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Member story: Hands in the dirt and Zoom lectures at the holiday home

Susanna Arponen answers the phone from her workplace surrounded by garden plants. Spring season has begun at the Helsinki garden centre.

Susanna, who has been a member of YTK for over a decade, has her days full with work at the garden centre alongside Zoom lectures, exams and exercises.  Susanna is a fourth-year student at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry in the University of Helsinki. She has spent the majority of her studies under COVID-19 restrictions, but Susanna hasn’t been discouraged by this.  

“Studying has been both meaningful and a challenge. Listening to lectures on Zoom has been easy, and I haven’t had to worry about commuting to school. On the other hand, listening to lectures at home can be hard if the upstairs neighbour’s kids are rowdy. Luckily, I’ve also been able to study at our family's holiday home.” 

University studies are suitably flexible for adult students in part-time work, and this arrangement has even increased in popularity during the pandemic. At times, however, coordinating schedules has had its challenges. 

“Last autumn, some courses were held in person and others remotely, which caused problems with overlaps. Fortunately, many teachers have recorded their lectures for later viewing.”

Climate change challenges the entire plant industry

Susanna Arponen is studying ambitiously, but she is not looking for an actual change of profession. Her goal is to gain more expertise and get ahead in the field. 

“After secondary school, I studied to become a gardener. I fell in love with my job in the garden centre and continued in this line of work. In 2018, I decided to apply to university one last time and got in. I started my studies in 2018 completed my bachelor's degree in three years.” 

Susanna has worked throughout her studies and begins each spring season at the garden centre together with other employees. In the autumns, she has quit earlier than others in order to focus on her studies. 

“It’s good that I was able to cut down my workload. In the early days, I practically slept at my desk surrounded by textbooks. Still, I was able to get through successfully,” says Susanna Arponen. 

The future master’s degree graduate and gardener has not yet decided her plans for the future. In her words, she's studying to improve professionally in an industry that is undergoing major changes. 

“I am most interested in plant pathology and the gardening and landscaping sectors. The effects of climate change are not yet fully known. In this industry, that calls for broad expertise and the ability to apply knowledge.”

Hands-on work gives energy and joy

Academic studies have turned out to be the right choice for Susanna Arponen. Still, she isn’t interested in office work, at least not all the time. 

“Spending time at the garden and working with my hands is my lifeline. I get to work outdoors and see cheerful people working with plants. I'm an outdoors person, and this kind of work suits me better than office work.” 

Although she is comfortable in her current field, Susanna admits that after graduating, her work may change shape. 

“I know I’ll have the option to go back to gardening and retail every year, but on the other hand, the seasonality of the job is an issue. Financially, it would probably be better to switch to a year-round job.”

Susanna Arponen has become familiar with YTK’s services, both as a recipient of allowances and in terms of guidance and communication. 

As a long-term member, she appreciates the no-nonsense service and reads the Association’s monthly email newsletter, for example. 

“I joined back around in 2010 and have been a satisfied member for a long time. At first, I needed the earnings-related daily allowance between short-term jobs. As a student, I’m not currently entitled to a daily allowance. I do remember receiving useful instructions and advice when I needed them.”