Alumni Profile: Petros Bekhet
Social Coordinator, Kalliola Settlement NGO
Petros Bekhet holds a Master’s Degree in International Law from Åbo Akademi University. In his work he provides guidance and support to refugees and migrants in social and legal issues.
I had the chance to get jobs in the international law field in Geneva or France, but I decided to come back to Finland and find my place here.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you?
My name is Petros Bekhet. I am an Egyptian lawyer and I came to Finland straight after graduation from law school in Egypt to study for a Master’s Degree in International Law at Åbo Akademi University.
What made you choose Finland and Åbo Akademi University?
After graduation in my home country, I wanted to study at the master level in a foreign country to get more in-depth knowledge in my field from a different perspective. I searched and thought of where, when and how. I found out that the Nordic countries are at the other end of the cultural spectrum in comparison to my home country. It interested me how the Nordic countries are unique in their sociopolitical ways, and I decided it would be very interesting to study in a Nordic country. I searched for the available study programs and applied to several master’s degree programs in Law in Finland.
To my surprise I was accepted to 4 different master’s degree programs in Law at different Finnish universities. It was very difficult to choose which study place I wanted to accept. I finally decided to accept the study place offered by Åbo Akademi University for two reasons: It is the only Swedish-speaking university in Finland, which I believed adds more diversity to the study atmosphere; It is also in Turku, which is a very fun small student city, that’s filled with youngsters and vibrant international atmosphere.
Well, was it anything like you had anticipated?
A few months after arrival in Finland, I knew I had made the right choice. At Åbo Akademi I had the best time of my life with friendly and helpful teachers as well as many students from all over the world. The city is also closer to Stockholm and Åland islands than any other place in Finland, so traveling was easy. I was shocked at how everyone is so friendly and there is no hierarchy in Åbo Akademi University. I could approach my teachers easily and some of our teachers had lunch with us in the student restaurants. Nature in Turku is just amazing. I could run and hike almost every weekend. “Interesting, quality education, beautiful nature, fun student life and easy travel connections” is how I always describe my student life at Åbo Akademi.
So where have your studies taken you? What are you working with now and how did you get there?
After graduation I searched for internship opportunities and was accepted to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva to do my internship at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. There I noticed how my studies at Åbo Akademi had prepared me fully to be a valuable member of the UNHCHR team.
After my internship I had the chance to get jobs in the international law field in Geneva or France, but instead I decided to go back to Finland and find my place here, because I kind of fell in love with Finnish nature and culture. The Finnish labor market respects and appreciates holders of degrees from Åbo Akademi University. The only problem I had at first was the lack of Finnish language skills, but with average Finnish language skills getting a job is very doable. Now that I speak Finnish fluently many doors have opened widely. I worked before as a legal interpreter at a law office in Espoo and as a Coordinator in a youth organization. Now I am a social coordinator at Kalliola NGO.
What can a day at work look like for you?
Kalliola settlement NGO is a 100-year old NGO that provides very wide and diverse social services as well as educational and cultural services. My current task is to provide guidance, support and aid to refugees and migrants with all kinds of social and legal issues that might face them. For instance, I help migrants and refugees with issues related to Finnish migration services such as residence permit and citizenship as well as issues related to the social welfare system KELA. I help them file applications, seek appeal against a negative decision and educate them on how the system works in Finland. Nothing is more rewarding than helping those in need, and now that this is my job for which I get paid, I enjoy every minute of it.
Do you have a message for today’s students, or perhaps for someone planning to study abroad?
If anyone is considering studying for a master’s degree at Åbo Akademi University, I would definitely encourage him/her to go for it. The city is filled with beautiful nature, with parks, forests, islands and beaches. Turku also has good connections to Helsinki and Stockholm due to its international airport as well as its international harbor. The student life is very vibrant with many activities, parties, cultural events and student gatherings. Long story short, you would not regret it.