The Amazing Jyväskylä!

The Amazing Jyväskylä!
Me at the harbor of Jyväskylä

05 March, 2015

Rocking your interviews!

First and foremost, I would like to send my congratulations to all prospective students who have received an invitation for interviews with the programs you applied for.

I received a message from one prospective student saying that she had been invited for an interview with Development and International Cooperation Program (D&IC); so I thought it might be a good time for some insights about these interviews. Hopefully, after reading this entry, you will have some ideas on how to prepare for an interview with our program. I apologize that I can only give my insights for those having interview with D&IC program. For those who have been invited to interviews with other programs, send me message to my Facebook inbox, I will forward it to ambassadors from the particular program and you can talk to them directly. 

Disclaimer: This is by no mean exactly what is going to happen to your interviews or neither does it ensure success. I have no attention in teaching you how to be your best during the interview because I know nothing of you. This is purely based on my personal experience with my one and only interview with D&IC program. There are things mentioned here that I wished someone had told me before my interview 3 years ago. This blog post should only be regarded as a guide so that you will have an idea of what might occur during the interview. Based on this, you can adjust other elements to suit yourself best as an individual. 

In 2012, when I was invited to the interview with D&IC program, I was also given an article for a written test. However, this year, it seems like they are not doing that anymore though I am not 100% sure. But the student who told me the news about her interview said that there was no article attached in the email; so I guess there’s no more written test. However, anything can happen. Just be prepared to do whatever assigned to you. 

Update 10th March 2015, I received an updated email from a prospective student who had been informed that she would also go through a written test like I did in 2012. So, be prepared to answer 1-2 questions based on an article which will be sent to you before the interview. 

The possibility is that you will be interviewed by a lecturer from the program and a lecturer or professor from the major that you chose in your application. So, if you have a background on the major, go back to read some materials of that major to revive your memories on some certain important subjects. 

For example, if you chose political science major, you might want to look at some classic debates or authors in political science such as Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, then Marxism of course, capitalism, nationalism, neo-liberalism, colonialism, power theories, international relations theory, dependency theory (is this a political science theory or development theory? I’m not so sure), etc. Sorry, I come from a communist country so my choices are quite obvious. Haha : )). Anyway, the point is: get a hold of some basic knowledge that you can improvise during the interviews because God knows what they are going to ask you. Other than that, you can connect these debates to the context of your own countries so you can provide a lively example for the theory you are talking about. Believe me, if you can talk about any theory with memorable demonstrations for 5 minutes, you’ll be accepted right then and there. Ha, kidding! But seriously, knowing some sort of academic theories will do you some favor. Place your trust in me! Haha : )) joking, again, PLACE YOUR TRUST IN YOURSELF! while listening responsibly to me, of course ;)

Also, it helps to pick out favorite debate or topic and make a stand for it. I’m sorry I can’t give you an example in political science because my brain now is full of development theories as I am writing my thesis. So, I’ll give you an example on making a stand for your favorite debate in development theories. 

My favorite debate in development theories is about post-development; some people also call it anti-development and criticize it as inhumane, backward and impractical. However, that is absolutely incorrect. Anti-development basically means going back to the primitive age, while the core argument of post-development is so much more sophisticated than that. Post-development school of thoughts is basically against the concept of Post-World War II development, which is taken advantages of by the West to impose another type of colonization on countries they categorized as “Third World” in the post-colonial period. They claimed themselves that Third World countries were underdeveloped and needed to be developed to catch up with other developed countries in the world. Consequently, they have done more damages than helping poor countries. Richard Peet (2009), Joseph Stiglitz (2005) and David Harvey (2005) point out what seems to be a conspiracy backed up by the most powerful global institutions to jeopardize the development of poor countries; so that they become more and more dependent on the rich countries. This is why post-development thinkers call for abandonment of development and a search for alternatives to development (Escobar 1985, 87, 88, 91, 92, 95, 2000, 06).

See, basic stuff, you make your argument and back it up with literature from recognized authors. It is a bit shallow, isn’t it? I know, but it’s just for the academic sake. Remember to keep the language as academic and formal as you can manage. Finnish people in general do not do shallow and pointless small talks. Therefore, if you have been reading somewhere about doing some small talks during interviews so that you can appear to be a friendly person or something like that, drop it! Don’t beat around the push but go straight to the point! This is one of my most favorite things about Fins, to be honest; I hope they will never change!

Next, shortly before the interview, read again what you have written in your motivation letter. The most asked question during this kind of interview is: “Why do you want to study in this program?” or “Why did you apply for this program?” And the answer is what you wrote in your motivation letter when you filled in the application online. Be consistent with the ideas in your answer, elaborate from that motivation letter if you think it’s necessary. 

Be absolutely on time. Check the time conversion as many times as you need to make sure the time you have agreed with the interviewer is correct in your country. Remember that March is a tricky month because in Finland they change from winter time to day light saving time or something like that. Finnish are very punctual and you will not make a good impression if you do not show up on time. Do not use technical difficulties as an excuse! Prepare your computer, Skype and whatever needed well before the time for the interview. 

Alright, it is all I can think of now. I hope it helps you somehow. Buckle up and best of lucks to all of you!

Escobar, Arturo, 1985, ‘Discourse and Power in Development: Michel Foucault and the Relevance of his Work to the Third World’, Alternatives, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 377-400.
Escobar, Arturo, 1987, Power and Visibility: The Invention and Management of Development in the Third World, Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation Services.
Escobar, Arturo, 1988, ‘Power and Visibility: The Invention and Management of Development in the Third World’, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 428-443. 
Escobar, Arturo, 1991, ‘Anthropology and the development encounter: the making and marketing of development anthropology’, American Ethnologist, 18 (4), pp 659–682.
Escobar, Arturo, 1992, ‘Imagining a Post-development era? Critical thought, development, and social movements’, Social Test, 31/32, pp. 20-56.
Escobar, Arturo, 1995, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Escobar, Arturo, 2000, ‘Beyond the Search for a Paradigm? Post-Development and Beyond’, Development, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 11-14.
Escobar, Arturo, 2006, ‘Post-development’, in The Elgar Companion to Development Studies, 2006, pp. 447-451, edited by David Clark, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, USA: Edward Elgar.
Harvey, David, 2005, A brief history of Neoliberalism, New York: Oxford University Press.
Peet, Richard, 2009, Unholy Trinity: the IMF, World Bank and WTO, London: Zed Book.
Stiglitz, Joseph, 2005, Making Globalization Work, New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company.