Alumni Spotlight: Tuure Niemi on his love for Finland & Europe

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Basic info

  • Name: Tuure-Eerik Niemi
  • Nationality: Finnish
  • Year of graduation: 2017
  • Major: World Politics

 

Interview

Meet LUC alumnus Tuure-Eerik Niemi. He speaks over six languages (one of which being Dutch, “petje af!”), holds Master’s degrees from both the College of Europe (2018) and Columbia University (2019), and during his time at LUC he was perhaps best known for being the most enthusiastic ambassador of Finnish culture we had ever seen. You can now find him at the European Parliament’s Helsinki office, where he started working as a Public Relations Officer last year. We had a call to catch up about what life has been since graduating!

Interview by Tessel van der Putte

 

First things first, how are you doing Tuure and how has it been, coping with the pandemic?

I’m good thanks! Actually, I’ve felt extremely grateful to have experienced these strange times with my friends and family, here in Helsinki, Finland… Since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s been challenging to see societies struggling to respond to this public health challenge. But I’m hopeful that this time has provided us an opportunity to reflect on how we need to develop international governance so that we can respond to transnational challenges more effectively in the future!

 

And after so many years living and travelling abroad…you are finally back in your home town again too. What has that been like for you?

Indeed, after eight years abroad, I relocated to my home town Helsinki last November. And you know, I am a fifth generation Helsinkian… I live for this city and the community I have here!

After being based in Eswatini, the Netherlands, United States and Belgium, it seemed like the right decision to come back. I feel I am beyond obliged to know that my own home town is one of the places where I belong, too. I have become used to a life in which everything changes every other year, so I am sure that my journey continues onwards someday. But for now, being back here in Helsinki has felt like the greatest gift.

 

Of course, also in combination with your new role with the Helsinki office of the European Parliament! What has your experience been so far and what do you do?

So I work as a Public Relations Officer at the European Parliament’s Liaison Office in Finland. We are part of the Parliament’s Secretariat and the Directorate-General for Communication, meaning that we engage with citizens and stakeholders, manage contacts with media, and provide support to the MEPs.

The brunt of my work is developing more efficient ways to communicate with citizens and manage relations with civil society organisations and academia.

 

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Tuure at the EU Delegation to the UN

That sounds interesting! What is your favorite part of the job?

I am happy to serve in a position that I find so meaningful: I feel that I am able to contribute to the European democratic process by bringing the EU closer to the citizens!

 

So great to hear you found your passion there! I would also love to learn more about the path that brought you to this place and field of work… Your studies for example! Let’s rewind back a bit, to 2014 until 2017. Is there a particular fond memory you have of your time at LUC?

Getting to know the Hague as a city and finding my place there was great, especially through Ann Wilson’s Community Project. I think it was extremely important to discuss global challenges also in the local contexts and to learn through engagement, practice and service.

I of course also miss all the extracurricular activities we had at LUC… from committee life to parties! And a special shout out to my Boekhorststraat Butchery boys, Tom and Thomas, for being the best flatmates that one could wish for!

Tuure embracing Dutch culture
Tuure embracing Dutch culture

For me, my time in the Netherlands was a very special experience. I’m so happy to have had this opportunity to learn and grow with my peers at LUC. It has greatly contributed to expanding and diversifying my worldview(s) and outlook on life. I cannot stress that too much: I am so happy to have had so many meaningful encounters and having had this safe space to discover more about myself and the world I live in.

“ I am so happy to have had so many meaningful encounters and having had this safe space to discover more about myself and the world I live in. ”

Tuure performing at an Amnesty event at LUC
Tuure performing at an Amnesty event at LUC

 

Tuure’s Programme Council election poster in 2014
Tuure’s Programme Council election poster in 2014

 

Tuure on the day he left AvB
Tuure on the day he left AvB

 

Tuure and his friend Aastha at the Hofvijver in The Hague
Tuure and his friend Aastha at the Hofvijver in The Hague

What did you do after you graduated from LUC?

Already when I left Finland for Eswatini to pursue my secondary education at a United World College, I was interested in understanding world affairs. At LUC, I became increasingly fascinated by European integration and the processes that structure Europe’s engagement with the wider world. Yet I never expected to be admitted to study EU International Relations and Diplomacy at the College of Europe (Bruges), and even less did I anticipate to be granted a full scholarship from the European Commission!

College of Europe provided me a first-class learning environment to continue understanding these questions and to develop capabilities through professional training in political risk analysis, reporting and negotiation.

Tuure on a College of Europe trip to Geneva
Tuure on a College of Europe trip to Geneva

 

Tuure at his graduation from the College of Europe
Tuure won the Baillet Latour foundation prize for best thesis on EU-China relations at the College of Europe.

“ Graduate life in New York became an exercise in resilience (what we Finns call ‘sisu’) ”

 

Towards the end of my time in Bruges, I was still curious enough to continue learning. I was accepted to study at Columbia – and when I eventually managed to secure enough funding to fully cover my tuition and fees – I moved to New York to deepen my knowledge of the transatlantic relations, global governance reform and the strategic partnership between the European Union and United Nations.

Graduate life in New York became an exercise in resilience (what we Finns call ‘sisu’) – in addition to studying full-time, I worked at the European Institute and Law School. But I wouldn’t change my time on Manhattan for a thing!

Tuure giving a talk on strategic communications at the European Policy Centre in Brussels in 2018
Tuure giving a talk on strategic communications at the European Policy Centre in Brussels in 2018

So your time at Columbia University was quite intense – would you recommend LUC students currently looking for master programs, to try their luck at an Ivy League university?

Walking through the Columbia campus on Morningside Heights is like walking through a world of discussions – and as a student, you are invited to listen, engage and participate. The depths of these debates and exposure to these whirlwinds of ideas are as exciting as they are exhausting. Of course, it is not easy getting in to an Ivy League school; and it is definitely not too easy getting funded. The real work starts on campus, though. For me, being encountered with these intellectual challenges was just so rewarding!

Columbia also gave me a lot of opportunities to understand the American perspectives on the world further: as a Columbia International Fellow, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with members of the National Security Council, the State Department and different presidential administrations. For a Helsinki kid, this just felt almost unimaginable.

Tuure at his campus in New York, Columbia University
Tuure at his campus in New York, Columbia University

Reflecting on the last six years, how important was the research you did during your university years, those extra projects you engaged in on the side, and the people that guide you, for your career later on?

At LUC, specifically, I was so happy to work on multiple research projects with Beatrix Futak-Campbell. Her teaching provided me with so many valuable tools and instruments to understand international relations and political phenomena.

I have also learnt a lot through my work at various civil society organizations and by serving in leadership positions in student societies. All of these experiences have been very meaningful for me and shaped my determination to advance a more inclusive and participatory society. For example, I’ve got to coordinate a community art project on civic and citizenship education aimed at youth who had been given asylum in Finland. I have also had the possibility to facilitate dialogue between decision-makers and students. In New York, I served as the Co-President of Columbia Nordic Society and Vice President of Columbia EU Student Association, and in Bruges I was the coordinator for the Nordic-Baltic Week… These have also been great opportunities to develop project management and teamwork skills!

 

Do you feel you always knew what you wanted to do or has there also been an element of coincidence?

Nothing in my life has gone according to a plan – for example, never did I think I would complete my secondary schooling in Eswatini, nor attend a university in the Netherlands… But wherever I’ve been, I’ve been so incredibly lucky to find people who have helped me and I’ve definitely received a lot of encouragement and support.

 

Talking about finding your passion and path in life, do you have a piece of advice for current LUC students or alumni, that you would like to share with them?

I’ve had a difficult time in coping with the so-called imposter’s syndrome and I’ve continued to struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I have tried to decide that I am done doubting myself and to convince myself that energy is better spent thinking about the future!

With this in mind, maybe one thing I really just want to say to the LUC students and alumni (myself included), is that let’s be kind to ourselves and to each other. Maybe that’s a good way to orientate ourselves towards meeting the future and its challenges. We really do have some global challenges that need to be solved!

 

Thanks so much for your time Tuure!

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