years now and I’ve run across several cases of individuals who came to Finland “just for the degree” and found themselves staying here permanently due to one reason or another (fell in love with a Finn and/or made a baby with a Finn and/or married a Finn). I guess what I’m trying to say, without sounding like a superstitious old new-age auntie, is that you never know what the future may bring.
One of my reasons for bringing up this topic yet again is that the importance of learning Finnish came up in an article that I ran across in the Helsingin Sanomat recently. According to the article, the biggest problems that foreigners face in the Finnish labor market are deficient Finnish language skills and a lack of Finnish networks. If for some reason you end up staying in Finland after you graduate, unless you are a trust fund baby or relish the idea of being on the dole for the rest of your life, you will probably be seeking gainful employment. While there are jobs in Finland that will never require any knowledge of Finnish, chances are that if you wish to be employed in the field that you studied for, you will need to have a basic command of the Lingua Finnica. Another bonus to having adequate Finnish skills is that you will be able network with a wider variety of Finns, rather than just those who want to boink foreigners or polish up their English.