There are no stereotypical immigrants made flesh—not really
It is common practice to think stereotypically, that is to regard others somewhat in general. As a PhD student I have encountered a number of stereotypes though I do not mean to complain. No one said it would be easy—doing PhD is a tough work for natives as well: they also have to combine all the PhD uncertainties with family matters, seek for funding and prepare manuscripts and list of journals that may accept them. No personal story is like the other in such circumstances.
Stereotypes stem from the not-knowing. Not ignorance, in fact, but the lack of information. We have recently discussed with colleagues the structure of the survey for PhD students and realized that foreigners (especially outside the EU) experience yet another range of problems—different from those common for all PhDs. Apart from the language issues, such routine stuff like getting a netbank account or a driving license unexpectedly appears to be complicated.
Not all immigrants can count on social welfares. As an international student I cannot—I am just not eligible for receiving them. What is more, as an international student outside EU I have to have a year amount of money on my card before applying for residence permit. Student visa is a B-type visa which gives almost no opportunities compared to A-type visa. Switching B-type visa to A-type is a troublesome process which cannot always be connected to marriage to a Finn which is another sad stereotype that has nothing to do with those PhDs who are already married and their spouses stay in their home country. ‘Stay’ for a number of reasons, of course, i.e. job, contacts and the most important one—they have no ‘good reason’ to receive any other type of visa than Schengen. To mention here just another small delusion—not all Russian students come from Petroskoi or Pietari so that they can see their family once a week or two.
Not all PhD students come to do research on the basis of the 4-years contract. I would say it is rather an exception than a rule both for Finns and foreigners. If I spent most of the time freelancing or doing low-paid jobs to make my living, I would not have time to prepare a decent research proposal to be accepted by the funding organizations. Working with a 4-years contract is so much different from having a 1- or 2-years one. The latter differs as well from working on the external grant, for although you are affiliated with a certain university, you are not actually a staff member—you get neither student nor staff ID card.
Universities do aspire to become international and therefore high-ranking. Any seminar on border studies is full of discussions on why different people are treated so differently at the customs or visa centers. And that seminar is organized in Finnish.
BY: Ekaterina Prosandeeva
Philosophical faculty, School of Humanities
Doctoral programme for social and cultural encounters
University of Eastern Finland
This story has been published in Karjalainen newspaper and produced by JoMoni