For Teemu Laakkonen, studying abroad in Thailand paved the way for a successful diplomatic career
Over the past 10 years, Asia Exchange has enabled thousands of students to take part in study abroad programs in Asia. For some, the study abroad period has played a major role in defining their future career. We regularly contact former students to find out what they are up to now that their study abroad period is over.
Teemu Laakkonen, who for the past two years has worked as the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Finland in Malaysia, Brunei and Philippines is one of the students we contacted.
Like many before him, Laakkonen first experienced Asia on vacation. This aroused his interest in Asia and he started paying more and more attention to what’s going on in the region.
In 2008, reacting to Asia Exchange’s online advertisement, Laakkonen made the lucky decision to spend a semester at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand. The opportunity to study in the tropics was too good to pass up, especially since he was able to extend his stay in the country a little by doing a legal internship.
Laakkonen was one of the first students to study abroad with the help of Asia Exchange. Although there were only Finnish students in his group, the semester at Kasetsart University had the perfect balance of studies and free time, which let him experience the local joie de vivre. The city, the university and the teachers helped create memories that will stay with him for a lifetime.
Following the study abroad semester and internship, Laakkonen could not shake off the longing he felt for Asia and applied for a summer internship position at the Embassy of Finland in Manila. After working as a copyright lawyer in 2013 following his graduation, he decided to take the training course in international affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a result, he was dispatched to the Embassy in Bangkok for 10 weeks in the summer of 2014. It was especially then that his study abroad experiences showed its true worth: not only did the language courses at Kasetsart University help him deal in daily affairs, but the overall study abroad experience was without a doubt a major factor in his getting a foot in the door at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He gave us the following encouraging words for future study abroad students:
“Always, always seek to travel, read and experience new things. You won’t regret it. Except if you forget your sunblock. Then things might get rough!”
Prior to becoming Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Finland in Malaysia, Laakkonen worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Unit for South Asia as the Desk Officer for Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. He holds Master’s degrees both in Law and Arts. You can follow him on twitter @teemulaakkonen.