24.05.2013 PEOPLE

Riikka Vihriälä feels at home in European environment

A Finnish education professional Riikka Vihriälä works as a Policy Officer in European Commission's Directorate-General for Education and Culture, in the Unit for Vocational Training and Adult Education. EAEA works closely with her unit in order to contribute to the development of European adult learning policies.

A career in education policy was Riikka Vihriälä's goal since the beginning of her studies at the University of Helsinki back in 2006. Vihriälä has a Master of Arts in Education with a major in General and Adult Education.

She was always interested in an international career.

"My everyday life has been international for long; I went to a French-Finnish school in Finland and spent an exchange semester in France during my studies. I also did an internship in the field of vocational training in Canada before starting at the Commission," she tells.

Insider view to EU policies

Riikka Vihriälä started as a trainee at the Adult Education Unit in autumn 2011.

"I was a bit worried before I started as I did not know EU policies very well beforehand. I was familiar mainly with the European mobility programmes, such as Grundtvig and Erasmus."

The complex EU policies became more familiar through the daily work, however. After the traineeship, she continued in the same unit as a Policy Officer covering a maternity leave.

"My typical day probably sounds like any civil servant´s regular day anywhere," Vihriälä laughs.

Her work includes reading emails, working on reports, undertaking background research and attending meetings inside and outside of her unit.

Multinational team is an asset

The Adult Education Unit merged with the Vocational Training Unit last January. Around thirty European experts work in the new entity. Some of them have a background in education and have been teachers before their EU careers.

"Having a background in education is certainly an advantage and I believe that was the main reason why I was selected here as a trainee. Subject knowledge in the field of work is appreciated in the EU."

Riikka Vihriälä finds working in a multinational team magnificent.

"Different cultures may have ways of working, but you learn from them and it is rewarding when you find a common ground."

Everyday life in Brussels

Brussels is often described as a boring, grey and incoherent city.

"Brussels was no "love at first sight" for me but in the past few months I have finally found the city that I like," Riikka Vihriälä says.

She praises the international atmosphere and the great location of Brussels. It is easy to hop on a train and visit other European cities.

After office hours Vihriälä jogs and goes to singing lessons. When she feels home sick, it is not difficult to find countrymen; she just needs to find a bar that screens ice-hockey.

Vihriälä´s current contract ends at the end of July. Her future plans are still unclear, but one thing is certain: she will not return to Finland just yet.

"I would like to gather some more international experience and insight, also from outside the direct field of education policy. I hope to return Finland at some point though."

Riikka Vihriälä

  • Works as a Policy Officer in the Unit for Vocational Training and Adult Education at the Directorate-General for Education and Culture in the European Commission
  • Focuses on open educational resources and ICT in education and training, entrepreneurship education and follows vocational training and adult education policies in the Member States
  • Has worked in the field of vocational training in Canada before
  • Greatest professional achievement: "My current position at the European Commission. I have tried to show that I have earned this opportunity."

Text: Aura Vuorenrinne