Eero Nurmi: " Internships are a great way to test the waters in terms of future career choices"

Finding a suitable internship can be a tough nut to crack for anyone, but even more so for humanists who often struggle to be employed in their own field, especially in Finland. The competition can get fierce while interesting positions remain scarce. Many have solved this problem by looking for internships abroad, where the opportunities are endless compared to the homeland. As unpaid internships still remain more as the rule rather than the exception, interning abroad can also mean better benefits and even grants (from Erasmus, for example) that you wouldn't be able to get in Finland. But is going abroad to work free really worth it? And if it is, how does one go about it? We talked to Eero Nurmi, a post-graduate student at the University of Helsinki who interned at a film festival in Amsterdam, and asked him about his experiences and why he thinks interning abroad is worth it. 

"I think internships are a great way to gain working experience and test the waters in terms of future career choices, since you can get EU funding or some money from the university to finance it. They’re also another great way to live abroad and see what a new city feels like to you", he says. But how exactly does one get an internship position at a film festival in Amsterdam? At his home university in Helsinki, Eero majors in English philology but he has also done studies in Gender Studies and Film and Television Studies, both in Finland and abroad. His previous work experience at the Finnish documentary-focused film festival DocPoint proved also to be useful.

"I started looking through European queer film festivals last spring with the goal of finding an internship for fall 2017 and ended up sending a bunch of emails asking whether festivals were open to accept international interns. I got several replies, but the International Queer & Migrant Film Festival (IQMF) struck me as the most interesting, as its theme is an intersection of two marginalized social categories" he says, when asked about how he ended up choosing to go to Amsterdam. Indeed, advocating for marginalized groups and for example LGBTQ rights is close to Eero's heart. In the future, he imagines himself working in the cultural field, with a focus on social issues: "I’d love to try out working with different organizations to introduce more events that bring people together and increase awareness. Projects could help to establish dialogues between different social categories by emphasizing social interaction and empathy - and bring down an ‘us and them’ way of thinking."

As for his role as an intern, Eero says he has been really happy with the diversity of tasks he has been given: " IQMF was put together by a small team, which meant that I got to take a lot of responsibility and work independently on different parts of festival production. This helped me gain confidence in my professional competences and realize more clearly that this field is something that I might like to be involved in later on", he says, and continues on to praise his team members, whose friendly and accommodating attitudes made his internship even better. 

Of course, no intern is expected to be an experienced professional with an expert skill-set. Nonetheless, asking for help and admitting your ignorance in something can feel too overpowering sometimes, which it shouldn't, as Eero explains: "Sometimes I found it hard to admit that OK - this is something I don’t have previous experience in, so I’m completely lost. Asking for help was made really easy, but still it was sometimes tricky to admit your perceived faults." One of the hardest parts of the internship, he says, was for it to end:  "It was hard to let go of the festival atmosphere once it was over: even though it can be hectic at times, you get to create something that gets people with similar interests together and opens up dialogues that may have never come to life otherwise."

As many students might first consider going abroad for an exchange rather than an internship, Eero, who has done both, sees pros and cons in each option. The main difference, he says, is the way you form your social circle in a new environment: "As an exchange student, you’re more prone to effortlessly end up spending time with people that are in the same situation - in a new environment, without friends, looking for things to do. As an intern, you have to work harder to find those groups to integrate into. Luckily, there are a bunch of Facebook groups that can help you get in touch with fellow interns, which helped me out a lot." Based on the experiences described in our previous interviews with international interns, working abroad can also teach you a new kind of independence and give you more courage to test your boundaries. 

Finally, when asked what he misses most in Finland, the answer is of course his family and friends. On the other hand, though, he also says that spending time outside one's usual surroundings makes you appreciate more of what you already have, but it also makes you see the things you'd like to change in your everyday life. After the IQMF ended, Eero got a new position at another film festival in Amsterdam, but when he eventually does come back to Finland, he would like to bring back a lot of cheese, the canals and the lovely people he's met.