Young and keen to learn


Roman Pikalenko

"The tutors were amazing. They made sure no one was left behind, if the students themselves had any interest to socialize with the group."

At the age of only 17, Roman Pikalenko arrived in Vaasa to study international business. He made new friends easily but was surprised by the competition in the labour market.

Young and keen to learn

It is fair to start by saying that Roman Pikalenko is now happy working at a tech company specialized in video recruitment. However, it has not been a walk in the park but a rather long and demanding process.

Roman moved to Finland in 2016 from Russia. He had just graduated from high school in Moscow and wanted to see the world. Preferably far from home, to gain as much independence and experience as possible.

He was only 17 years old, young, and fearless. Vaasa seemed like a good option, after all it was located on the west coast of Finland. Off he went and, after a ten day period of his parents staying in Vaasa to see if everything was alright for their son, he was alone in a foreign country.

– I didn’t know anyone but soon I got connected with other students. At first, I met these two Russian girls who helped me a lot with some basic practical things, for instance setting up my bank account.

As the studies started, Roman found some more friends at Vaasa University of Applied Sciences. He had chosen International Business, a degree program that has students from all over the world.

Open minded and social guy he is, Roman had no difficulties going to parties and student events. He remembers those times warmly.

“The tutors were amazing. They made sure no one was left behind, if the students themselves had any interest to socialize with the group. “

Positive shock

Shortly, Roman found himself getting involved with Finns, too. His nationality provided loads of great ice breakers, including jokes about vodka and the Russian government.

– For me, the culture shock was on the positive side, if there ever was one. There were some students in my class who mostly stayed within their own group. But overall, at VAMK we had a good spirit and Vaasa is a great place to study in.

International Business studies are in English. Roman found that it was easy to ask questions about anything in the university of applied sciences, because the curriculum is so hands-on.

– I especially liked accounting classes, they were intense, yet Niklas, the professor made it seamless.

According to Roman, the first two years of studies are crucial for your personality. The Uni encourages you to get work experience and this might even lead to permanent employment.

– In many cases, it is wise to choose between staying in Vaasa and getting a good summer internship with potential continuation in the company and going abroad as an exchange student.

Roman chose the latter and has not regretted it. It really depends on your situation at that moment which options would be best for you.

– Still, I always tell people they should attend the exchange program if you can. You get very good experience out of it.

Connections, connections…

At the end of 2020, Roman finished studying. Now he has a double degree both from VAMK and German University of Applied Management Studies in Mannheim. That is the university he went to for the exchange year.

Finding a job during pandemic has not been easy, Roman says. Most employers require at least a year or two of work experience, which is difficult to gain if you don’t get that first opportunity. Many foreign students also struggle with language.

– I moved to Helsinki to expand job opportunities. I had worked as a waiter in bars and restaurants but of course wanted to find something that suits my education. Finally, I had the chance to be recognized by a recruiter who, even though didn’t hire me, introduced me to some of his contacts in other companies. One of them hired me as an intern and now I just got a permanent job in the same company.

RecRight is a tech company that provides a video platform to help organizations in the recruitment process. Roman is impressed by the work atmosphere. For example, when he started, the manager sent him a gift basket with delicacies and goodies. That and many other small gestures make him feel appreciated and welcome.

He advises other students to work all kinds of jobs to get experience and keep their eyes open for job fairs, internships, and networking opportunities.

– I used to hate when people said you must have connections to get a job. But now I know it’s true.

“You are not going to get hired just by being amazing.”

Facts about Roman Pikalenko

  • Graduated 2020 from International Business.
  • Originally from Moscow, Russia.
  • Moved to Finland in 2016 to study at VAMK.
  • Lives in Helsinki.
  • Currently working at RecRight as a growth marketer.
  • Also has a degree from University of Applied Management Studies in Mannheim, Germany.