Päivi Kaikkonen - Study Abroad Applications Specialist
Päivi’s job involves processing applications and helping students with anything related to their applications to Asia Exchange programs. She has lived abroad in Thailand and Germany, and is currently finishing a bachelor’s degree in international business.
How did you get connected with Asia Exchange?
I went on an Asia Exchange study exchange in Bangkok in the spring of 2009. At the time I was doing a bachelor’s degree in engineering, but I was interested in business studies and wanted to experience the exotic Asia. I found Asia Exchange online and saw that they offered a good business study program at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, so I decided to take the leap and apply for the program. The exchange has been one of the best experiences of my life and it worked as a spark for me to do a whole new bachelor’s degree in international business, which I’m currently finishing up. The whole experience with the exchange in Bangkok and studying more business led me to apply to work at Asia Exchange, and thus I’ve come around full circle.
What inspired you to work in the field of international education?
For me the driving factor to work in this field has been my exchange in Bangkok, and another one later in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The experiences of studying in another country, getting to know a new culture, and meeting people from around the world have inspired me to want to give other students the same chance to have these experiences. It’s extremely rewarding for me to see our students happy about being accepted to study abroad and enthusiastic about going for their exchanges.
Describe a typical day in the office for you.
I’m often the first person to arrive at the office in the morning. After getting a warm cup of tea in front of me, I usually start my day by going through messages the students have sent us on the previous night. I answer many of their questions about studying in our destinations in Asia and help them with doing their applications. I often do application processing here at Asia Exchange, so I get to be in touch with students a lot and see their excitement for going to study abroad.
In the afternoons, after most of the questions are answered, I like to do marketing research. I familiarize myself better with countries that our students come from and try to find ways in which to better serve their needs.
What is the biggest roadblock students face in applying for study abroad programs? How do you help applicants to Asia Exchange’s programs overcome this roadblock?
Applying to study abroad programs can often be tedious; it’s a lot of paperwork that takes a long time and it is expensive. We at Asia Exchange have tried to make the process as easy as possible for the students to apply. There is less paperwork, a study abroad placement is guaranteed, and students get confirmation of it within a week from applying. We make the process very easy, fast, and reliable. Also, we have very affordable prices and students get to choose their own budgets for housing, traveling, etc. We of course help students with these arrangements as well, by providing a lot of information, answering questions, and organizing orientations in our host universities at the start of the semesters.
What is the best piece of advice you have for aspiring study abroad students when it is application time?
I would first recommend students start planning their studies abroad early. Think about your goals and what is most important to you when getting the experience to study in another country. Is it to get into the best university, experience the bustling life in a colorful Asian metropoly or an exotic island? Perhaps you would like to get a new hobby and you would like to learn it abroad?
Be curious, look for information anywhere you can, and ask questions from people that have been there already or who know more about different destinations.
Then, if you are currently enrolled in a higher education institution, check that the exchange is suitable to your degree program. Maybe you can take courses from the same area of expertise as your main subject or maybe you could do a whole new minor during your exchange. Lastly, before filling out the application form, I would recommend to check all the requirements and attachments for the application and then carefully fill it out. And, if at any point in the whole process you would have any questions or concerns, please let us know and we’ll be happy to help you!
Why do you think Asia is an extraordinary place for international programs?
As we all know, in recent years Asia has emerged as a great influential power in world economics, politics, and culture; this requires more collaboration between nations to understand each other and work together. International programs in Asia work as great pathways to do that. Learning about a new culture is most efficient when spending a longer time there, and it broadens one’s view of how life can be outside of their comfort zone.
Asia also has an excellent standard of education as it’s a very competitive field there, so it brings a high standard for international study programs located there. For a Western student going to study in Asia, it can be challenging, but very rewarding. It brings about more self-awareness, creativity, and will, of course, look great on one’s resume.
If you could participate in any of Asia Exchange’s programs, which one would you choose and why?
All of our study programs have great perks so it’s very difficult to choose one among them. I’ve been on an exchange program at Kasetsart University in Bangkok already, which was really great; but, since I’ve been to Thailand already, I think I would choose another destination this time.
Of the universities represented by Asia Exchange, my personal favourite would probably be Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea. HUFS is an excellent university, which I really appreciate, and I find Korean culture very fascinating. I’ve visited South Korea once before and I thought it was such an exotic, beautiful and friendly place that I would definitely want to go back there again. There’s also so much you can do in Seoul and it’s an easy place to travel from to see some other countries as well. Also, I absolutely love Korean barbeque, so HUFS would be my choice!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy my job since it’s very versatile. I get to do many different things, from marketing research to processing applications and doing customer service. I love being in contact with our students, helping them, and seeing their excitement for their study abroad semesters in Asia. It’s great to be a part of giving this once in a lifetime experience to them.
What I most love about my job though, are my work colleagues. We have an awesome team here at Asia Exchange and I feel privileged to be able to work among these people.
How are you helping Asia Exchange expand their reach in 2016?
In order to help Asia Exchange expand their reach in 2016 and after, I do marketing research for our team. I try to find potential markets and universities that could be interested in collaborating with us. I also think of what kind of an approach or marketing we could do in new and existing markets. In addition to doing research, I think customer service is also key to expanding our reach. With great customer service it’s easier to spread the word about us to prospective students and we of course want to provide them the best experience of their life so customer service is very important for us.