"Going beyond virtual studies: a rewarding internship experience"

January 12, 2022

In September 2021 we introduced you to Alexandra Biris, most recent trainee at UniPID. 4 months later, Biris answered a few questions to sum up her experiences at our Network. This is what she told us!

I first found out about UniPID during my first meeting with Hanna Posti-Ahokas, my thesis supervisor and lecturer at the Changing Education Master’s Programme. I was sharing my expectations for the programme and that I hoped to integrate my background in Political Science and International Development Studies with my passion for education. She immediately recommended UniPID’s Virtual Course catalogue. I remember browsing through the selection of courses and quickly realising that UniPID is the perfect platform for combining my various interests and promoting my understanding of the interconnectedness of development issues. I noted down several courses that interested me and that I wanted to register for during my second year. What I didn’t know at the time was that UniPID would provide me with the chance to expand my knowledge of global challenges, but not quite through the Virtual Course Catalogue.

Alexandra Biris
Alexandra Biris

Instead, I saw an opportunity to apply for a traineeship at UniPID through the International Traineeship Programme at the University of Helsinki, and I did so immediately. I was lucky enough to be selected to join the UniPID team as a trainee in September, 2021. Working at UniPID, I got to look behind the curtains and get an insight into the work that goes into organizing not only virtual studies for students based at different universities all over Finland, but also how UniPID engages in policy dialogues with various national bodies, promotes collaboration between the research community and Finnish ministry officials, and supports doctoral researchers to expand their networks, knowledge, and skills.

Because I was welcomed to the team as a colleague rather than just a trainee, I was able to get an insight into many of the fascinating activities of UniPID. My own responsibilities as a trainee, however, were concentrated primarily around preparing UniPID’s 20th anniversary campaign starting in 2022. The biggest and most exciting task was co-producing the Detangling Development-podcast together with Kelly Brito, UniPID’s Communications Coordinator. It was such a rewarding experience using my previous knowledge of making a podcast for my student association One Step Ahead ry (OSA) and helping to create a product like the Detangling Development-podcast from scratch. In this task, I got to draw on and improve many of my skills: writing, conducting research, pitching ideas, presenting arguments, editing audio, working in a team, and problem solving. In other words, it was an incredibly diverse and dynamic task that resulted in what I hope is/will be an informative and approachable podcast about some of the most pressing development issues currently and the research around them.

In addition to this task, I also compiled and categorized course selections from UniPID’s member universities that are relevant for training Finnish education and development specialists, participated in internal policy dialogue regarding Finland’s education sector development cooperation, and helped Meeri Tiensuu, UniPID’s Education Support Specialist, put together a project proposal for the Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL). Reflecting on these diverse tasks, what I am most grateful for is that while my interests and skills matched the tasks of the traineeship very well, there was plenty of room for me to challenge myself and learn new things.

My traineeship at UniPID was full of learning opportunities and possibilities to explore my passion for international development cooperation. It was also an excellent introduction to a work environment where science and policy are inextricably linked, something I highly appreciated and would love to continue to experience in my professional career. The dynamic and international team I worked with was a wonderful bonus, and I could not recommend it more to those who are interested in topics related to international development, science, and higher education to seek out traineeships at UniPID!

Check Alex's profile on LinkedIn!

Listen and follow the Changing Education Podcast by the student association One Step Ahead ry.

Background image credits: Hans-Peter Gauster, 2017 on Unsplash.