Pavel Kipriianov crossed the bor­der for stud­ies and is plan­ning to stay in Joensuu after gradu­ation

Not all inter­na­tional tal­ents cross oceans and con­tin­ents for work or stud­ies. Pavel Kipriianov is a stu­dent from Petrozavodsk who found his new home in Joensuu but a stone’s throw away from Russian Karelia – a place at once novel and excit­ing as well as delight­fully famil­iar. Pavel is second-year bio­logy stu­dent in UEF’s inter­na­tional master’s pro­gram, a mem­ber of the stu­dent union board and a pro­spect­ive researcher. He is cur­rently work­ing on his thesis on plastic pol­lu­tion, and is look­ing for­ward to hope­fully work­ing as a researcher in Finland. 

Before mov­ing to Joensuu for the long term, Pavel had already spent time abroad in exchange pro­grams in the arc­tic regions of Norway and later in Finland. 

“I was here on exchange actu­ally in the autumn of 2019 for the semester. After that exchange I decided to apply here for my master’s.” 

His first con­tact with Finland happened under less formal cir­cum­stances, how­ever. Pavel is one of the many Russians who used to fre­quent the Eastern part of the coun­try on shop­ping trips. Petrozavodsk, the cap­ital city of the Karelian Republic, is only a 4.5‑hour drive away after all.

“I came to this town for shop­ping as a tour­ist many times, because we lived nearby. It was quite inter­est­ing. My exchange period changed some of my views, because I had thought life in Joensuu would not be so act­ive. When I came here as an exchange stu­dent, I real­ised life here was much more inter­est­ing.”

Before his exchange semesters, Pavel had stud­ied aquacul­ture in the Petrozavodsk State University. The decision to apply for the master’s pro­gram in Joensuu did not come out of nowhere. 

“I got inspired after I had spent a semester here. I was also at the end of my bachelor’s stud­ies in Russia and think­ing about con­tinu­ing abroad, but I had sev­eral places in mind. After the exchange here in Joensuu I just applied here again for my master’s. I also applied for some other Finnish cit­ies, like Turku and Jyväskylä, but still decided to come here. I got to know some loc­als dur­ing the exchange. They were also one of the factors why I would come back to Joensuu. Because I already knew some people, it was easier for me to integ­rate.”

Pavel thus knew the lay of the land and had people he knew from his time as an exchange stu­dent to help him settle in, but there were prac­tical ques­tions he needed to address – not least of which was find­ing employ­ment. 

“I was mostly wor­ried about get­ting a part-time job to provide for myself. I was also think­ing about the lan­guage, but didn’t take it into too much con­sid­er­a­tion at that time. Now I real­ise how import­ant it is. I was not so wor­ried about integ­rat­ing, since I had already been here, and I had some hints.”

Life across the bor­der can be dif­fer­ent in more ways than one. In both uni­ver­sit­ies and at work­places, life in Russia is more struc­tured. While this can be true for some instances in Finland as well, the sense of hier­archy and social dis­tance per­meates all aspects of Russian soci­ety. In Finland, Pavel says, things feel more relaxed. 

In Russia, Pavel worked sum­mers in fish farms affil­i­ated with his uni­ver­sity. Since com­ing to Finland, he has for­tu­nately had pos­it­ive exper­i­ences with job search­ing. Pavel has man­aged to over­come lan­guage require­ments and prac­tical issues, and has since worked in food and paper deliv­ery, the res­taur­ant busi­ness and on the stu­dent union board. 

“Even though it is a small town, it’s still pos­sible to find a job even if you speak little Finnish or none at all, espe­cially for a stu­dent. I worked in food deliv­ery and paper deliv­ery, and I also had a sum­mer job in a res­taur­ant, but that was not in Koli. In my case, it was not only about the lan­guage. When I arrived, I didn’t have a driver’s licence, but now I’ve got it. When I was apply­ing for sum­mer jobs with a car and a licence, I got more calls.”

Pavel gives the impres­sion that Joensuu truly is ideal for him. The town is small, but not too small. He appre­ci­ates the ever-present nature around Joensuu and the easy access to the coun­tryside. The archi­tec­ture and plan­ning of the city appeal to him, as do its well-kept parks and activ­ity sites. His free time is spent exer­cising, fish­ing, for­aging and trav­el­ling around the region and its many attrac­tions. If he ever hap­pens to need some­thing from home or starts feel­ing home­sick, hop­ping over the bor­der is easy. 

For now, Pavel is work­ing on his master’s thesis on plastic pol­lu­tion. In the future, he is look­ing to work as a researcher, but he also plans to keep an open mind should he find an oppor­tun­ity to put his skills and know­ledge to good use. All and all, things have gone well for Pavel. When asked what could be done to draw inter­na­tional pro­fes­sion­als to Joensuu. Pavel offers mul­tiple ideas for improve­ment, per­haps chief among them being spe­cial­ised lan­guage courses.

“There are a num­ber of pos­sib­il­it­ies, but maybe lan­guage courses. Every migrant is dif­fer­ent. Maybe it’s easy to find lan­guage courses, but work-related courses might be a little bit harder to find.”

Lastly, Pavel brings up the city’s rela­tion­ship to busi­nesses and sug­gests a need for mak­ing the city more attract­ive to inter­na­tion­ally ori­ented busi­nesses.

“Migrants need work, so it would make sense if the city could gen­er­ally attract more com­pan­ies, espe­cially big com­pan­ies, and espe­cially if the com­pan­ies would work with inter­na­tional mar­kets.”

Text: Lauri Vuori