Nothing great comes without a risk.

The story of Bhavna Rawat, an international talent living in Oulu

Photo by Arina Lykova

This time we got the opportunity to interview Bhavna Rawat, an international talent who lives in Oulu. She moved to Finland in 2018 to pursue her master’s degree in Learning Education and Technology (LET) at the Faculty of Education, University of Oulu. She completed her master’s degree in 2020, and currently, she is working as a Research Assistant in the Learning and Learning Processes Research Unit, University of Oulu.

Bhavna was born and raised in New Delhi, India. When she was in high school, her passion for physics and related theories made her choose the bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering. But her passion soon drifted from Engineering to Educational Technology after attempting to design a speech recognition system that recognizes local languages in India. During her undergraduate studies, she also contemplated the concept of learning on a deeper level which later influenced her decision to learn about Education. She continued working in the area of expertise in India, but her thoughts and curiosity about learning and education never faded away. Then she came across an organization called “Teach For India” and decided to take the path that her heart always hinted her to follow. Despite her lack of qualifications in teaching, she joined the organisation and continued to work there as a teacher for two years. After reading much literature on how to inculcate holistic learning in the classroom, Bhavna’s dedication to making a positive impact on quality education is truly inspiring. Next, she took up another internship in India, from where she got hands-on experience conducting qualitative research.

The next milestone of her life was getting selected to the LET program and moving to Oulu, Finland in 2018. Oulu has given Bhavna more than she expected.

Photo by Arina Lykova

“Actually, I didn’t think I’d get that much exposure as I did… I would frame it in terms of Study wise and also the learning culture in general and then the city, of course.”

Bhavna’s study experience at the University of Oulu was enlightening as she got exposure to many elements and interactivity within the program as well as outside the program. Moreover, the diversity of the program made her fall in love with her studies. People from different age groups, nationalities and cultures, career levels, and educational backgrounds added another flavour to it.

Photo by Arina Lykova

“Through books, through research papers, through my little conversations with some of my colleagues and other students of the Faculty of Education as well as exchange students that we had, I was really happy with the diversity I got to engage with. The majority of the courses were built around collaborative learning setups, which pushed me to accept people and their ways of working and their ways of thinking… Having 15 people and not a single one of them was from the same place was an exciting thing, actually.”

During the two years of study, she also felt overwhelmed on certain occasions but thanks to the support she got from the university, peers and the community she lives in, she was able to continue her studies smoothly.

Photo by Arina Lykova

“I think I got lucky that way to receive all different kinds of support from the interesting international community I interacted with during those two years ago, as a student.”

Bhavna decided to stay in Oulu even after her graduation. She yearned to explore more about ongoing research activities and the concepts of pedagogy and learning related to what she was studying in her master’s program after completing her thesis. Through the learning curve of her thesis, she was fascinated with how learning processes and social development are more like two sides of a coin where the existence of the two elements relies on each other.

The importance of networking came into power when she was looking for a job. So she took her chances and wrote to her thesis supervisor about her interests, which helped her get a job as a Research Assistant in the Learning and Learning Processes Research Unit.

As a student and teaching assistant at the “Entrepreneurship in Education course” at the LET program, Bhavna’s perception of Entrepreneurship has evolved over time. The new elements such as “Entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurial competencies, entrepreneurial identity, transversal skills and knowledge among different roles engaged in a new venture” have been developed, enabling an individual to work in different contexts and changing dynamics. According to Bhavna, the fact that the Finnish National Curriculum for schools includes entrepreneurial skills as a transversal competence shows an intention to cultivate these skillsets in students from a young age.

Photo by Arina Lykova

“In the context of higher education, I see three areas which aim to foster the entrepreneurial mindset and competencies: courses, university-level programs (like Demola) and student-led societies ( Oulu Entrepreneurship society). They offer spaces to students to engage with different aspects related to entrepreneurship: designing, addressing complex, wicked problems, problem-solving, analyzing, building something from scratch, operating with self-efficacy beliefs, collaboration, networking and engaging with a diversity of expertise, cultures and skills. These skills are crucial when we think about the fast-changing dynamics of today’s working life, which also put us through these shared learning experiences. We probably can also look at it as a preparation for the transfer to working life.”

The Finnish education system has allocated an important space for children to develop these skills from a young age. Their technocentric culture is probably a positive consequence of this. It could enable a demanding job market in the future, but it has still not become a reality for many skilled immigrants living in Finland. Bhavna sees it as a problem that underlies language barriers, lack of awareness about potential jobs that match a person’s skillsets, etc. She sees possible solutions in creating communities with strong collaboration and networking to help skilled immigrants find appropriate jobs.

Finally, we asked Bhavna about her thoughts on “Internationalization” based on her overall experience of living in Oulu. She pointed out some important aspects as to how she sees this big concept of internationalization.

- Accepting each other with their differences;

- Operating with an intercultural understanding;

- Genuine Willingness to engage and listen to others; with empathy; and through that process be open to challenge one’s biases and assumptions;

- Negotiating between global vs local; listening to the local contexts/cultures too and acknowledging the diversity which exists there.

The last point she made is a very crucial and timely matter that we all should give thought to.

Photo by Arina Lykova

When living in another country as expatriates, it is important to embrace the positive aspects of that particular culture with all your heart to find the right balance between your own culture and the culture that you are exposed to. With the right mindset, flexibility and courage to take chances and to accept failures, you would never fail to find and yet alone create an opportunity that resonates with your passion wherever you go!”

Authors: Hansika Piyumali Ambahelagedara and Bhavna Rawat.

Editor: Arina Lykova.

Photographer: Arina Lykova.

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