University of Helsinki
Graduated in 2020
How did you end up studying at the University of Helsinki?
"After completing my undergrad at the University of Aberdeen in the UK, I was faced with the choice of entering the labour market or continuing my studies. I love being a student, so I opted for postgraduate studies. I hold Danish citizenship and Denmark pays a pretty decent 'student salary', but will only pay that for 4 years if you decide to study outside the Nordic region. Hence, if I wanted the "salary" for my Master's as well, I'd have to return to the cold North. As I had fond memories of Helsinki from a family trip back in the scorching hot summer of 2010 and had quite a few Finnish friends during my time in Aberdeen who all convinced me of the superiority of the Finnish educational system (despite all studying abroad!), I set my sights on Helsinki. It was a complete no-brainer when I stumbled upon the ICE programme during my first browse on the university's degree selection website."
What makes the ICE programme unique?
"You can study literally (almost) anything. You can study aspects of other programmes, like politics, law, gender, sociology, area studies etc., but combine it with the interdisciplinary feel of ICE. If you are a political science nerd, you can study more critical and intersectional aspects of the traditional and hardcore political science theories. If you are into sociology, you can study any sociological aspect and combine it with any theory you like. You can put your own spin on traditional disciplines and rediscover and reinvent them! The ICE programme opens up the possibility of questioning everything that’s inside the box and everything that’s outside the box, and the box itself."
Is there something that surprised you during your studies?
"The flexibility of the programme has positively surprised me. When I say that you really have complete jurisdiction of what you want to study, those are not just empty words. You are in charge of what you want to learn and how you want to learn it, and if you want to do an internship abroad or go on exchange, you have the full support of the faculty."
What was the topic of your thesis?
"I wrote my thesis on racial identity development and internalised whiteness in young white university students. The analysis was based on fieldwork that I carried out in my native country, Denmark. This topic stemmed from processing my own racial identity in the ICE programme. The ICE programme helped me shift my understanding of how I position myself as a white citizen in a globalized world that revolves around hegemonic whiteness and thrives off the exploitation of racialized citizens."
Why do you think it is important to study your thesis topic?
"I think critical whiteness and race is absolutely crucial for everyone to study. Whiteness is still conflated with our idea of what is normal and the whole concept of inherent and natural, yet we lack the ability to talk constructively about it. It is relevant to all disciplines and has affected the base of knowledge that all disciplines inevitably draw upon- even in the ICE programme. Although the ICE programme has increased my awareness about race, it needs to further interrogate the norms of hegemonic whiteness and white supremacy that continue to dominate in academia."
What did you do right after graduation?
"I was really, really lucky to land a job in a Finnish start-up even before graduating and worked there while putting together my application for doctoral studies. In my case, my foreign language skills were absolutely crucial to landing this job. The general experience that I get from my friends is, unfortunately, that it’s super difficult to land a job in Finland as a foreigner. Whether this is due to the COVID-19 pandemic or due to Finland being embarrassingly inaccessible to foreigners who don’t speak Finnish is still up for debate, but I know people who have been here for many years who have struggled to properly enter the Finnish labour market."
What are you working on now?
"In January 2021, I started my doctoral studies at the University of Helsinki! I research how normative whiteness operates in discourses surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement in Denmark. This movement has gained a lot of attention, and most of the media attention in Denmark has, not surprisingly, been negative and stereotypical. I think there is a huge potential to examine how hegemonic whiteness operates with regards to how white people react to a social movement that forces us to examine our color blindness. This is obviously also problematic, as I have the white privilege of approaching racism and race from an academic and objective perspective. I feel that we, white people, are very good at distancing ourselves from this topic, even whilst we are engaging with it on an academic level. I try to abandon the abstract talk in my research, and focus on how I make up part of a structure, how I reproduce it, and how I recognize whiteness in my own knowledge and my beliefs. Race is not external to us – we create it, we live it and every single day, we abide by the rules set out by history.”